That hollow, grief-filled day. Saturday. Sandwiched between the utter despair of Good Friday, and the salvation and joy-soaked anticipation of Resurrection Sunday.
Saturday. This is the day when Jesus’ followers sat in stunned silence, tumbling over in their minds all that their friend had said. Their teacher, who claimed to be the Son of God, had turned their world upside down. He taught of love so vastly different than they had ever been taught before. Revolutionary love. Love that encompasses not only friends and family…but enemies. Love that requires a man to lay down his own life. Sacrificial love.
It may be good for us to sit in the tension of the already and the not yet.
Images of the grotesque, scandalous slaughter they had witnessed the night before were etched in their minds. Their teacher had been mocked, beaten, spit upon, pierced and hung on the cross until he died. Those images must have assaulted their minds on that silent Saturday. Why had the one whom they had watched heal the sick, cause the blind to see, calm the storm, and multiply the loaves, even raise the dead — why had he not saved himself?
Why had he abandoned them?
This world has seen so many days wrapped in anguish… and we, as individuals, have had such days… but I can’t imagine much more hopelessness than what the disciples and followers of Jesus must have felt on that silent day after their friend was crucified.
Surely, they experienced tremendous grief. They must have profoundly missed Jesus… his laughter, his companionship and how he seemed to be able to see into their souls.
I imagine they were confused, too. Had what Jesus taught them not been true? Had they been duped?
What about anger?
At his killers.
At themselves, for not defending him.
At the crowds for mocking him.
At each other, for denying they knew him.
And, maybe even anger at Jesus, himself.
The disciples and followers of Jesus, do not have what we have today. We have God’s word that tells us that Jesus did not remain in that tomb. We have scripture that shouts to our often-despairing hearts, that our only hope is found in our resurrected Savior — the one who sacrificed His life upon the cross to pay the price for our sins. In hindsight, we know the price that was required of us was taken upon the beaten back of Jesus. Our price was paid as he hung on the cross and cried out to his Father “Forgive them; they do not know what they are doing!”
But Peter, John, Andrew, Thomas and the Marys — they did not have what we have.
The only thing they had was the silence of Saturday.
In church and Christian circles, we don’t talk about that Saturday very much.
We attend Good Friday services, observing communion and reflecting on the propitiation and sacrifice-wrapped cross. We repent and lament and give thanks for what was accomplished through the death of Jesus.
On Sunday (and, every Sunday) we gather with our church families and worship our risen Savior. We sing, loudly. We greet each other with exuberance: “He is risen! He is risen, indeed!”
But often, we do not take the time to observe and remember that Saturday in-between. It may be good for us to sit in the tension of the already and the not yet. We who know “how the story ends”… we, too, have Saturdays, in between despair and joy.
We have days, months and sometimes years when our lives are shattered. Times when there are no answers to our “Why’s?” Moments when the seemingly silence of God is so deafening that it snatches the breath from our lungs. Moments when we do not sense hope, even though we have scripture that the disciples didn’t yet have, on their Saturday. We have the advantage of hope-soaked verses and chapters and psalms and commandments and stories that tell us who God is, and what He has done for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We have scripture that we can grasp with white-knuckled death grips as we search the horizon for our Sunday that is coming.
What do we do in those moments?
We wait. In anguished silence, we wait.
And, God is there, even in that silence.
Why was there a Saturday, in between that awful Friday and that empty tomb Sunday? Jesus not only could have saved himself from the cross and death, but God could have resurrected him immediately. He could have walked right out of that tomb, the minute he was laid in it. Why put the friends and followers and disciples of Jesus through that agony? Why did God not roll that stone away, the very moment it closed? Why place a silent Saturday between destruction and resurrection?
Perhaps because God gives us that room — that space — to wait.
To sit in our grief.
To weep….to cry out to Him from our pain.
To wrestle with our own doubts and fears and anguish.
To lay our burdens at the feet of God, who we know is our only hope…even when we can’t sense it.
I think Saturday is there, to remind us that there is no suffering that we endure that Jesus himself hasn’t endured.
That painful, silent Saturday sweetens the thunderous, pounding joy of hope found on Resurrection Sunday.
And that painful, silent Saturday sweetens the thunderous, pounding joy of hope found on Resurrection Sunday — when we gather in our church communities to marvel with gratitude all over again, that at dawn on the third day, the Marys found the tomb empty, and “…with fear and great joy, ran to tell his disciples” (Matthew 28:8).
But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
— Matthew 28: 5-6
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