(Note: This is a repost from April 2011.)
I got to wondering last night what Saturday was like for Jesus’ disciples. These days, we tend to skip right from the horror of Good Friday, ending with the deliberate humilation and then the agony of His death on the cross, to the hallelujahs and glorious promises fulfilled on Sunday morning, when the tomb was empty.
But what about Saturday?
I searched my Bible this morning, wondering if I’d missed something. Saturday was the Sabbath for the Jews, so the religious leaders hurried to get Jesus buried Friday night so as not to disturb their day of rest. Surprisingly, Matthew tells us this: “Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate [the man who ordered Jesus’ crucifixion] and said, ‘Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day.” Even though their purpose seemed to be to prevent the disciples from stealing His body and tell the people He had risen, it’s interesting to me that they remembered His words.
Mark and John skip Saturday entirely. Luke tells us that the women went Friday night to see the tomb and “returned and prepared spices and perfumes.” But then: “And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.”
So, what about Saturday? Since the Bible doesn’t tell us much about that day, I am left wondering about the disciples. How did they feel? Certainly they felt the pain and grief of losing their teacher, prophet, friend. When Jesus asked His disciples “Who do people say that [I] am?” they responded that “… some say … John the Baptist … Elijah … Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” Then Jesus changed the question: “But who do YOU say that I am?” And Peter, bold, brash, impetuous Peter, replied: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (“Christ” also means “Messiah,” which is defined as the ideal king anointed and empowered to rescue His people from their enemies and establish His kingdom.”)
How confused must they have been? He told them many times that He would rise on the third day, but it doesn’t seem that they ever really understood it. So IF He was the Messiah, how could he possibly rescue them now? They now must make a choice – continue to believe the improbable or assume they got it wrong.
And if they got it wrong, then what of the past three years? They left EVERYTHING to follow Him. Home, family, job … to trek all over the place listening to Him and watching Him perform miracles … and expecting Him to rescue them by physically conquering Israel. Did they feel disappointment? Betrayal? Surely they did. Foolish? I would guess so. When I feel betrayed, disappointed and foolish, I usually get angry. Were they angry?
And what now? Would they go crawling back to their former lives to face the “I told you so’s” or stay together and hide?
Hopelessness and despair, also. So much for rescue. So much for a kingdom on earth. So much for the anointing of God. Was He a liar? If so, they were surely fools for having believed Him.
I can only imagine the darkness of their souls on Saturday.
But then, Sunday! It’s interesting to me that the women were the last to be with His body on Friday night, and the first to hurry to the tomb on Sunday morning. We know what they found – or rather what they didn’t find. We know that their initial confusion and fear was replaced with the memory of His promises. We see that after the women went home and told the disciples Peter “got up and ran to the tomb” and went away “marveling.” We know the rest of the story, right? The necessity of Friday night, and yes, even Saturday. Friday night Jesus willingly gave His life for me … and for you … so that we could cross over the impossibly, uncrossable bridge of our sin into complete forgiveness, ushering us into God’s presence now and forever. He loved us that much. But Saturday was just as necessary, because it was the only way to get to Sunday.
If I don’t believe in Sunday, then all of it was a lie, or the rantings of a lunatic. If I DO believe in Sunday, then I know that He is Lord, and it’s all true. God loves me that much. The pain of Saturday had to be endured before the astounding truths of Sunday could be revealed.
Honestly, sometimes I camp out on Saturday. (Ever see the movie Groundhog Day?) My circumstances look bleak, I feel confusion, hopelessness and despair. But unlike the disciples, I already know for SURE about Sunday. Saturday is necessary. God allows Saturdays. And sometimes Saturday feels endless. But Sunday is coming! So while the grief and pain are real and present and not to be minimized, I must not forget Sunday. I must choose to believe that even as I hurt, God is beside me on Saturday, compassionate, loving, faithful. And He has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that joy comes in the morning.
Lamentations 3:22-24 says it well: “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I have hope in Him.'”
Feel the pain of Saturday. But don’t forget about SUNDAY! He is risen, indeed.