Fear and Great Joy

They left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell…  Matthew 28:8
Me and the Big Guy Upstairs have an understanding.” Ray leaned back in his chair with a confident smile. “I know the Bible says it’s wrong, but I think—” Jess nodded. “Yeah, I agree. Jesus understands that the times have changed. You know, if religion doesn’t accommodate the culture, then who needs it? I pray every day. He’s cool with whatever I want to do.”

Have you heard similar conversations? They sound wise, except for one thing: these guys are not talking like people who actually know Jesus. They sound more like guys who have defined a Jesus for themselves. Even in His day, people were already trying to define for themselves what the Son of God would be like. They’re still doing that. But the phrase “fear and great joy” describes the experience of everyone who has truly encountered the risen Lord. To know Him is to fear his power, majesty, and perfection. The “fear of the Lord” means reverential awe. But it also acknowledges God’s power and right to direct our lives. In fact, Jesus told us we should fear God if we refuse to obey Him (Matt. 10:28). But to know Him is to also overflow with joy at the way He pours out His love on those who love Him (Ps. 147:11). 

Without fear, we become irreverent and abuse His grace (Rom. 6:1). Without joy, we veer toward legalism and drudgery. When either is missing, it is a sign that we do not really know Him as he deserves to be known. Those missing pieces also give those observing us a faulty representation of His character. The right combination of “fear and great joy” produces in us a passion for telling other people about Him too. 


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