Central’s middle school kids are doing service projects all over the city with three other CofCs this week during the annual “Mission in Amarillo.” Channel 10 did a local piece on yesterday’s projects and featured our very own Tanner Albright. You can click here to see the video.
The crucifixion of Jesus happened on a Friday. He was raised from the tomb on Sunday. And in between there was… what?
Good Friday and Easter Sunday are probably the two most studied and most celebrated dates in the history of the world. And the Saturday in between is maybe the most ignored. Even in the Bible, we only get one detail from Matthew telling us that guards were posted on that Saturday to watch the tomb. And that’s it. This Saturday in between is a nothing day. It’s the day with no name, the day when nothing happened. Jesus is crucified, dead, and buried. And… for a full day… nothing.
What does it mean for Jesus to be dead? What does it mean for God incarnate to be in a tomb? What was going on that Saturday? What were the disciples thinking? What were the angels doing? What was that Saturday like?
Doubt. Despair. Hopelessness. Anger. Loneliness. Abandoned. Silence. Fear.
Jesus felt all of that while he was hanging on the cross. He felt abandoned by God. He felt the despair and the loneliness. He felt the silence in his soul, like God had withdrawn his presence, like his Father had turned his back on him. The gospels tell us that our Lord cried out near the moment of his death, “My God! My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus is obeying the will of his Father. He’s extending mercy in the middle of being tortured, he’s forgiving his executioners even while they’re killing him, he’s comforting a man who’s also being killed, he’s making arrangements for his mother — Jesus is faithfully doing every single thing his Father has asked him to do. And now when he needs our God the most, right now at the most unbearable moment of suffering and death, Jesus feels what no person is ever supposed to feel: “My God, why have you forsaken me?!?”
Jesus is praying from Psalm 22.
“My God! My God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out but you do not answer.”
That’s what Friday was like for Jesus. The day he died. The day they wrapped his body in a burial cloth and laid him inside a tomb in a cemetery.
And then, Saturday.
We know from Scripture that, after his death, the followers of Jesus lost all hope. Those two disciples on the road to Emmaus: “We thought Jesus was the one, but he’s not.” Those women who went to the tomb Sunday morning did not go to worship a risen king, they went to anoint a dead body. There’s no hope on Saturday.
Friday’s a little different. A very horrible thing is happening, the disciples are living a nightmare, but they’re running on adrenaline. You know what that’s like. When the awful tragedy strikes, when the rug is suddenly pulled out from under you, when your whole world gets turned upside down in an instant, it’s all adrenaline. You’re taking care of the crisis, you’re doing what has to be done to get through the event.
And then the next day. The day after the funeral. The day after the Bible class delivers the last meal on the sign-up sheet. When things slow down and it gets quiet. That’s Saturday. Everybody knows Saturday.
Saturday is the day after your dream dies. The day after your husband died. The day after the divorce was finalized. The day after the diagnosis. The day after you lose your job. The day after your child does something you never thought she’d do. The day after your soul gets crushed. You wake up and you’re still alive, it’s the next day and you have to keep on living. But you don’t know how. Maybe you don’t know why.
“My God! My God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out but you do not answer.
I am a worm, not a person. scorned by men and women and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.
My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.”
Why is there a Saturday? Why is there a day between the death and resurrection of Jesus? It doesn’t further the plot. It doesn’t move the story line at all. If Jesus was going to be crucified and then raised for the salvation of the world, it seems like God would hurry up with it. I would. Why does God spread these two salvation events over three days? What’s with this horrible day in the middle?
Come back tomorrow. I’ve got a couple of ideas.
Here’s an idea – Saturday is the day for the ministry of presence. You want to sit, we’ll sit. You want to watch tv, we’ll watch tv. You want to drink, we’ll drink. You want to cuss, we’ll cuss. You want to cry, we’ll cry. You won’t get a pithy, well-worn bible verse quoted – you’ll get someone who will be with you. We’ll do the bible verse later.
On Saturday, we try to be the hands and feet that minister to the hurt in the way you want to be ministered to. The valley sucks but it’s your valley so we fight it the way you want to fight it (and keep you from doing something stupid in your grief).
Ministry of presence. Community. Perhaps the number one thing that keeps us from ministering to people in pain is that we don’t really know what to say. It would help all of us to realize that when Jesus asked us to give that cup of cold water in his name, he never told us we had to say anything. Just being there, sitting with your brother or sister in silence, that is good enough. It’s better than good; it’s perfect.
I appreciate your attention to that, brother. Thank you.