When Jesus was finishing His greatest work, the only ones celebrating were the enemies of God. What were Jesus’ followers doing the first Good Friday? Weeping through the weekend—grieving, fearing, and despairing.
What a waste of tears and terror! Jesus had plainly warned the disciples about the imminent dark days. They had sensed something was “coming down,” but were too busy arguing about who would win the “most spiritual” prize.
Even as understanding was dawning, the disciples still refused reality. Hadn’t Jesus slipped away from angry crowds before? Granted, His popularity had waned when He talked about the need to eat His body and drink His blood, but now the Lord’s approval ratings were back up. Why, just a few days earlier the Palm Sunday crowd went wild as they entered Jerusalem.
Granted, the Jewish leaders were no doubt infuriated when Jesus made a whip and drove out the livestock from the temple. Surely, He had upset more than the money changers tables that morning. But he had cleansed the temple before and gotten away with it. Besides the Pharisees wouldn’t dare do anything during the Passover that might cause a riot.
But as Jesus followers walked into Gethsemane’s Garden that night they couldn’t dismiss their foreboding. Despair increased as they heard agonized cries of Jesus in prayer. Worried and weary, they retreated into the comfort of a restless sleep. They would watch and pray with Jesus tomorrow, on Friday.
Alas, how differently the day dawned! Fear overcame their faith. Forsaking Jesus, they fled. Peter crept back; only to soon despair over his denial. John stood alone with the women at the cross. But after he watched Jesus die he joined the others and hid behind locked doors, paralyzed by fear of the Pharisees.
Friday, Saturday—the days dragged slowly, sadly. Sunday dawned, dark and dismal. Stuck in their grief, they refused to believe the women’s report of an empty tomb and of seeing angels. Peter and John verified the vacant grave, but retreated to their hiding place. Unbelief reigned until Sunday evening when Jesus suddenly stood in their midst.
Finally, only after seeing positive proof, did the disciples’ sorrow turn into joy. What if they had believed Jesus promise of resurrection before He died? How differently they would have spent the weekend.
What about us? How often does not knowing or believing the truth of what God is doing behind the scenes keep us locked down? What has died and is buried, sealed behind a stone in your life? What losses are you mourning? A dream? A hope? A missed opportunity? A broken relationship? Are you stuck in grief, sorrowing as one who has no hope? What does Jesus say about your impossible-to-repair situation?
Several years ago I sat next to a woman at a prayer breakfast. A mother of three, she had separated from her husband. “My love for him has died,” she confided.
“That may be true,” I replied, “but do you believe that God can resurrect the dead?” I waited for her reply. Quietly she confessed, “I never thought about it that way.” As we prayed together, she opened her heart to a miracle. A month later I received a joyful note from her—God had restored her marriage.
What are you saying about what’s buried? It stinks? Hear what Jesus declared, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)
But what if you are grieving the death of a loved one? This year Easter weekend falls on the seventh anniversary of my husband’s death. Like Jesus body on the first “Good Saturday” Milt’s body is buried in a grave. But that’s all that’s dead and buried. Milt’s not under a stone marker at Finn Hill Cemetery. He entered heaven on April 19, 2012—and has been having the time of his life ever since!
When a dear friend flew in from Colorado, I asked her if she would like to see Milt’s grave. She graciously replied, “If you want to.” As I paused for a moment I could hear in my spirit the question the angel asked the women on that first Easter: “Why seek the living among the dead?”
What comfort! When sadness seeps into my soul I let myself squeeze the sponge of grief. Losing a loved one hurts. I’m not suggesting that we sing a happy tune and ignore our pain. But as we walk through the Valley of Death we need not walk alone. The Comforter has come!
Whenever I remember my first husband, I need not, like the disciples on that first Easter weekend, waste my days, stuck in sorrow, isolated and immobile. Instead, I can trust God’s Word that encourages us when we mourn: “You must not carry on over them [believers who have died] like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13b-14, The Message) Resurrection Day is coming!