The Longest Saturday
Have you ever wondered what must have been going through the minds and hearts of the disciples the day between Christ’s crucifixion and His resurrection? The day was Saturday, the Sabbath Day. It was a holy day–a day where no work was to be done. It was a day of rest and worship. And yet I can’t imagine much of that was happening that particular Saturday. Jesus was dead–the One for whom these twelve disciples (actually eleven at this point) had left everything–the One in whom they had placed the hope and future of their families and their very own lives. He was gone. And now they were left with nothing but questions upon questions, doubts upon doubts, and fears upon fears. I cannot imagine the level of confusion, panic, fear and doubt that these faithful men and women were feeling on that Saturday. Scripture is somewhat silent on the issue. However John does give us a small clue into what was likely taking place on that day. Although what John describes here is a scene from the following evening (Sunday night), we know that up to this point they had still not seen the risen Christ. So we can imagine the atmosphere was much the same. John says,
“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’” (John 20:19).
John specifically points out that the doors were locked. Meaning what? Meaning that the disciples were scared out of their minds. They were afraid that the Jews would soon come looking for them. If they killed their leader, they could confidently assume they were next on the hit list. So there they were, hiding out, doing the same thing that you and I would be doing. The humanness of their situation cannot be overlooked. They were scared for their very lives.
To compound the anxiety they must have felt, the Sabbath day required them to do nothing. Luke 23:56 says “On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” It was a day of rest. There was absolutely nothing that the disciples could do to fix the situation. And there was nothing they could do to stay busy and keep their minds off the hopelessness of their circumstances. They were essentially locked in a mental and physical prison. A song by All Sons and Daughters called “Buried in the Grave” describes the disciples’ sentiment with a particularly interesting and poetic angle:
There was a day we held our breath
And felt the sting of bitter death
When all our hopes were buried in the grave
Our eyes awake our hearts were torn
Between our faith and what we knew
Before our king was buried in the grave
And grace was in the tension
Of everything we’ve lost
Standing empty handed
Shattered by the cross
All we had
All we had
Was a promise like a thread
Holding us keeping us
Oh from fraying at the edge
All we knew
All we knew
Was you said you’d come again
You’d rise up from the dead
From our vantage point, we know the end of the story. We know that Sunday came. We know that death lost. Christ won. Satan was defeated. Jesus came out of the tomb. But on that Saturday, hope seemed lost. Everything was hanging in the balance. All they had was a promise like a thread.
It’s only when we understand Saturday that Sunday can mean anything at all. It’s only when we understand the fear and hopelessness of the disciples that we can begin to make sense of their unspeakable boldness when Sunday came (i.e. Acts 4). It’s only when we understand Saturday that we can make sense of how these men literally “turned the world upside down” when Sunday came (Acts 17:6). For me, one of the strongest arguments for the resurrection of Jesus is the complete and radical transformation of eleven men paralyzed by fear on Saturday, but on Sunday set free to take the Gospel to the ends of the world. History tells us each of these men went on to be martyred for their faith. Why? Because Sunday came! Hallelujah, Sunday came!
- Are there any fears in your life that are paralyzing you from being outspoken and bold for your faith in Christ? Ask the Lord to reveal His presence to you and ignite in you a boldness to proclaim the life-changing message of Christ to the people in your sphere of influence.
- How has a “Saturday perspective” incited fear in your life? How has it caused you to mistrust God?
- Pray that the Holy Spirit will make you ever-aware of His presence in your life. And ask Him to help you live like you believe the resurrection to be true.