Anticipation can be one of the best or worst things in life. Today is a reminder of both sides of that experience.
Today is the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Different traditions refer to it by various names, including the Great Sabbath, Black Saturday, Holy Saturday or Easter Eve, and some use the term “Joyous Saturday.” And it certainly is exactly that. For we know what comes next.
But as we review the last few chapters of the Gospels at this time of year with Easter Sunday mere hours away, it always sticks out to me that Saturday is almost entirely skipped. Part of this is the fact it was Sabbath and the Jewish followers of Jesus likely spent the day behind closed doors observing the Sabbath, particularly as part of the Passover celebration. But it must have been anything but a joyous Saturday.
For those closest to Jesus, they had followed him for three years and believed he was the Messiah. They expected him to lead some sort of revolution and reestablish the Hebrew people as the chosen people of God. But suddenly he’s arrested, tortured and executed in one of the most grisly ways imaginable. Suddenly they’re no longer sitting at the feet of the Messiah, but lost and alone. Were the last three years a lie?
We don’t know from the Gospels what was going through the hearts and minds of Jesus’ followers at that point. But it must have been a severe identity crisis. Everything they’d come to believe seemingly was destroyed. Now not only was their leader gone and their worldview crushed, but there was a good chance that going out in public would lead to their own arrests as his accomplices. Peter revealed that level of panic even before the crucifixion in his denial of Jesus. Now with Jesus dead and buried in a tomb and the religious leaders eager to fully snuff out this new group, this must have been the most horrible Saturday ever.
Thankfully we know the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say. Today when we commemorate the crucifixion it’s known as “Good Friday.” Today we have videos and quotes posted all across the Internet reminding us that “it’s Friday… But Sunday’s comin’.” Today we have the full context, and that makes all the difference.
The anticipation of what next must have been the worst experience imaginable to Jesus’ disciples, yet today we can truly consider this a joyous Saturday. Today we get the greatest reminder all year of God’s promises. While many point to Christmas and Easter Sunday as greater reminders, today is the day we look back and see all the pain of the past and then look forward with the assurance of hope. Sunday’s coming.
So often we’re taught that God is always with us and he promises to strengthen us in the present, and this is absolutely true. But when we stumble and fall and deal with the pain of this world I believe it’s even more valuable to remember God’s promises for the future. No matter what is going on right now in your life, there’s hope because while today Jesus was dead and buried, we know what happens tomorrow.
Anticipation is incredibly powerful. The disciples had no idea what was coming, but they must have been anticipating absolute pain and misery going forward. They were surrounded by hopelessness, and they did not understand at that point the promise Jesus had made to them of his resurrection.
Today we look ahead in great anticipation. Obviously Easter Sunday is a celebration of something that took place thousands of years ago, so in a way every aspect of it involves looking back. But that’s not what today is about.
Today is about knowing the worst thing imaginable may have happened yesterday. Two thousand years ago, that was exactly the situation. But tomorrow brought the fulfillment of God’s promise, and it continues to carry that same hope in our current world.
We know the rest of the story. Sunday’s coming. The joy of Saturday is knowing God’s promise is about to come to fruition. It’s amazing how much the experience of anticipation changes when that’s your frame of reference. For me it’s all excitement as I look at my own situation in life and know God’s about to roll away that stone and reveal the resurrected Messiah.