On Easter weekend, God displayed His true purpose for sending Jesus - to bring us from darkness into light (or to enlighten us) - over and over again. Consider 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV):
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Last night, Jurie walked us through the darkest day. When Jesus was nailed to the cross, the world went dark, but when He gave up His spirit, the sun was revealed, and the world was covered in light again. The veil that had hidden God's place on earth - the Holy of Holies in the Temple - was torn from top to bottom, allowing one of the darkest places in the world to receive light again. One more thing happened that we didn't discuss last night:
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. (Matthew 27:51-52, NIV)
Imagine the darkness of a cave with a stone rolled over the door. Tombs in Jesus' time were dark. These holy people emerged from a very dark place, into the light of day. It is as though God were announcing, "I AM BRINGING LIGHT OUT OF THIS DARKNESS!" Yet despite God's announcements, Jesus' disciples didn't yet understand.
Today is the day of waiting. Yesterday was the darkest day - Good Friday. Tomorrow is the glorious day - Easter. But today? Today is the longest day.
Very little is said in the Bible about the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, but we can imagine what it must have been like. The disciples had just watched the torture and death of their closest friend, mentor, and the man they hoped would lead the Jews to victory over the Romans. While Jesus had told them what would happen, they really didn't expect Him to die, especially not in such a humiliating and devastating way. John 19:20 (NIV) also tells us that they were fearful:
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
I know that it can be very hard for us to imagine what the disciples must have been thinking and feeling. Personally, I tend to look at the miracles Jesus did and the things He said on earth, and I think, "How clueless were the disciples? Why didn't they get it? Jesus laid it out for them!" But hindsight is 20/20, as they say. Sure, if you read the Gospels in light of the things we know happened at the end, we can see the steps that led to that ending... but the disciples lived it in real time. Jesus spoke in metaphors and parables all the time. When He said something that sounded impossible, why wouldn't the disciples misinterpret Him?
Take a moment to think of the worst thing that's ever happened in your life - the loss of a child, parent, sibling, or best friend; suddenly losing your job; your spouse leaving you; your house burning down. Don't worry, we won't stay here long. Whatever your "darkest day" was, now remember the day after.
Often, when a big, awful event happens, we're so caught up in the events that we haven't time to really process the emotions associated with it. On my darkest day, I was emotional, but I was also caught up in the, "OK, what's next?" pieces. The day after was the beginning of the processing. It was the day when everything quieted down and I really started realizing what had happened. In the days that followed, I started taking practical steps again, but that day held a lot of sitting, praying, wondering, crying, and wanting to disbelieve what had happened. A lot of the day was spent in a fog of unreality, too. I was grieving. A very dear friend said to me, "This is trauma. You have to allow yourself to grieve before you can make sense of your life again."
Today, take some time to imagine and process the disciples' grief. Imagine living through the Gospels in realtime, without the knowledge of what happened at the end. Grieve with the disciples, and ask Jesus some hard questions. Why did You have to die? Why did it have to be so awful? What do we do now? How much danger are we really in? What happens tomorrow?
Now remember that God always uses our darkest days, and our longest days, to do something far greater than we ever could've imagined.
We'd love to hear your thoughts as you process what today means; feel free to leave a comment!