Photo Credit: Catholiclane.com – Garden Tomb, Jerusalem
This is the morning of exhausted grief. Jesus, the Messiah, God’s Sent One; His Only Son lay dead in a tomb. Dead. How is this possible?
The disciples, his family, those followers whose lives were transformed must have been numb with the stark reality that he was not with them…not on that Saturday. What would they do without him? What would happen to them? What? What? What?
There is only one scriptural reference to this day and it related to the threat of Jesus’ power and influence, even in death:
The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. – Matthew 27:62-66
Because for the Jews, days begin and end at sundown, most probably this visit with Pilate occurred Friday night. At his command, guards were placed. The tomb was sealed. Jesus would be no more trouble….
He is dead: this man from Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel, the Lord of the world.
With His dying breaths, He spoke words of forgiveness, finality, and faith.
But now the breathing has ceased, and the lungs that exhaled forgiveness are deflated. My Jesus – dead.* – Trevin Wax
Read the rest of his poem here.
[Inserting here a talk done on Good Friday by a friend of ours – on the cross – fitting for today – then after her talk, I will close on Black Saturday.]
“What does the cross change?
“Everything” is perhaps our knee jerk reaction. The cross changes everything. But that can’t be right when we worship an unchanging God. God did not change at the cross. He was perfectly just before the cross and remains perfectly just today and will be perfectly just forever. He was perfectly loving before the cross, he remains perfectly loving, and he will be perfectly loving forever. He was sovereign, is sovereign, and will be sovereign forever. God did not change at the cross.
I think to see what changed we have to go back much earlier than Jesus’ lifetime. We have to go back to Eden. God created a perfect garden with a man and a woman and plants and animals. It was an oasis, idyllic, peaceful. And by peaceful I don’t mean free from worry or stress. I mean the hearts of Adam and Eve were at peace with God. It’s hard to imagine that. Hard to imagine no shame, fear, uncertainty. Hard to imagine walking and talking with God, completely vulnerable, knowing you were free from any sort of culpability. Adam and Eve were at peace with God, each other, and themselves.
Then they went to war with God. And each of us makes that same decision, to go to war with God, to sin against him and against our nature as image-bearers. We do not choose peace or freedom, we choose war and shame, darkness and loneliness. When I say war I mean we declare that there must be bloodshed. There must be death. Sin is a declaration that we will not live as God intended. God intended perfect peace. He intended that we all walk with Him, unashamed, in the light. We sin and we disrupt that plan. We may not desire the outcome of that sin, which is death, but the outcome is unavoidable.
So Adam and Eve sinned and that perfect peace was shattered and the cross became inevitable. As we read through the Old Testament, the cross feels like it’s in every story. We see God using men and women to foreshadow what is to come, the perfect prophet, priest, judge, shepherd, and king. We read the Old Testament and we see all the plans God set in motion to reach the cross. What we see also is imperfection. Imperfect prophets, judges, shepherds, and kings. Imperfect sacrifices leading to imperfect relationships. God is with His people but they cannot be at peace with him like they were in the Garden.
So, does the cross take us backward, to Eden? No. There’s no going back to Eden. That’s not the plan.
The cross is the culmination of the battle that started in Eden. We declared war in the garden and Jesus Christ declared victory at the cross. Oh death, where is your sting? We can ask that because the battle is over. Jesus Christ conquered death and we who believe have the promise of eternal life, starting today.
It’s strange though. It doesn’t feel over. I don’t feel at peace. Not with God, or others, or myself. It feels like the battle is very much ongoing and it often feels like I’m losing. So, what has the cross really changed?
I’m reminded of my favorite passage in the Bible, which is where Jesus is walking on water and Peter calls out to Him and Jesus says come. It’s an amazing story in so many ways but I’m always struck by the fact that Peter sinks and, it seems, is going to drown. Even with Jesus standing right there, standing on water exhibiting power over nature, declaring he is God, Peter is sinking under the waves. Jesus saves him, of course. But I imagine Peter, while grateful, was a bit unnerved by the sinking part. I’m reminded of this story because the reality of this Earth is that, while God is sovereign and He has won the battle over death, we do not live in Eden. We do not live in the new heaven and new Earth. We are waiting for Jesus Christ to return and while we wait, we will struggle. We’ll perhaps almost drown as we try to walk with God. But because of the cross, we will walk as freely as Adam and Eve walked with God. Death no longer has a hold on us.
So, we have victory over death because of the cross, which is our hope for the future. But what do we cling to in this daily battle? What else does the cross give us today?
I’d like to talk about just one thing.
When God looked at His Son, He was pleased. It’s such an amazing thought. That God looked from heaven at a man and was pleased. Picture it. Jesus is a man on Earth and God looks at him and addresses him and says He is pleased with him. That’s what the cross changes for us. When God looks at you who believe, He does not see your sin, He sees Christ’s holiness. He sees you, an individual He created in your mother’s womb whom He has loved from the beginning of time. But instead of your sin, He sees Christ’s holinesses. And He says, this is my daughter, in whom I am well pleased. This is my son, in whom I am well pleased. Imagine it. The sight of you pleases God. The cross means that we no longer have a broken and distorted relationship with God because we, unlike any person living before the cross, are holy in God’s eyes. No matter how putrid our sin is, no matter how many times we have declared war with God, for those who believe and repent, we can walk in the light, free from the burden of our sin. Like Adam and Eve, we walk with God in peace. Like Jesus, God looks at us and is pleased. I pray you can feel that today. Feel that God knows you, knows your name and your face and sees you and is as pleased to see you as He is to see His own Son. Not because you’re obedient or you are bursting with the fruit of the spirit. To believe that your good deeds can make up for putting Jesus Christ on the cross with your sin is folly. Our sin led to the death of God’s one and only begotten Son. We cannot make up for that with our good behavior. To try and do so is to deny Christ’s sacrifice.
The cross takes that burden away and replaces it with freedom. We are free to walk in peace with God and to know and feel that God is pleased with us because of the cross.
So what does the cross change? Us.” – Amanda, Good Friday reading, Sideris Church
We have the great knowledge of the risen Christ, but his followers, on that Saturday, only had dim recollection of his words of promise. Shrouded in grief, they found themselves quite “in between” – in between the death of their Savior and the life of his glorious promises.
“Saturday – the day between the crucifixion and the resurrection. What do you think the disciples were doing on Saturday? Here they have seen their friend and their Master killed the day before but also have this vague promise, which probably seemed ludicrous at the time that he would rise again. Most of life is Saturday…It`s waiting in faith and hanging onto the promise that God is going to come through for us in spite of how bad things look. Most of life is Saturday. — I don`t know where you are this Holy Week. Maybe you`re in a Palm Sunday kind of mood wanting God to get on board with an agenda and maybe he will, but if he doesn’t, know that his plans are always good…Maundy Thursday means that God loves us no matter how dirty our uniform gets from the game of life. Maybe you`re in a Saturday kind of place – between a hard time and a promise you only half believe. Know this for sure that God`s Easter irony is still at work, and he can use even the worst tragedies for good, and he always has at least one more move left. No matter how bleak and dark Saturday gets, Sunday`s coming, and it`s coming sooner than you think. “ – John Ortberg
Photo Credit: IMB Resources
Saturday is the “in between day”. Did those who loved Jesus most remember this? Was their grief so consuming, so deafening to His promises, so numbing there was no room for hope? We have the great experience of knowing, for sure, that Sunday is coming!
Today is the waiting day.
We wait like schoolchildren for the final bell.
We wait with tapping foot, huffing breath, rolling eyes.
We wait like a mother for the gushing of birth water.
We wait like branches holding pink petaled secrets.
We wait with tears of frustration or eyes filled with anger.
We wait with tears of joy or eyes wide with wonder.
In the waiting rooms of life, our hope is mixed, our longings more so. But still, we wait. Forgive us for our impatience, Lord. We believe, help our unbelief.
We carry the sorrow of loss even as we hold on to hope of gain. We watch and we wait for your resurrection life. Even though we may not see the evidence, we wait with hope.
Because today is the waiting day. – Emily P. Freeman
YouTube Video of John Ortberg on “Saturdays” – American Association of Christian Counselors Conference, October 2011 – So good!!! (starting 5 minutes in)
P.S. All the days of Holy Week are described in my posts below.
Photo Credit: GoodFridayQuotes2015.com