Somewhere along the way – I’m not sure when – Easter has become about sweet little fluffy bunnies, brightly colored eggs, chocolate and springtime. And while some of those things probably have their roots in spiritual things….or we can at least derive spiritual meaning from them, they’re not what Easter is about.
Easter is gory and painful. It’s bloody and tragic. Easter is about questions and confusion. Easter is about loss and betrayal – about loneliness and heartache. Easter is sorrow and suffering. And, then – only then – is it redemptive and glorious.
In our rush to get to the glory of the empty tomb, we sidestep the biggest piece of the story.
Imagine the disciples fear as they watched as Jesus was arrested. Jesus, the one whom they’d followed, the one whom they’d left their livelihoods for – was dragged away by the Roman guards, at night time, with their one time friend, Judas, leading the way! What confusion! What fear!
Imagine the panic of Peter when he was connected to Jesus and the acrid taste of bitterness on his tongue when that rooster crowed.
Imagine the anguish of Mary Magdalene as she watched her Savior – the only one who’d seen her and not what she’d done – bloodied and beaten beyond all recognition.
Imagine the immense sorrow of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Yes, she’d known along who her son was. She knew what the prophets said and she knew this day was coming. Still – she was a mother and that man in agony was the baby that she’d felt move with in her. He’d nursed at her breast. He was the one who she drilled the Torah into at the dinner table. She’d calmed his fears, dried his tears, and held him close. And now, she watched in helpless horror as her boy was cruelly murdered.
Imagine Simon of Cyrene who was accosted and made to carry a criminal’s cross. When he looked into the eyes of Jesus, did he know that Jesus was no criminal? Was he haunted by that look of love? The one that said, “I’m doing this for you.”
Imagine Joseph – a “secret” disciple who gave his tomb for Jesus to be buried in. Did he wish he hadn’t been so secret? Did he live with the regret of “if only?”
And John. What about John? The beloved one. The one charged with the responsibility to take care of Mary. Did he feel guilt that his Savior was dying in his place? Did he wish he’d had more time to learn from the Master?
And, those are just some of the major players that we know about. I wonder if the brothers of Jesus felt guilt because they’d refused to believe their brother’s claims. I wonder about all the people that Jesus had healed who knew that was every bit the God he claimed to be. Think about all the people at the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000. How many of them felt that hope and light was dying right along with Jesus?
Then came Saturday. For Jesus’ family, friends, and followers it was the first time he’d ever be silent in their lives. I’ve been there – the day after someone you love dearly dies and has been buried. You wake up and for the first millisecond, you don’t remember the horror or tragedy or loss. Your brain lets you believe that it’s all a bad dream – for a split second in time. Then you look around, realize it’s not a bad dream and the sad settles into every part of your soul. You long for the power to change the past, to rewind, to not feel. Grief is a trap that you can’t break free from; a panic that gropes for the breath within you.
Some of them probably thought it was over for good and Jesus was gone. Others probably replayed conversations in their mind about death, resurrection, temples and all the other times that it seemed that Jesus was talking in riddles. Could it be that he wouldn’t stay in the tomb? But, with every passing hour he stayed in that grave hope slipped away and people that loved Jesus and whom he dearly loved grew more desperate for answers.
Have you been there, my friend? Are you there? Is it Friday when the tragedy, the sorrow has settled into every part of your soul? Is it Saturday when the waiting is agonizing and you really don’t think you can breathe – or wait – one more second? I have been stuck on Friday for many long dark nights. Even now, I’m in the Saturday of my soul, waiting for the answers I long for. Asking, if please, You could just fix this thing and make it better.
Friday and Saturday are miserable. There’s no doubt about it. But, here’s the thing; the sorrow of those two days make the glory of Sunday so much more sweet! Without Friday and Saturday, they never would have seen Jesus has the resurrected Son of God. Without Peter’s anguish and redemption, the church would have never been birthed. Without Friday and Saturday, Jesus would have just been a guy who told some really good stories and did some pretty cool stuff. Victory without defeat is not possible!
Yes, my friend, Friday and Saturday are long, horrible days. But Sunday is coming!