For almost 2000 years, followers of Jesus Christ have celebrated the cross and resurrection of Christ on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. And rightly so, For the Apostle Paul called these to events as “of first importance” for us. They form the backbone of our faith and are worth remembering not just yearly, but daily.
Growing up in the church, I’ve always wondered what happened on Saturday. The Scriptures are strangely silent about that most unusual Sabbath. In the Gospel of Luke, we are told simply that “On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” (Luke 22:56) Matthew provides us with the most details about what happened that day. In Matthew 27:62-66, we read:
62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.
Neither passage tells us much, nor do they say anything about what Jesus happened to be doing. We get a sense of what He was doing by His words to the thief on the cross:
“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Jesus went where every son of God goes upon their death, into the presence of the Father, along with the thief and, presumably, all the dead who were raised in Matthew 27:52-53.
But what happened to the disciples? What were they thinking?
David Helm, who wrote the excellent children’s Bible, The Big Picture Story Bible, has a chapter called Jesus’ Followers Are In The Dark, in it, he writes:
Darkness fell upon the land
He was buried in a tomb
A big stone was rolled in front of the entrance
and the people all went home.
For Jesus’ followers, that dark day
was followed by a long night.
The hours passed very slowly.
Jesus’ friends cried.
They had thought He was the King.
But now their hearts were filled with sorrow,
And their minds were filled with fear.
“Why did Jesus have to die?”
Wasn’t Jesus God’s forever King?”
THe questions kept coming until the next day
turned into night
As Jesus’ followers tried to sleep, they thought,
“We will be sad forever.”
“Will God ever rescue his people from sin?”
Will we ever have our place with Him?”
Will God ever bring again His blessing on
all peoples of the earth”
He is obviously taking some license here, but I think the sentiment is right. The disciples, who had pinned their hopes on Jesus to be the Messiah they had been waiting for, were now alone, sheep without a Shepherd, having only God’s promises to lean on.
What was that day like? Was there a more difficult day in history? It is hard enough the day after a loved one dies, and certainly confusing when a potentially revolutionary political figure is killed. And of course, those two things happening simultaneously would be terrible.
But Jesus was more than that. He had proclaimed Himself to be the One prophesied about in the Old Testament, the One who would crush the enemies of God’s people forever, the One who would reign on the throne of David for eternity, the One who would bring shalom to the people of God. But He was also the One who would be crushed, cursed and broken for the sake of God’s children.
This fact, had escaped Jesus’ closest friends. They did not understand what Jesus had to do to become King, and crush God’s enemies. And so they were left with more questions than ever, and their answer to those questions was buried in a tomb.
All Sons and Daughters, a band that I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the past few months, has written a song called Buried in the Grave. It’s written from the perspective of the disciples on that dark day, and beautifully captures the longing and confusion that must have present in their hearts. Here’s a video where the musical duo explain the story behind the song: