Empty churches on Easter Sunday around the world represent an image that, until this year, would have made sense only in a fever-pitched 1990s end-times novel. Yet, in the middle of a global pandemic, that will now be our reality. The grief that Christians already face over missing their church services for necessary social distancing will intensify when it comes to the preeminent day on the Christian calendar. But if we pay attention, we may see something new and holy about Easter in quarantine. And that something is fear.
At first glance, fear seems alien to Easter, belonging more to Good Friday. Even our hymnody reflects this. “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord” is in lyric and tune foreboding, while “Up From the Grave He Arose” peals triumphant. This makes musical sense. Good Friday evokes the emotions the first disciples experienced when they thought all was lost and the noon skies above them turned dark. By contrast, Easter evokes a new dawn, the truth that “everything sad is coming untrue.”
And yet, the Gospel accounts are not so neatly categorized by emotion. The first reactions to the Resurrection were confusion and fear. The guards at the tomb “trembled and became like dead men” at the sight of the angel there (Matt. 28:4, ESV). To the faithful women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, the first words spoken by the angel were “Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, just as he said” (vv. 5–6).
Upon hearing the angel, the women were filled with “with fear and great joy” (v. 8). They then ran right into the risen Jesus, who repeated the angel’s words, “Do not ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more