Every year I find myself pondering what it might have been like for the first-century Christ-followers as they woke up on the Saturday after Jesus’ crucifixion, wondering what had just happened. Jesus had come into their lives with words and actions that gave them hope at a time when they needed hope. God had not spoken for centuries. The Romans had conquered them. The religious leaders heaped burdens upon them that left them with a sour taste of who God was and what He was doing.
Jesus came with the good news that God’s kingdom was near. Good news. Hope. He also spoke of the availability of the kingdom for anyone and everyone – even those whom the religious leaders indicated God was not interested in. Very good news. Much hope. Enough hope to cause many to quit their day jobs to follow him.
He rocked their worlds. He spoke with authority, demonstrating that God was significantly different than they had ever thought or dreamed. As they continued to follow him, it became evident to them that Jesus was a prophet, maybe even the Messiah. As time passed many became convinced that He was the Messiah and were probably confused as to why the theologians didn’t see it.
Then the last few weeks everything seemed to unravel. There was a sense that things weren’t going to end well. Judas tried to force Jesus’ hand. The rest of the followers were confused and grasped at straws trying to understand why all seemed to be disintegrating before their eyes.
And then it did disintegrate.
Within 24 hours it all came crashing down, culminating with Jesus’ death as a criminal. Now it’s Saturday. Friday was the worst and darkest day they had ever experienced. Now what? This morning I tried to imagine what they might have been thinking: “What happened? We thought he was the Messiah. He even led us to believe he was. Was he a fraud? If so, what did we miss? He seemed like the real deal. Did we just waste three years of our lives? The naysayers are going to have a heyday with this! And what of hope? We needed hope three years ago and thought we had found it. Now all hope seems to be lost. So, now what, God?”
We have the privilege of looking back on that Saturday through the lens of the resurrection, knowing that hope was just around the corner. But they didn’t have that vantage point. But God did. And God, knowing he was going to resurrect Jesus, allowed the followers a moment of despair. What a powerful act of love! Doesn’t sound like love to us, does it? But love, in its truest form, is the lover doing exactly what the loved one needs, not what the loved one thinks he/she needs. Think of the love of the father who let his son (the one we call ‘the prodigal’) leave, knowing it was ultimately the best thing for him.
We all have ‘Saturdays’ in our lives when hope seems to have been snuffed out. God has a different vantage point than us. God tells us, as he told the Israelites, “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). For the Israelites, ‘them’ was the Canaanites that inhabited the land they were to move into. For us today, ‘them’ might well be the devil’s minions, those demons that would prefer we lose hope.
History and the experience of all the Christ-followers that have gone before remind us that hope is around the corner. As you ponder resurrection hope, contemplate something N.T. Wright once said: “They [demons] can still shriek, but since Calvary they no longer have authority.”
It might be Saturday, but Sunday’s coming! Have a Blessed Easter!
The title, It’s Saturday. But Sunday’s a Coming!, is a takeoff on a classic old message by Tony Campolo that my wife and I heard him give at a Young Life conference in 1979.