Summary: This was for an Easter sunrise service.
Let’s start with some statistics. In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John there are 89 chapters. There are 4 chapters devoted to the first 30 years of Jesus’ life, and that only in Matthew and Luke. There are 28 chapters devoted to the last week of Jesus’ life (from Palm Sunday through Easter). There are 16+ chapters devoted to the time between the Last Supper and the Resurrection. That points us to the vital importance of this part of Jesus’ life. The death and resurrection of Jesus’ is the most important thing in our faith. Paul wrote, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”
Here is one more stat. There are 3749 verses in the Gospels. Of those verses exactly ½ of a verse is dedicated to the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. Luke 23:56b says, “But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.” With all the chapters dedicated to the last week of Jesus’ life, it seems odd to me that only ½ verse is dedicated to that one day.
Imagine with me what was going on in the minds of the disciples that day. To imagine it, you have to understand the nature of the Jewish Sabbath. The Sabbath was a day of rest. God created the world in six days and then rested on the seventh. The fourth of the Ten Commandments says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”
There were all kinds of rules about what could and couldn’t be done on the Sabbath. No work could be done, but so there was no confusion it was defined to the minutest detail what exactly work entailed. You couldn’t draw water from the well. You couldn’t go on a journey of greater than about one mile. You couldn’t kill anything. You couldn’t buy and sell. You weren’t even allowed to prepare a meal on the Sabbath. All preparations had to be done on the day before. Here’s the kicker: you weren’t even allowed to contemplate such things. The contemplation of taking a journey, engaging in commerce, or anything else construed as labor was strictly forbidden. What are we doing today that violates this? Did you run water from the tap? Did you come more than one mile? The men who will be cooking breakfast shortly will be violating the rules. Even the contemplation of such things would be a violation.
It’s against this backdrop that we come to consider the events of this Saturday. The disciples had traveled with Jesus. They had eaten with him. They had prayed with him. They had seen him do incredible miracles. They had heard his teaching. They had laughed and cried with him. They had left everything to follow him. They had invested their entire lives in him. Now he is dead. They had witnessed it. They were with him in the Garden of Gethsemane when he was arrested and dragged off. They watched his farce of a trial. They observed the beating. They saw him hammered to a hunk of wood. They looked upon his suffering. They saw the Roman soldier plunge his spear into Jesus’ side and saw the blood and water gush out. He was dead. He was as dead as dead could be.
Thursday night they had been with him in the upper room. The emotions of that Friday had no doubt fried their nerves.
Imagine sitting around doing nothing on the Sabbath replaying those events in your mind. Have you ever had something bad happen, only to have a bunch of time to sit around and stew about it?
Perhaps they were thinking about that they could have done something to stop it all. “If only we had done this or that.” All that time they had invested with Jesus over the last three years had been wasted. They could have done something else, anything else. The thoughts played through their minds like terrible movies. They sights were vivid. The crack of the whip on Jesus back echoed in their ears. The ping of the hammer and nails sent shivers up their spines. The stench of blood and death hung in their nostrils. Their stomachs churned with bitterness at everything that had happened. Their Sabbath rest was anything but restful.
Just the night before they had plucked Jesus from that old rugged cross and placed him in a borrowed tomb. They had sealed the tomb with a giant boulder. The Romans put guards at the entrance. The next day some of the women planned to close this horrible chapter of their lives. They would go and give Jesus the proper burial he deserved. Sadness, anger, and confusion hung in the air like a thick morning fog.
What a depressing scene that must of have been. It’s hard for us to imagine. We are on the other side of Easter. We are on the side where we know what happened. They didn’t have the advantage that our perspective gives us.