Today is Holy Saturday. It’s that time of waiting for us between the dark events of Good Friday, and the trumpet rejoicing of Easter morning. I never payed much attention to this day. Thursday, Friday, and Sunday of Holy Week all get a special worship services, unique events happening on them. Maundy Thursday we have the Last Supper and Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. He tells them he’s setting an example for them. Then it’s off to the garden to pray, and Jesus is arrested. Good Friday we have the disturbing scene of the crucifixion, and all that goes with that. Jesus talks with the thieves being executed on either side of Him. He makes sure one of his disciples will provide for His mother, He asks God the Father why He’s turned His back on His Son. Sunday we have the shock and rejoicing of an empty tomb, and a risen Jesus, and then there is…. Saturday? It’s always just been a day between the more important days of Holy Week for me.
This morning I woke up early - about 6:20 - and while the rest of the family slept, I made my way downstairs to let the dog out and make the coffee. I sat down to do my morning devo with Mr. Bob Goff, one of my favorite authors, and it started with one of my top verses of scripture: It comes from Isaiah 43:18-20 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. The funny thing, or I should really say the God thing is that when I woke up this morning that was the very verse that was running through my mind. I love the part of the verse that says, “do you not perceive it?” Can’t you sense, feel it? Can’t you see that something is happening here? He’s making a way. God is actively doing something. He isn’t just sitting there twiddling his thumbs. He’s going to bring life to what was dead--water to a wasteland.
I like to remind myself that the original disciples did not have the end of the story. Ever watch a suspenseful movie, but you already knew the end? It’s takes some of the stress and pressure off. The disciples didn’t have our luxury with the Easter story. They had comments from Jesus throughout their time with him, but they didn’t have the option of reading the New Testament to remind themselves that in the end Jesus would rise, and that He was going to form His church, give them the Holy Spirit and His mission would live on.
I think about what it’s like to wake up the next morning after something awful has happened. You know the kind of morning where you have cried yourself to sleep, and your eyes are so swollen they feel like they’re almost glued shut. The kind of morning where you wake up, realize yesterday wasn’t a dream and the grief you are experiencing literally feels like a forty-pound weight sitting on your chest. I wonder what each disciple felt and thought about that first Holy Saturday--that morning after the worst day of their lives. Did Peter wake up Saturday morning and experience the nauseating feelings of guilt and shame sweep over him? He had denied Jesus not once, but three times. Did some of the disciples wonder what people in their community were going to say and think about them? They had followed this man for three years, and now he was dead, gone. Would people shake their heads and wonder out loud why this group of men had been stupid enough to follow a prophet from some no name town like Nazareth? Would some of them replay the previous week and wonder how in the world so much could change so quickly? Palm Sunday hadn’t been that many days before. Jesus had been celebrated, cheered, now he was dead in a cold tomb. No more cheering, no more celebrating. Each disciple was in their own wasteland of grief and guilt; they each were wandering in their own wilderness of doubt, but at any moment did they have the slightest inkling that God was up to something?
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-20 We know that Jesus will rise. We’ll celebrate it tomorrow in a new way, but we will celebrate just the same. Some of you right now are in your own wasteland or wilderness. Parents, you may be wondering how on earth you are going to teach your kids school for the next several months now that they aren’t going back. Maybe you’ve already had tense moments in your home where tempers flared and you said words to your students you regret. Some of us are mourning the loss of jobs or are mourning with a family member who has lost his or her job. Perhaps each morning brings a fresh wave of stress wondering how you’re going to pay the bills. For others the mourning is for a loss of what you thought would be. Seniors didn’t think this is how their year would end, and yet here we are—no graduation, no final wrapping up of things, no closure to their time in High School or College. Others of you are mourning the loss of relationships that have been put on hold for the time being due to separation, or even death. Maybe you have a loved one in a nursing home, or care facility that you can’t see. Maybe this morning you are missing your grandkids, your best friend, your mom or dad (I know I am). Maybe you have loved ones in the medical profession and you fall asleep every night worrying about their health, and then wake up the next morning just as worried.
And yet can you perceive it? Can you sense that even now he’s doing something? He’s making a way, streams in the wasteland. He’s giving us life. Jesus death on the cross wasn’t just about giving us eternal life someday, it was also about him giving us life NOW. Whatever wasteland or wilderness you are in—big, small, only lasted a couple hours because you’ve watched way too much news, or it’s been dragging on for weeks, months, or even years, He is actively working in your situation. You will see signs of life, and wherever life is, there is Jesus. Saturday eventually came to end for the disciples, and then it was time for Easter. Our time of doubt, shame, guilt, fear, sadness will not last forever. One of my favorite things to do is to look back on something hard, something that I would never willingly “sign up for,” and to realize that all along God knew what he was doing, and that all along He was taking care of me and knew what was best for me. Seeing how my Father works brings me great joy. I wonder if on the original Easter morning, those first disciples felt the same way. Jesus had done something new, and he had made a way for them. He’s doing the same for you now.