The person they have just spent every day, 24/7, of the last three years with is gone.
Yesterday was a blur. They watched him suffer. Weak... He was never weak. In pain… He always helped others, healed others. They knew this was going to happen – he said it would - but they waited for the miracle. They waited for something to change. It couldn’t end this way. It shouldn’t end this way.
How did it get to this?
And today – emptiness.
The day after.
The “what now” day.
They met up with the other disciples in one of the small homes in town. The cold stone and mortar walls were a perfect backdrop to the conversation of death and despair. The questions ensue: Why didn’t he just save himself? We believed! We saw his power! We know what he’s capable of – He is who he said he was, right? But he’s dead… We’re alone… Were we foolish?
Heads bowed in disbelief and sorrow, they paced the room – sandals shuffling, disturbing the dirt floor about 10 steps in any direction. More questions were raised: How could they do this to him? He’s never hurt anyone! He’s never done anything wrong – what kind of world do we live in – where is justice?
Eyes lift to the thatched roof looking for answers. Back to the floor. Shaking heads – tears…
He told them this would happen: “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” (John 16:28 NIV) But he also said “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” (John 16:16 NIV)
How would they explain this to the people who loved and followed Jesus? What did he mean by it? What would they do now?
* * * * *
In another town…
“Finally, we are done with that heretic!”
“Yes, this was the only way – he wouldn’t stop. What kind of man proclaims he is the Son of God! He was the son of a carpenter – a man like us!”
“And he blatantly disobeyed the law with the things he did. He healed people on the Sabbath (Matt 12:9-13), he refused to stone the woman caught in the act of adultery – in…the…act (John 8:1-11), and he even refused to wash his hands before eating! (Matt 15:2). Did he think he was better than us? Well, we’ve shown him who has authority here!”
“All those people who followed him like lost sheep… they will thank us someday. They will soon forget about him and go on with their lives free of that man and his compromised teachings!”
“Jesus – the King of the Jews.”
“The Jews don’t need another king – we have the Emperor Tiberius! Maybe now they will show some loyalty!”
* * * * *
In the town of Bethany…
“Mary, I just can’t understand this… he saved our brother, Lazarus from the grips of death! Remember how he came to us after Lazarus was already in the tomb for 4 days? And he called Lazarus out as if he had only been sleeping! (John 11:38-44) He was the Messiah – I just know it! The Son of God!
“But why did death now take our Jesus?”
“I know, Martha… I miss him so much. He was kind and merciful. I yearned for his teachings – words of life to my very soul. My heart aches for him – I wish he were still here.”
* * * * *
This is the In-Between.
The time of confusion, turmoil, decisions…
The time of second-guessing and “what if’s”.
The time after the world as we know it stops.
Each of these scenarios referring to Jesus’ death is the perspective of someone not knowing the end from the beginning – not able to see the promised outcome from the now.
Friday was the day of sorrow for those who loved Jesus. It was the day the believers witnessed a great tragedy. An injustice to the highest degree. The tortured crucifixion of an innocent “man”; the humanizing of One immensely greater than us. One who held our fate in his pierced hands.
It was also a day of triumph for those who “knew not what they did”. (Luke 23:34) But they did not realize they crucified deity on that day; they played a part in a divine plan. The nails served as a final stitch in a divine tapestry that solidified our placement with God. What they meant for evil, assuredly God meant for good. (Gen 50:20)
But we know this now after much time has passed. In the In-Between, it is difficult to see what the punch line to the story is. Admittedly, there is often refusal to even think about the potential of a positive outcome while we dwell in the sorrow of the moment. We allow our thoughts to linger on the things we cannot change; our hearts remain heavy with the burdens of sadness and regret. And if this is allowed for too long, it could make us bitter, angry, cold.
What Fridays have led to our In-Between moments?
The loss of a loved one…
A spouse’s refusal to reconcile…
A child unwilling to see love behind the correction…
Unwelcome news at the doctor’s office…
* * * * *
The Third Day.
The day Truth came to visit.
“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’ But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”’” (Mark 16:1-7 NIV)
“In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” (John 16:16 NIV)
The end from the beginning – this is the Master Plan.
Those who were grieving would grieve no more. “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:22 NIV)
Those who did wrong would be forgiven and given a second chance. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” (Eph 1:7 NIV)
The complete tapestry is interwoven with remarkable beauty; colored with LOVE.
Love took our transgressions on the cross.
Love broke us free of our bondages.
Love gave us a new beginning, a fresh start.
Love extends grace.
Love is there through it all – the road to Friday, the In-Between, and the Third Day.
Sometimes Love is tangible – sometimes Love feels far away – sometimes we grieve what we think is the loss of Love, but, though we may not feel Love’s nearness, there is a Master Plan at work.
The Third Day brings rejoicing. Peace. Knowledge. Love can be seen again. But we need to persevere through the In-Between to get there. We can grieve while still understanding the promise of newness. It is ok to recognize the whirlwind of the moment, but we should also realize the One who can calm the storm (ref. Mark 4:35-41)
Our challenge is to not allow ourselves to get stuck in the In-Betweens of our lives. To not be blinded by the current circumstance, but to try to see how Love is working in the midst of it.
The final nail on the cross did not end life.
The In-Betweens will come, but so will joy (ref. Psalm 30:5b)
Jesus tasted death, the curse of sin, and suffered an intense sentence. But on the third day, prophecy was fulfilled and Jesus grabbed hold of the keys to eternity. He came back to visit with those who had spent their Saturday in tears and revealed the truth of the words He had said to them.
The ultimate promise in Jesus is that storms of life will come. There is no doubt in that. But God’s sovereignty will allow us to stand and face tomorrow. He gives us hope in better days to come and strength to endure when we are weak.
Be still… Sunday is coming.