Saturday, April 7, 2012

That Saturday

Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer

But this I know with all my heart: His wounds have paid my ransom.”

                Tomorrow we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. On Thursday and Friday, His last supper with His disciples and His Passion were remembered.  But there is a day in between that I think about, too. I think a lot about that Saturday. This Saturday morning, my family is still sleeping and the house is so quiet. I think about the silence that must have prevailed on that Saturday as His disciples and His mother and all of those who loved Him wept and mourned. They knew what He had promised…but they saw Him die. They watched as He suffered on that cross. They heard Him cry out to the Father who had purposely turned His back.  They saw the love in His eyes as he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

                I wonder what it must have been like to be there. In particular I wonder how His mother, Mary, must have felt. She had known from the day of His conception that this was the plan. As a young girl of fourteen or fifteen, she was chosen to bear and to raise the very Son of God. For thirty-three years she must have lived with the shadow of that Cross always before her. I cannot say with any real conviction that I could willingly give up my son. The very thought of losing him makes me feel a profound sense of horror and grief.  But Mary did it. “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord,” she said when she was told by the angel that she was to be His mother. What an enormous act of faith and obedience it was to utter those words and mean them.

                When the day came, that dreadful, unbelievable day…where were her other children? Scripture strongly indicates that Jesus had siblings. Had they abandoned Him long ago? Why was the responsibility of caring for Mary given by Jesus to John, the youngest of the disciples?  Most Bible scholars believe that Joseph was considerably older than Mary and probably died early on, leaving her a very young widow. Did the brothers of Jesus, as they grew up, desert Him and their mother one by one, choosing to follow the world’s belief that He was a fraud and a liar? One can only speculate. There is even a possibility that at least one of the disciples was a half-brother of Jesus. Whatever the case, in the end, He was alone. Those closest to Him could only watch in agony as His bones popped out of joint, bringing more unbearable pain to a body that was already battered beyond recognition. But it was the separation from God that caused the greatest suffering…and the betrayal.

                Yes, the betrayal. We know that Judas hung himself, unable to deal with what he had done.  For thirty pieces of silver, he betrayed his Lord, the star-breather who washed his filthy feet.  And we hate Judas, hate him more than the Brutus who drank wine with Julius Caesar just before he and the other senators assassinated him, more than John Wilkes Booth or Lee Harvey Oswald who brought about two of the darkest days our country has ever seen. We despise him more than any serial killer or mass murderer in the history of the world…because he is us. We say, “Not I, Lord, not I”, but every day we fail Him. Every time we ignore the homeless man by the side of the road or gossip about our neighbor, we drive the nails into His hands again. Like the crowd who shouted, “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday, our very same lips utter words that make Him weep.  Judas is simply a picture of who we really are at heart. But Jesus, Who loves us utterly, does not see that when He looks upon us. He sees only the beauty of who we can be in Him.

                “It was my sin that held Him there.” That is actually not completely true. It was His LOVE that held him there.  On that Saturday, as His friends and mother waited and prayed that the Deeper Magic From Before the Dawn of Time was really true, they must have contemplated the many times they had let Him down.  I know that after the death of my father I thought of those things. I thought of the times I had been disrespectful or rude, the times I could have sat down and spent just a few minutes with him and was too busy. With the passing years much of that guilt has disappeared and I remember the good things that we shared. Those wonderful times that Jesus spent with His disciples-eating, talking, laughing-all of those must have raced through their minds as well. Mary must have remembered Him as a child. Perhaps she recalled that day that He went missing and she and Joseph were so scared…until they found Him about His Father’s business . Now He was lying there in a tomb and she had been a helpless witness to His torture and death. But this was part of His Father’s business, too. Even though she had known that all along, as a mother nothing could have fully prepared her for it.

                On that Saturday, the sorrow that preceded the glory of that Sunday must have been too deep for words.  The Bible tells us that, while weeping may last for a night, joy comes in the morning. Those of us who have loved ones on the other side of eternity live our lives with hope, anticipating the day when we will once again see those familiar faces.(By the way, I disagree with those who say we won’t recognize our family and friends. I believe I will, having become the self beyond the self I now see.)  Our night and our Saturday here are, perhaps, a little longer than we would want, but we need not live under Saturday’s shadow. No, we can live above that, in Sunday’s light. The stone has been rolled away, forever. The enemy has been defeated. “O death, where is thy victory? O, death, where is thy sting?”

                The sting of sin and death have been swallowed up in victory.  We need to live as though we KNOW it is true, not just as though we hope it MIGHT be true. I am a broken, wretched sinner, but His wounds have indeed paid my ransom.  If you feel that your life is an endless Saturday, if you are thirsty for the living, refreshing water of Sunday, then come. He is waiting with his nail-scarred hands outstretched to receive you, whoever you are and wherever you might have been. Be blessed. He is risen indeed.  

“On the hillside you will be delivered, at the foot of the Cross justified, and your spirit restored by the river that pours from our blessed Savior’s side.”

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