Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
We wonder how this could happen. What were they thinking? What was wrong with them?
Hadn’t they heard the angel say that Jesus had risen from the dead? Didn’t they realize that this was Easter—a day that would be greeted with joy by millions for thousands of years?
How could they? They had been knocked in the head by trauma. They were in a state of shock.
Just a week ago they had been part of a joyous parade celebrating the glory of Jesus. They had joined in the hosannas. They had watched their leader and teacher ride into the capital city as if he were a king. Many were expecting he would now set up his throne and rule on earth as the Messiah. The golden age was coming! They were sure of that. It was Sunday.
By Friday, the sense of triumph had turned to terror.
These women had followed him from Galilee. They had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover with Jesus and his disciples. They were horrified to learn that he had been arrested on Thursday night and already sentenced to death by Friday morning.
They stood weeping near that cross as the darkness came at midday. They saw the blood. They heard his cries. They watched him die.
They stood there almost alone. Only John, of all the disciples, waited with them. Then, he left too. He had to take the mother of Jesus back to his own home. The rest of the former brave disciples were trembling behind locked doors.
It was these women who then walked with some strangers to the grave Jesus would be laid in. They touched his cold and bleeding body. They felt obligated to prepare him for burial. There was no one else to do it. It was their duty. It tore at their hearts.
Then the Sabbath sundown interrupted them. They had to wait for an entire day before they could complete their mission. Saturday was spent with heavy hearts, and the Sunday sunrise would bring them renewed pain. Once again, they had to handle the body of the one they had loved and believed in. Now he was the dead Jesus.
While heaven erupted in the hallelujahs of victory on that day, angels were deployed to let humans know what had happened. Death had been conquered. Life eternal for the citizens of earth had been won. We wonder if the angel hardly contained his excitement when he reported to the women, “He is not here. He is risen!”
Instead of breaking out in words of praise and joy, the women panicked. “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”
Warriors who have been faced with confusing, conflicting scenes have a name for it. They call it the fog of war.
Commanders who thought their troops were winning a battle later learned it was a devastating loss. Soldiers who were certain they were in a losing fight, later learned of their victory. Those who live in the fog of war cannot see clearly.
The problem is they only see a small part of the big picture. They draw conclusions from fragments that prove misleading. They need someone else, someone who knows the full story, to tell them what really is happening.
Shocked emotions give us fragmented intel. They focus on the horrible pieces and fail to show us the complete picture.
They repeat and repeat the painful as if that is all there is. It leaves us in our own fog of war.
The followers of Jesus spent the entire first Easter day in bewilderment and fear. When night fell, and the travelers who had seen Jesus on the way to Emmaus returned to Jerusalem, they were still trembling behind locked doors.
It wasn’t until Jesus passed right through those closed doors; it wasn’t until Jesus came to see them that they came to see what had actually happened.
He lifted the fog. He cleared their heads. He proved he was still with them, and the battle against sin, Satan, and death had been won.
A mind-shocking, soul-shaking experience can bring any person into the proverbial fog of war. It may feel weird, but it is not uncommon. Maybe we should even expect it.
Maybe our minds will be stuck in that fog for a long time. But our souls need not be.
In Word and sacrament Jesus comes to our souls, drives out fear, banishes trembling, and brings us the same message that he delivered on that Easter night: “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19).
That’s all we need.
If we are at peace with God, we need not fear the fog of war.
Jesus, still lead on till our rest is won;
and although the way be cheerless,
we will follow, calm and fearless.
Guide us by your hand to our fatherland. Amen.
(Christian Worship 842:1)
Points to ponder:
- Besides the unexpected death of a loved one, what else might send shock waves through us?
- How does the devil try to use those times to separate us from trust in the Lord?
- Why is the fog of war not proof of the loss of saving faith?
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Stillwater, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.