Good Friday. The day Jesus was cruelly crucified. For His followers, there was nothing good about it.
Jesus was gone.
It was finished.
And they found themselves in the in-between. Without the hindsight of the resurrection, they only knew His death.
What was it like for them? What were they thinking? What did they do?
If you were to cast their responses for a reenactment, you might have:
- Acquaintances who stood and watched what was going on (Luke 23:49);
- Secret followers, like Joseph of Arimathea, whose love for Jesus compelled him to make public his devotion so he could properly bury his Savior (John 19:38);
- Weepers and mourners, who grieved as if there were no hope (John 20:11, Mark 16:9-10);
- Preppers, who switched into doing mode (Luke 24:1);
- Conformers, who did what law dictated, remaining silent in their grief because Jesus had been executed under Roman law (Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Abridged Edition, by Kenneth Barker and John R. Kohlenberger III, Zondervan, for Matthew 27:61); and,
- Clingers, who came looking for the crucified Christ because that’s all they knew (Matthew 28:1-5).
You might also have:
- The misdirected, who sought the living among the dead (Luke 24:2-5);
- The blinded, who saw the resurrected Christ, even ate with Him, but didn’t know who He was (John 20:14, Luke 24:13-16, 26-32);
- Those Jesus rebuked for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they “did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen” (Mark 16:9-14);
- The see-it-to-believe-its, who insisted on a personal encounter with the empty tomb or His nail-scarred hands (John 20:1-8, 25); and,
- The foolish and slow of heart who saw the empty tomb, but because they didn’t see Jesus, they did not believe (Luke 24:17-25).
As I read all four gospel accounts, a question nagged at me: hadn’t Jesus told them He would die and three days later be raised again? Why were they so distraught?
Even after they find the stone rolled away and the body missing.
What do we do when what we see with our eyes convinces our heads that what our hearts desire is impossible, and our heads forget the promises that stirred our hearts to believe in the first place?
Praise God, the story doesn’t end there!
They encounter two men in shining garments, and “as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, (the angels) said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again”’” (Luke 24:5-7).
Only then did they remember Jesus’ words (verse 8)!
But guess who never for a moment forgot what Jesus had said: his enemies.
On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”
Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.”
So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.
The Enemy always has and always will remember God’s words, and he will be looking for every way to manipulate and distort our circumstances in order to deceive us into disbelief, especially in the in-between when we’re faced with something gravely impossible and overwhelmed by worst-case scenarios! Especially when we’re waiting on God and can’t see Him or what He’s doing. Or when we’ve lost all hope that He’ll act on our behalf and have forgotten His promises because we’re blinded by despair.
But everything changed for those to whom Jesus revealed Himself, when “He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45), which brings us to our final role: the rejoicers.
The Bible is our herald. It proclaims the promises of God and announces His eminent return.
Picture yourself before the empty tomb, and hear the words of the angel of the Lord:
“He is not here; for He is risen, as He said” (Matthew 28:6).
Then, like Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, go “quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy” to bring word of the risen Lord to others (Matthew 28:8).
Like Peter, marvel at what happened (Luke 24:9-12).
Encounter Jesus anew this weekend and respond as He calls us to “Rejoice!” (Matthew 28:9).
Hold Him by the feet like the Marys and worship Him (Matthew 28:9), for He who is in us is greater than he that is in the world (I John 4:4)!
Even when we won’t see God until He shows us He’s right in front of us, He’s there. He is fulfilling His promises.
He always will.
Lord, we rejoice knowing Jesus is alive! Forgive us of our unbelief, and even when our eyes don’t see, help us to believe as we become more wholly Yours today.