The Saturday before the first Easter was a time of great sadness. All that had been anticipated seemed like a silly pipe dream because Jesus was dead. The man who the disciples trusted, the man who promised them so much, died just the same as the two common criminals beside him.
His body gave out as theirs did. The same color of blood – the color of the criminals’ blood – ran from his wounds.
His heart burst from the torture. Literally, as evidenced by the water that poured from the puncture wound, and figuratively, too.
A friend betrayed him.
Another friend denied him three times.
He watched his mother fall apart at the foot of the cross that held him.
The humanity he came to save – those he loved more than you or I can fathom – turned against him.
On the night before his death he asked his disciples – his friends – to stay awake and pray with him. They fell asleep, leaving Jesus alone in the Garden of Gethsemane to cry blood and tears, terrified of what was to come.
Yet, he still chose to go through with it, and he faced the greatest heart-break of all: total separation from God. You and I have never experienced separation like that. Oh, we may turn away now and again, but God doesn’t leave us. Never. Ever. Ever.
But God left Jesus while he hung on the cross. He turned his back on his son, so that we would never know that separation as long as we accept the gift of his sacrifice.
Jesus went through with it, and we know he had a choice because of his prayer in the Garden. He chose to save mankind. Even through all the heartache we had caused.
So Saturday night was not a time of celebration. The resurrection was not anticipated. Unlike the baby growing in Mary’s belly, there were no outward signs, and the teachings of Jesus’ ministry weren’t completely understood until after the resurrection.
The disciples weren’t thinking about what Jesus had said about going away so the Holy Spirit could come. They didn’t recall that he said he had come to serve them, to suffer and die for them. Their hopes had been crushed, their dreams shattered. They were terrified that they would be next, and maybe they even chastised themselves for following this man who ended up dead. Perhaps the disciples felt sorry for themselves because this hope had been taken away from them, as so many other things had been taken away. What could they believe in now?
Tonight is Saturday, and it just so happens that my metaphorical awakening (or dejection, depending on how you look at it) occurs on this literal Saturday before Easter. Many of my dreams are unfulfilled after several years of trying. I look at the insurmountable task ahead of me – this monumental goal of being more than just a carbon-based lifeform using up oxygen, to do something that matters – and I wonder why I bother when all the doors keep slamming in my face. I wonder what there is to believe in when all else has failed me.
And then I’m reminded of how the disciples felt on their Saturday. They forgot everything Jesus had told them while he was alive. All the parables, the teachings, the promises…all of these things flittered away into the darkness when all they could see was his body hanging on that cross.
Are your dreams hanging lifeless on a cross? Are you watching your hopes fade, questioning why you ever believed in the first place?
Or are you trusting in the promises, believing by faith even when the evidence brands you a fool?
It’s only Saturday. Your story isn’t over yet. God is in the resurrection business, and while the work that Jesus did on the cross is finished, God never stops working in our lives.
While the disciples and many others were mourning Jesus in the quiet of their homes that Saturday, God was working. He was battling evil on mankind’s behalf, declaring victory over sin and getting ready to glorify his son.
He’s working on your behalf, too. Tonight. Right this very minute. Even (or especially!) in the quiet. Your resurrection might not be what you are anticipating (Jesus certainly wasn’t what the Jews expected), but in this world of heartache and disappointment I have learned to trust in God’s promises.
Even on Saturday, because I believe – I know – that Sunday is coming.