Imagine what it must have been like for Jesus’ followers that Saturday more than 2,000 years ago.
Their world was shattered and in complete disarray. Only a few days before, they had been with Jesus at what was seemingly the pinnacle of triumph – a rousing reception as he rode into Jerusalem. But in a dramatic turn of events, the man on whom they had pinned all their hopes had been brutally executed, and all but a handful of them hadn’t been able to muster the courage to stay with him until the end.
Many of them were in hiding, fearful that the Roman authorities would come after them next. Some had fled the comfort and solace of their small group. One of them had such pangs of guilt he’d killed himself.
All must have felt lost, confused, disconnected, abandoned. What would they do now? Where would they go? How could life for them ever be the same, ever match the energy, serenity and joy they had experienced in these extraordinary months and years with Jesus?
They had refused to hear him when he told them it would come to this. But they also had forgotten that he said that the cross would not be the end.
So they sat there, likely in shock, disillusioned, despairing. What next?
Sometimes we find ourselves asking the same question. Jolted by some life-shaking event – a divorce, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one – we don’t know what to do or where to turn. We wait and we wonder, and maybe we pray.
Scripture records little about Jesus’ whereabouts, or anybody else’s for that matter, between the crucifixion on Friday and Easter morning. In today’s Faith & Religion section, clergy speculate – that’s all they can do – about Jesus’ state between his death and resurrection. As one said, it is a sure thing that whatever was going on, God was active and purposeful in that time.
In our times of waiting on God, we often are frustrated by our lack of awareness or understanding of where God is or what he’s up to. God fails to meet our expectations, letting us down, we sometimes feel. Surely the disciples felt that way that Saturday as well. Even Jesus on the cross felt forsaken.
But God, as always, was at work, active in creation, redeeming it according to the divine purpose. Those who waited were unable in their despair to fathom how that could be, but somehow they stayed together long enough to find out.
It is no accident that Jesus came to his followers when they were gathered together. The Christian call to wait and watch for Jesus is not in isolation, but in community – with others of the faithful.
There will be the Holy Saturdays of our lives, in congregations, in families, for individuals. We will not be able to fathom what has happened or know where to turn. But if we wait in faith, remembering Jesus’ promises, he will come to us in ways we may not have any way of knowing or anticipating. Like the women at the tomb, we may not recognize him at first, but there he will be.