Were your plans and dreams ever destroyed by a single event?
I wonder how it felt to the friends of Jesus the day after he died.
It sounds weird to say, “Jesus is dead.”
But for one day that was reality.
Friday was a dark day and the world’s profound grief must’ve been palpable, but at least people had hope when they woke up on Friday before everything went down. I can imagine somewhat how it was a dark Friday, but I wonder what it was like to wake up the next morning. There is something about the dawn that always inspired hope, but was this true on that darkest of Sabbaths? How does the earth respond to the death of her Creator? Did the birds sing? Did the flowers open? Was the sun shining? Did children—especially those who loved Jesus, wake up and play as usual?
Did grownups get ready for the synagogue, or did everything seem off? Were people so depressed they stayed home from church? Did some priest or elder, maybe Nicodemus, start searching his scroll trying to understand what was going on? Was there a sunrise that Sabbath morning while the body of Jesus lay inside the tomb?
And where were the followers of Jesus the Way? They were scattered, hiding away, hoping no one would assassinate them too. Peter had even gone so far as to swear and act like a badass hoping no one would remember he’d been with Jesus. James and John, who had been fighting to be in the cabinet of the man they believed would be king hid too. It wasn’t just Judas, friend after friend had betrayed Jesus and most of them had disappeared. Even the women who hadn’t betrayed Jesus wept, overcome with grief and depression.
There was a stillness—a threat of death, that hung over the devastated earth that evening and in the dark morning that followed. Perhaps nature was subdued in honor of her Creator. Maybe the birds were silent, and the sun refused to shine that morning, obscured by the clouds of fear and uncertainty. Perhaps the silence was deafening, and all anyone could hear was the words of Jesus in response to their betrayal—“Father forgive them.”
If I had betrayed Jesus, I wonder where I would be that next morning. Would I find comfort in his words—oh wait, I have betrayed him. Haven’t you? Do you wonder what he thinks about you today? Your secrets. Your selfishness? The lies you’ve told? Do you dread looking into the eyes of the Friend you’ve betrayed?
Here is where we enter the Jesus story. We too, wake up to remember what happened yesterday or last year. We, like Peter, swear loudly to make sure no one thinks we are too religious, we hide in our safe circles, because to march and stand with the oppressed feels too dangerous. These days many fear being shot. Some of us have lost our families. Others wonder what they will do if they lose their jobs.
We look at the world and wonder where the justice is? Why does the future seem obscured by wars and rumors of wars? Why are people in the same family pitted against each other? Why do the scapegoats stand outside the church walls, while Pharisees carry on with life as usual? Where is Jesus? Is he still alive? Or have we buried him? Locked him so deep in the tomb of our beliefs that no one else can find him?
In many ways, we are waking up again to a dark Sabbath. Pharisees chase “heretics” from their churches. Tyrants and religious leaders continue to plot their revenge. Nations oppress people. Hearts are longing for peace; some are shaking in fear. We hear rumors of war, the earth shakes and kingdoms quake. Xenophobia is rampant. Millions suffer from hunger and pain with no place to lay their heads. Every one of us has betrayed Jesus.
The Earth groans: things are not as they once were and will never be the same. And yet, the planets stay on course, the sun still comes up, scorching some, hiding from others. In the chaos of our collective betrayal, when the darkness from the tomb of our own making threatens our vision, and there seems to be no hope for humanity, we sit in the ominous silence and crave the immortal words of Jesus, “Father, forgive them for they don’t realize what they are doing.”