Summary: What a horrible Saturday Jesus’ disciples had, not understanding that Sunday, and His resurrection, were just ahead!
Saturday is not the End
April 14, 2001
Saturday can be quite an ‘in between day’ for people. As they live their lives, it’s the day between the end of the five-day working week, and Sunday- the real day off. It’s often the day for errands to be done and for catching up on everything that wasn’t done through the week, so it can, for many, become quite a tiresome and down day.
What was Saturday like for the disciples after Jesus died? Can you imagine a darker day than those disciples had that horrible week? Peter, James, John, and the other disciples, experienced the longest Saturday in history, that week when Jesus died. When he died, they lost everything they had lived for. Their hopes were not only wounded; they were exploded out of existence! They were annihilated and blown to bits. Their dreams were not shattered, but they were completely stripped away and destroyed beyond imagination. I think God can only know the torment of that Saturday in the lives of the first disciples- He watched as they plodded through that day. He watched as they just put in the time that Saturday. He was there with them, although they might not have been really aware of that, as they hit a bottom in despair and sadness. They remained locked away together, and the questions, the anguish, the confusion, and the fear must have been so incredible!
They had left their previous lives to follow Jesus, their rabbi. They had been stirred by the ‘call’! They had responded to the great hope that Jesus aroused in them.
You and I have been there, to a degree, at least, and we need to get in touch with that a bit today in order to understand something so crucial in this season.
If you’re married, I want you to think back to the wonder and excitement and the anticipation you had when you were married. Remember the idealism and the idea that nothing could possibly go wrong. For some of us, it might be good to think back to the time when we came into the faith- whether you define that as coming into this church, or the time when you first responded to God’s call to you. I well remember my youthfulness and enthusiasm at that time and the lengths I would go to, even adjusting my life as I saw God’s call putting different requirements on me. I remember the hours of prayer and study and the miles driven just to go to church. I remember the excitement in the air at church and in me, as I was with the church! This was where I learned Christianity as a way of life! (Tell my personal story in 3 minutes.)
The disciples were there. You don’t have somebody come up to you and say, “Follow me,” and go, immediately, without having incredible hope and anticipation and energy to do that! The disciples had that. They pinned all their hopes on him and on his vision of the future. They saw him as the one who was to come. In fact, where most would not have been so bold, on one occasion, Simon Peter declared the belief he had and which was, likely, the belief of so many others, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” To the disciples, he wasn’t just the nebulous ‘son of man’, but they grew to recognize him as God’s Son and the hope of the world!
But then he died. In the most excruciating, embarrassing and humiliating death the Roman Empire could give to someone, he died. Beaten, tortured, spat on, verbally abused, Jesus had to carry his own instrument of death toward the site for crucifixion. On the cross, Pilate got in one last jab at Him and the Jewish people, whom he despised, by putting the trilingual sign on the cross declaring, “This is the King of the Jews.” Pilate was declaring that this was all the king the Jews were ever going to have- a humiliated, naked, useless, poor excuse for a human being, impotent, illegitimate, failure! (The religious leaders didn’t like that and because they understood what Pilate was saying, desperately wanted that sign removed.) As long as He was alive, the disciples could still hope, because of who He was, and they could expect Him to come down from the cross and to begin the great victory they anticipated, but then He died- “into your hands I commit my Spirit”, and “it is finished!” And the feeblest of hope they still had, disappeared.
Hope is never more needed than on the Saturdays of life. Something has gone. Something has left us. Something has died. Something or someone that once filled a great place within has left us just as empty as we once were full, just as lonely as we once were filled with friendship, just as uncertain as we once were so sure. The hardest part of life is dealing with the Saturdays of life, as the disciples of Jesus had to deal with that dark, dark Saturday. We’ve all had those days, haven’t we? We’ve all had those days when we aren’t sure we can go forward because everything we’ve tried has just blown up and sifted down around us in bits of black powder. We’ve all had those days when it seems that everything we’ve attempted has been destroyed, and Jesus’ disciples had that kind of day. It was the longest, blackest, most hopeless, discouraging, desperate, anguish-filled Saturday in history. All their hope was pinned on Jesus… and He was dead and buried in a sealed tomb. As far as they knew, all the hope of all humanity lay dead in that tomb. Dead is dead, after all, and that’s the end. Dead stays dead, as far as they knew, so where to now? I can only imagine the depths of despair those men knew; it was black.