Tuesday, May 18, 2010


The disciples were together.
The doors were locked, because they were afraid…
John 20:19 

Jesus’ closest friends and students of grace were in anguish. Jesus, who not only embodied the “fullness of God,” but who had also embodied the fullness of being human, was dead. Dead and buried. Buried in a borrowed tomb like any Jewish peasant. Crucified with relish by the same people who, just a few days before, had welcomed him as a hero -- healer, teacher, miracle worker, with power over demons and oceans.

Though Jesus had raised and restored the already decomposing Lazarus from the dead; and had repeatedly told his disciples that he, also, would rise from the dead, such extraordinary possibilities weren’t even on their radar. They had just had a disastrous dose of “the real world,” after all. It would seem that even God was no match for the power of Rome, especially when coupled with the power of the Temple leaders’ rigid dogma and underhanded politics. From where they sat, there was no reason to wait expectantly, to prepare for the Easter that Jesus assured them would come.

Saturday was the day Jesus lay dead, the day the disciples hid out in a locked room, frightened that they might be next; the day their whole world had shrunk to just that room, filled with grief and hopelessness. There was no secret way out. Who knew how long they would be there?

People continue to have “good Friday” experiences, no matter what the cause -- divorce, death of a loved one, loss of employment, the doctor saying "terminal," a tragic accident -- when the trap door you didn’t know you were standing on suddenly opens and you find yourself falling, alone, into a very dark place. Hopelessness and dread cling to you like the dankness of a cave.

Saturday is the day the freefall comes to a stop. You land. Hard. Wounded, you look for a way out with what little energy you have after such a terrifying fall and landing. You see no doors, backlit by the sun, promising release. And if there’s a secret way out, that is not evident either. You lose all motivation, all hope. It seems to make more sense to get used to the darkness than to continue looking. Your whole world shrinks to that lonely, dark place.

Saturday is that long, hopeless, grieving day between good Friday and Easter. And Saturday can last a long, long time.

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. 
Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.”
John 20:19-21

When our world becomes that small, that dark, Easter just doesn’t seem possible.We lose all sense of expectancy that this will ever get better, that anything will ever change. Instead of being reassured if someone says “God is with you. God bless you,” we begin to wonder if God is around at all. Even later that day, when Mary assured them that Jesus was not only around, she had actually seen him, talked with him -- the disciples didn’t budge.

Instead of them having to find their way out of that room and go somewhere to find and see Jesus, Jesus comes to them in that small, dark place. Suddenly, unexpectedly, he is there, where they are. Easter came to them, and not in measure with their faltering faith. This is not the chocolate bunnies and jelly beans easter. Jesus comes precisely into their grief, their hopelessness. Rather than saying to them, “What’s the matter with you? I told you I would rise again,” he says, “Peace be with you.” Then he shows them his own wounds. Wounds from falling and crashing into a dark, solitary space -- often called hell. Wounds from having made a way out for us when there was no way. Wounds that looked an awful lot like their own.

Only worse.
 The Lord lifted me out of the pit of despair… 
He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked.
Psalm 40:2 
And so it is true:

Saturday is the hardest day of our lives.
Saturday can last a long, long time.

Easter comes.

Easter searches us out in the deep darkness. Jesus comes to us when we are least prepared for him…

…and loves to raise us from the dead.

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