Practicing Resurrection: “Do Not Be Afraid” (Matthew 28:1-10)

A series of reflections on Jesus’ resurrection appearances, contributed by past and present Pepperdiners. Today’s is from Graduate Apartment Director Stephanie Doe.

Matthew 28:1-10 Jesus first appears to the women

A few Sundays ago, one of my good friends called for a regular catch-up session. The last time we chatted, we discussed the components that make a meaningful life and the importance of living a life in service to others. This is not the average conversation content you find for most twenty-somethings, but as light-hearted and adventurous as my friends and I are, we tend towards the deep end of intentional living.

This friend in particular, is nearly my soul’s counterpart. She yearns to devote her life to ending gender inequality, she wants to live joyfully so others may experience the gift of unencumbered gratitude through her, and she pays careful attention to the frailty and virility of the human species while trying to heal others’ brokenness. Yet at the same time, we exhibit the same angst that nearly every wandering young adult experiences. In practical terms, we have no clue what’s next for our careers, we wonder if we could be or should be living differently, and we meander down the road of “what-ifs” far too often. Unfortunately, our phone conversation ended up being a confession of the latter this time. My dear friend was having a panicked afternoon of uncertainty. She asked questions like, “Steph, what am I doing with my life?” and said things along the lines of, “I feel alone, as if I am lost and completely off course.” I consoled her even temperedly, of course, but what struck me in my path was when she asked this: “How do you do it alone?”

I paused. Took a deep breath. Paused again, and thought, “Maybe I can tell her about Jesus again. If I’m going to be honest, I need to tell her why I’m not afraid of what’s ahead.” This is where my friend and I diverge. I don’t believe I can do it alone. I don’t believe I can do anything alone. Up until that point in our friendship, I didn’t recognize that every similar struggle we’ve worked through together was sharply differentiated by the peace and joy I found in Christ. As much as I find my twenties extremely trying at times, I never doubted that God wasn’t with me, every step of the way. When I reframed the feelings of being lost and alone through my friend’s eyes, I saw, for the first time, how terrifying life could be if I believed I was forging ahead alone.

In Matthew 28: 1-10, when the women and guards first learn about Jesus’ resurrection, they are described as fearful and afraid. In fact, in the NIV, “afraid” is used four times in this short passage. Fear is a part of the human condition. Some of it is reasonable and healthy, but most of it stems from a part of our heart that can only be filled if we know and trust God. The fear that is described in this passage is a mixture of awe and surprise—something we experience when we know that the change we desperately wanted is actually coming true. But occasionally, as much as we want it, we fear it because we have no clue how transformative this change can be. When Jesus rose from the dead, he fulfilled God’s promise. He wiped our slates clean. We are asked to live radically different from the life we had before we knew Him. He asks us to trust things we cannot see. This requires complete faith in His goodness and His love for us. It means relinquishing control. It means surrender.

I committed my life to Christ at 19 years old. Raised in a Buddhist home, I had trouble comprehending what it meant to surrender my suffering to a god who loved me unconditionally. This is the same paralysis that afflicts my friend today. Though we were close friends in college, I took a different path. And as my faith grew at Pepperdine, God gently helped peel back the hardened layers of perfectionism, control, and self-protection. In the same way in Matthew 28: 1-10, Jesus gently reminds the women not to be afraid of Him and what their new lives entailed. He asks them to rejoice!

As my friend and I forge ahead for the rest of our twenties, there may be significant differences in how we fare if she continues to believe that she’s in this alone. The honest conversations we have been having, though, are invitations for me to share the Good News with her. When I confessed to her the other Sunday about the parallel fears I had about the unknown future, I got to introduce something new: I am because Jesus is. I got to share the comfort, peace, joy, strength, and confidence I found in Him. There was silence on the other end of the line. But I knew this was a contemplative silence.

In the weeks that followed our conversation, I prayed that she would know Jesus as the living Christ, that she would be able to experience his love and comfort. I prayed that she would know that he’d never forsake us.

This week, I subtlety hinted that I would be going to church on Easter and extended a casual invitation. She laughed at my sly move and said, “Of course I’ll go with you!” God is good.

Please join me in praying that she’ll experience Jesus’ transformative love.

Stephanie Doe is “an insatiably curious nomad sustained by the belief that it’s our purpose to leave the world better than we found it.” She has blessed our community in her service with Housing and Residence Life, serving students alongside our Resident Directors while completing a degree in Social Entrepreneurship and Change through Pepperdine’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology. You can keep up with her doing good, serially, on her blog, serial do gooder.

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