He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
He has risen! He has risen! Oh the joy those women and in turn the other disciples must have felt as they laid eyes on their risen Savior. The One they thought dead was indeed alive! The stone had been rolled away. The tomb was empty. Hopes were no longer shattered. Dreams were coming true. All things had become new. Death had been swallowed up in victory.
Oh what a glorious day!
And as New testament believers we get to celebrate this victory every day, especially as we approach Easter. We actually have the privilege of celebrating Easter from the viewpoint of victory. We are able to reflect on the events leading up to and including Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection with joy and with hope. Since we live on this side of the cross, we know the victory of each moment shared and each word spoken during those last days of Jesus’ life on earth.
On Palm Sunday we can celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Although those shouting “Hosanna!” were crying out for an earthly reign, we know their shouts went beyond that; they were giving glory to the King of heaven and of earth.
Thursday we remember the Last Supper–the breaking of bread, the drinking of the wine, the washing of the disciples’ feet, and even Judas’ choice to leave the fellowship of friends in pursuit of selfish gain. And as we remember that Last Supper, we see the significance of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. We understand the symbolism of the broken bread and the fruit of the vine. And we even commemorate this moment each time we take communion.
We also look back at the Garden of Gethsemane–Jesus’ agonizing prayer, Judas’ kiss of betrayal, and the arrest–knowing the intense love our Savior must have had to restrain Himself and to walk a path He did not deserve. We know what the disciples did not as they fought sleep in the Garden; we know what Jesus was about to do. Such knowledge affords us the ability to almost sense the agony in each word whispered by our suffering servant.
And then there is Friday–a day we label Good Friday because of what God accomplished that day. Yet the day God spread out His arms and paid our debts left anything but good feelings in those present to see Him die. Imagine the confusion, the heartache, the anger, and the fear those disciples must have experienced as they witnessed the one they had forsaken all for now quietly accepting a punishment He didn’t deserve–a punishment they knew He could have saved Himself from. They had walked with Him, fellowshipped with Him, hung on His every word. They had learned to trust Him with their lives. Some had actually vowed to give their lives for His. Yet they didn’t expect Him to give His own for theirs. They could not understand. They could not see.
And so they scattered. And they were probably scared. Who wouldn’t be, right? Their King was crucified. Despite Jesus’ promises of salvation and eternity, His death rocked the world of those who loved Him. During that first Easter weekend, the disciples didn’t bury their Lord with Sunday in their sights. No. Within that span of time between Friday and Sunday loomed the silence of Saturday.
The silence of Saturday.
Let’s think about that Saturday–that day between the death and the resurrection. Take a moment and return with me to the stillness that day….A day of waiting…of wondering…of weeping…that span of time between the shock of shattered dreams and the realization of new beginnings.
Imagine what the disciples might have been thinking. Were they wondering what happened to the One they thought was King? Were they mourning those final moments they had squandered fighting over who would sit where when Jesus was king? Was Peter lamenting his inability to stand up for Jesus those three times he was given the opportunity? And that look. I’m sure that look of love Jesus had given Peter at the sound of the rooster’s crow must have remained etched on his heart long after His Lord had looked away. Were James and John realizing any part in God’s kingdom was better than none? Were they thinking they’d gladly give up their desire to be on the right and left of Jesus if they could just see Him again? Was Nathanael mourning the loss of the one good thing to come out of Nazareth?
I’m sure Martha would have let those dishes wait for a little while just to sit with her sister at Jesus’ feet and hear her Savior’s voice one more time. I’m sure as Mary prepared the spices for burial she would have gladly given another bottle of precious perfume just to wash her Lord’s feet with her tears and dry them with her hair again.
And Mary the mother of Jesus. As she mourned in the home of John–the man her son had provided for her at his death–was she replaying those dreams and visits from angels declaring her son would save the world? Was she wondering how it could be that she was on one side of the tomb and the One she expected to save her was on the other? What had happened to her Immanuel? What had happened to God with us?
I’m sure all those who had followed Jesus were asking themselves what had happened, what if they’d acted differently, and what would they do now. Why did the one who healed so many not save Himself? What did they miss? Could it be they were wrong? Would He really return? Could it be Jesus was not who He said He was–that he was not who they believed Him to be?
Yet Jesus was who He said He was. And Jesus still is.
The disciples were not wrong; they had just misunderstood the message. For even though Jesus had warned them several times He’d be put to death and be buried before rising again, their eyes had not been focused on eternity. They had never fully grasped that it was actually through Jesus’ death that He would bring life. Our Immanuel had to be with us in death so we could be with Him in life.
And so all they could see on that first Saturday was a tomb holding captive the one they had thought would set them free. All they could hear was the stillness of an uncertain future. The stone that had been rolled across the entrance to the tomb had rolled across their hearts as well.
What the disciples could not see was that in the silence of that Saturday, God was moving. And He wasn’t just moving; He was battling. For we must remember that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). There are battles going on in the spiritual realm that we will never see. In the Old Testament, Daniel’s prayer was heard and answered on day one, but it took 21 days of spiritual battle before the angel was able to deliver the vision (see Daniel 10).
In the same way, when Jesus died, He did more than die for our sins; he defeated death. (After all, “the sting of death is sin…”–1 Corinthians 15:56-57). For Adam’s sin did more than separate us from God; his sin brought death to all mankind. So while Jesus’ physical death cleansed us from sin, His resurrection from the dead gave us victory over death. Without Jesus’ physical sacrifice, our sins would still remain; and without His resurrection, this life would be in vain. As Paul reminds us all, “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:16-19).
This means the apparent silence between the death and the resurrection was actually the time it took to win the war–to see Satan fall–to see the enemy defeated.
In the stillness of that Saturday, God was moving!
In the stillness of that Saturday, God won!
And so we must also remember to celebrate that Saturday. We must realize the journey from death to life often occurs within the stillness of a Saturday. We must remember God was still God while Jesus was in the grave and God is still God when we don’t understand.
Therefore I ask you today, is your life in the silence of that Saturday? Are you wondering if those desires in your heart will actually come to pass? Are you questioning if you really heard from God about the direction you are going? Are your circumstances screaming, “Forget it! It’s over!”? Has a stone been rolled over your heart, your hopes, and your future as you thought it should be? Do you feel like everything you trusted has vanished before you?
Well, let me encourage you, it’s not over! He is coming! God has not abandoned you. God has not abandoned your dreams. God will never leave you nor forsake you.
Do not grieve the wait, my friend. Do not rush through the Sabbath. Rather, anticipate it! Be still today knowing He is the God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The silence of today is merely the time needed for heaven’s will to become tomorrow’s reality. The silence of this moment is not the end; it is the beginning. So keep on keeping on, my friend! He is coming! He is here! He has risen! He is alive!