As I was getting ready to go to bed last night, I read the devastating news that a high school classmate of mine had finally won her five-year battle against cancer and is now walking on streets of gold with our Savior. Her family and friends feel the void deeply, and heaven is just a little sweeter today and a little more longed-for by those who are left behind. She was 38 years old–not much older than Jesus was when He died.
Today, I have been remembering the red-haired beauty who seemed to love life and her family well. Our class was small–just 28 at graduation–so the loss is felt by all of us. We are overwhelmed with the news and are holding her family in our prayers tonight.
It seems poignant that we would be face-to-face with another unexpected loss on the weekend that we are reflecting on Jesus’ death. She was young and had a plan for her future with her husband. We all expected to see her at our class reunion next month. But God had another plan for her, and we are left here on Saturday while she dances with him in Glory.
As we mourn the loss of my classmate, I started to wonder how the disciples must have felt on this day over 2,000 years ago. What was their Saturday like? The death of their Friend and Teacher must have left them stunned and without hope. They had put their trust in their future with Him, and now He was gone. They thought He was their Savior, but He was dead, and their faith had died with Him. What did they do on Saturday?
The Bible actually records very little about the Sabbath day that followed Christ’s crucifixion. Mark doesn’t even mention it in his account. Matthew recounts the day from Pilate’s point of view:
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[j] 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 – Matt. 27:62-66.
But it’s Luke who tells us what Jesus’ followers did after He died–“On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment” (Lk. 23:56b).
Friday was a day of death, a day when darkness fell over the earth and God turned His face away. But Saturday was a day to rest–a day to recover from the emotional upheaval of losing one of their fellow disciples, to repent of their denial of Christ, and to mourn the loss of the One Who had loved them so well. What else were they to do? They had made preparations for His burial, and now was the time for them to rest and reflect on the life He had led with them.
Did they rejoice in having known Him? Did they recall to one another the moments when He made the lame to walk and the blind to see? Did they share stories of precious moments when He taught them about life and faith and a future in heaven? Did they cling tighter to each other, partially in fear of being the next ones crucified and partially because we are created to need one another in the hard times?
Today is Saturday. We mourn the loss of our friend just as the disciples mourned the loss of theirs. But because of what the disciples endured, we do not weep without hope of ever seeing our friend again.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.18 Therefore encourage one another with these words – I Thess. 4:13-18.
I know that my classmate would want you to have this hope. She knew who her Savior was, and she is rejoicing in heaven today. But if you haven’t met our Savior, then you cannot possibly understand this hope we have. You cannot possibly know why we can rejoice in her life.
Yesterday, we mourned. But today is Saturday. Today, we can rest and remember.