(By Christina Gagnon)
Friday was the day of suffering, Sunday, the day of rejoicing.
Friday was the day of beginnings, Sunday, the day of conclusions.
Friday was the day of trauma and bewilderment and questions. Sunday was the day of healing and comfort and answers.
And in between these two days stretched a period of twenty-four hours that was called Saturday.
Their beloved Teacher and Friend had been captured, tried in a bogus trial, tortured, then, early Friday morning, sentenced to a criminal’s death. Now, they watch Him force-marched up the side of Skull Mountain, He hardly has enough strength to walk, never mind to carry the heavy beam flung over His torn and bleeding back. He struggles and a man is wrenched from the crowd and compelled to carry the beam in His place. The beam, dripping with Jesus’ blood, is heaved callously upon Simon’s back to expedite the march of the Master up the hill to His place of execution.
Hearts pounding, they desperately hope that He will do something, anything, to end this because this is not supposed to happen. This is not fair. He is the Son of God, Messiah, the long-promised, long-awaited Deliverer…isn’t He? He was supposed to come as king. He was supposed to deliver them from their enemies. He was supposed to end their suffering. He was supposed to bring the Kingdom of God. Wasn’t He? All those promises, all those miracles, all those wonderful words, all the hope He brought, what was the point? This was a man like no other. He saw people. He looked right into one’s heart and, knowing everything about that person, He loved them. He accepted them. He brought words of love, and promises of hope, and such great joy. He brought down the high and raised up the low. He filled the poor with good things and sent the rich away empty. This was not supposed to happen!
And until that last moment, they hold out hope. The thud of the hammer on the spikes driven into His hands and feet echo the blows of despair on their hearts. And they watch, agonizing second after agonizing second, as the blood drips down and the breaths grow fainter, and the heave of the broken body straining to rise for the next breath weakens. And that soul-wrenching cry, “Eloi, Eloi lama sabbacthani?” reverberates through the unnatural darkness that wraps itself around the countryside and penetrates to the depths of their hearts.
This was not supposed to happen. This was not fair. This was just plain wrong.
Heartbroken, they turn from the cross and disappear, retreating to mourn the loss of their beloved Friend and Teacher, the One on whom they had set all their hopes, and they grieve the loss of all those hopes and dreams, all those promises that they thought finally would be fulfilled.
Then came the morning! But wait just a moment!
In between Friday and Sunday, there is an often overlooked day: Saturday. What filled the minds and hearts of the disciples, the women, the other followers of Jesus as they sat and waited? Did they ponder the promises He made? Did they reflect on memories of the past three years? Did they ask, “Why, God?" They sat mourning the loss of their dear Friend, the One they thought was Messiah. That Saturday was one of the longest, darkest, emptiest days that any one of them would ever remember.
Have you been there: where the unthinkable happens, and the pain wells up, and the questions multiply, but the answers are few and, “Why, God?” seems to be a broken record in your mind.
Have you been there?
Then, Sunday morning dawned, and the women went to the tomb to prepare His body, only to find “He is not here. He is risen just as He said.” And the thrill of hope and the melody of joy burst forth in their hearts. “Go, tell His disciples.” And the women raced to the upper room with the good news: Jesus is alive! The answer to all their questions, the balm for all their pain, the redemption for all their brokenness, the healing for all the trauma of Friday was found in the materialization of the promise of Sunday.
Today, we can reflect on the trauma of the Friday, we can look back to the dramatic culmination of God’s plans to procure redemption. We can anticipate the promise of the Sunday: the expected return of our Beloved. We tend to jump quickly from Friday to Sunday, especially at Easter. Sunday is filled with joy. It’s good, it’s exciting, we want to get to the good news: He’s alive! He’s coming back! But today is Saturday. Sometimes we forget that, right now, we are still living in the Saturday of God’s calendar. Like the disciples, filled with fear and grief, submerged in a world of brokenness, pain, unanswered questions, and unfulfilled longings, right now, we too, are awaiting the Sunday. Just like that Saturday was filled with emptiness and messiness and heartache, so ours is, too.
I am the first one to jump to the promise of Sunday, the hope of His return. But, we are not there yet. Don’t jump too fast over the suffering, brokenness, and injustice in this world. Allow yourself and others to pause in your hurt and the brokenness caused by the suffering and messiness of this life, give yourself time to grieve, ponder the hard questions, feel the pain and the unfairness of this world. This gift of Saturday is the gift of deepening, of waiting, of growing. We can agonize, analyze, and eventually, accept. Don’t lose sight of the promise of Sunday, but don’t let go of the gift of processing the pain that you are experiencing. Ask the unanswered questions. Sit with those who are suffering. We will not pass this way again, use this gift well, use it wisely. The morning will come; truly, we are to live as if it already has come. At the same time, it is not here…yet. Don’t give up the gift of the Saturday.
In the process, we will find healing. In the questions, we will find the hope of answers. In the brokenness, we will find redemption. Behold, He is doing a new thing, even now it is springing forth. Saturday is the day of transformation. As we sit with Him in the pain of our Saturday, God changes us little by little into the likeness of His precious Son. The gift of Saturday is the opportunity to watch Him take something ugly and broken and pain-filled and redeem it for Himself, make it beautiful and whole and healed. Are you watching for it?