Fear and the Resurrection

Are you afraid of death?

It’s interesting to me the many that claim to not be fearful of death. Many non-faith aren’t afraid of it, and many of faith aren’t afraid of it. But I’ll be honest with you. I am afraid of it. And I think it is okay to be afraid of death. If we are honest, it is the unknown that we are afraid of. What if it really is the end when we die? What if whatever we have believed is not true? 

I’m afraid of heights. I’m not afraid of the air up there, but what happens if I fall from a high height. I can remember working with Father-in-law years ago and being in a situation where we were three stories high and I had to traverse a wooden beam to the other metal beam. This was over a machine that carried huge rolls of cloth. I was fine when there was a roll under me, but the next section had no rolls. And there was no way to tie a safety harness off. So if I were to slip, I would have fallen and been like a pinball on the way to my likely death. That’s the most fearful I’ve ever been of heights, and actually dying. It was only a mental picture, but it brought me face to face with a fear of death from falling.

So now when I have to climb a rather high height, or ride in something to take me higher than I know I can safely land if I jumped, I have that adrenaline of fear. Sure, some of it is just about getting hurt, but high enough and death may be certain.

Many will tell you, “you shouldn’t fear death,” especially as a Christian. Christ died so that we don’t have to right? And we know He was resurrected, of which we celebrate today. For Paul so beautifully proclaims:

1 Cor 15:54-56

Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.

55 O death, where is your victory?

    O death, where is your sting?”

56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

What comfort the Resurrection of Christ should give us. Paul and the other Apostles we know were unafraid to die for proclaiming Christ. History tells us that indeed, most of them were tortured and killed for their faith.

I believe this sets a standard for us that many of us fall short of today. Not just about proclaiming the Gospel and being rejected, or the “what if we were under persecution” as some are and had to be willing to give our lives for our faith. Could we?

And then there are all the “fear not’s” in the Scripture. And so we believe that to fear is sin. And then we beat ourselves up because we fear anything. We hear in our heads the voice of the judgment of God, “Didn’t I say do not fear?” And we’re reduced to self-judgment as not having enough faith…even to be saved.

This brings me to the sinless One. The Son of God, Jesus. He who knew no sin yet became sin for us so that we might live. Did He fear death?

To some this might be preposterous. “He was God in the flesh right? He knew for a fact that death wasn’t the end!” He even prophesied time and again to His followers that He was going to be crucified and He would be raised three days later. So why would He fear?

Three of the four Gospel writers record Jesus’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Each speaks of Him praying 3 times for this cup to pass. He prays, then goes back to the disciples and they are nearly asleep. And He tells them to pray while He prays. And He leaves them to go back to pray to God. And we pick up Luke’s telling of His prayer…

Luke 22:41-44

He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. 44 He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.

Matthew and Mark both say Jesus told His disciples..

“My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”

Typically when we teach on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest and crucifixion, we speak of Him being in anguish about having to brace the wrath of God on Himself for us. We get this from Him praying to God to remove from Him the cup. In other texts of the Scripture we see the wrath of God described as “drinking the cup.” In fact if we study how this is said the cup can signify anything God has allowed…

What fills the cup is what matters…

whether joyous or adverse, divine appointments, whether favorable or unfavorable, are likened to a cup which God presents one to drink

In the N. T. of the bitter lot (the sufferings) of Christ.

What was the “bitter lot, the sufferings” that laid ahead for Christ? This so displays the humanity of our Lord. He knew.

Jesus knew what lay ahead. The cup of the blood of the new covenant must be spilled. Yet he, as a human being, did not want to suffer. He did not want to die. He would have liked to have found another way to follow God’s plan. Still, he submitted to the Father.

Trent C. Butler, Luke, vol. 3, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 372.

Jesus is the Son of God and knew full well that He would be raised from the dead, and yet His soul experienced agony as He anticipated what lay before Him. In the hours ahead, He would be humiliated and abused, and suffer shame and pain on the cross. But even more, He would be made sin for us and separated from His Father. He called this solemn experience “drinking the cup.”

Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 269.

On Friday, Jesus’s worst fears began to unfold. He knew what was going to happen, He knew this was the cup He was to drink. So He, in His flesh, as you and I would if we knew what cup we were going to have to drink would be, He feared. Yet He obeyed and accepted the Father’s will.

Jesus’s fear was real. But it wasn’t doubt. He didn’t doubt that He would be raised from the grave, but He did fear what He would suffer until then.

Many of us get it wrong, that if we fear then that means we doubt. I believe in Christ we see His fear did not lead to Him doubting. Instead, even in His fear, He continued in obedience to the Lord’s will not His own. 

Easter

But today is Easter, right? Aren’t we supposed to be talking about the resurrection of Jesus and not His death today? 

The Resurrection of Christ is indeed everything to our faith. As Paul states, 

1 Corinthians 15:17-19

if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Jesus obeyed God the Father knowing that He was going to be raised to life again. Even in His fear and trembling, He obeyed God.

We are to do the same. Whatever the cup of suffering we are given, we are to continue walking in faith and obedience to the Father’s will, not our own.

If Jesus had not died in our place on the Cross, there would be no act of redemption for us.

His submission to the Father’s will was His payment for our sins. Our sins had to be atoned for, paid for, and He was the perfect lamb, the only perfect human, to be able to write a check to the Father that said, “paid in full.”

Now if I write you a check for something I am buying for you, and you do not cash it, what does that say? It says, my payment, my desire to purchase that item, was not accepted. 

That is what Paul is saying of the Resurrection of Christ. If God did not raise Him from the dead, then the payment He offered was not accepted and you and I are still lost in our sins. And if we are lost in our sins, this is the only life we have to enjoy. And while in this life there are good times, we know that there is so much pain and strife that if this is all we have then how sad and how short life is.

But the Truth of the Gospel is that because of God’s great love for us He gave us His Son to take our place, to take the burden of our sin, on Himself to make us right, by faith, before the Holy and perfect God.

It is ok if you have fear, especially fear of death. It is normal, it isn’t something you should be ashamed of or feel that God has rejected you because of. IF you’re suffering whatever ailment you are suffering from, give it to the Lord and tell Him, “Your will be done, not mine.”

Allow God to redeem your suffering for His purpose. This is what He did in Christ. Christ had to suffer so that God could redeem you and I from the penalty of death. Our death may be nothing more than a short sleep before we enter into eternity with our Saviour and our God.

We too can say:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.

O death, where is your victory?

 O death, where is your sting?”

Because of the victory or Christ over death, it holds no grasp on us. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we need not fear the judgment of God, for He has redeemed us if we believe in our Lord’s sacrifice and resurrection. It is the gift of God to us, if we believe.

Fear not, for you have been bought with a high price, because the Father loves you.