The Day Between

These days there is not much notice or attention generally given to the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Many churches hold Good Friday services to remember the death of Jesus on the cross. Communion is often a part of this service. Oftentimes these services are solemn, which is appropriate given the event they commemorate, but they also include–and tend to end with–a note of hope, looking forward to the service on Sunday when we celebrate Christ’s resurrection. It is because we know Christ rose again that we can both commemorate Good Friday with gladness and appreciation and that we can, for all intents and purposes, ignore Saturday, “the day between” Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Imagine, though, what that day between was like between the very first “Good Friday” (surely no one then considered it good, with the possible exception of the Pharisees) and Easter Sunday. That Saturday was the Sabbath day, and we know from Luke 23 that the women who would be the first on the scene on Sunday, to discover the empty tomb, rested according to the Sabbath tradition (indeed, the Law). I imagine it was an incredibly sad day, though. There likely would have been no motivation for anyone who had followed Jesus to do anything. They had probably had trouble going to sleep, thinking about the horrible events of the preceding days, and once they had drifted off they are unlikely to have slept peacefully. One the dawn broke and sunlight pierced the room there was probably no desire to get up. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary did get up early and go to the tomb to take the spices they had prepared because they loved Jesus so and wanted to be sure that His body was properly dressed. But they surely walked through tears and with heavy hearts. Apparently none of Jesus’ other followers ventured out because Luke 24:9 tells us that when the women returned from the tomb they told “the eleven…and all the rest” about what they had seen and heard.

As everyone who is familiar with the Gospel accounts knows, however, no one believed the women. Luke tells us that “these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” We know that Peter and John then ran to the tomb to see for themselves but we also know from Luke that Peter then returned to the group “marveling at what had happened.” I like the way The Living Bible presents this verse; it says Peter returned “wondering what had happened.” The Message says Peter “walked away puzzled, shaking his head.” In other words, despite the fact that he had seen the empty tomb for himself, Peter still did not remember that Jesus had told him, and all His followers, that He would rise again on the third day. Either that or he just did not believe it.

In I Corinthians 15 the Apostle Paul writes that if Christ has not been raised from the dead our faith is futile. Easter, Christ’s resurrection, is the event on which the entire Christian faith hinges. It is the defining moment, the difference maker. Christ’s sinless life, the miracles He performed and His death on the cross would have all been incredible but meaningless if He had not risen from the dead. The futility, the hopelessness, that defeatism is exactly what Peter and the other followers of Christ were feeling on that very first “day between.”

Today, however, because we know the rest of the story, the day between is of little consequence. It is just another day. We do not fear it, we do not mourn, we do not dread getting out of bed or wonder what may happen to us if we venture out. That’s because…and only because…we know that Easter is coming tomorrow. We know Christ rose from the dead. And because we know, we have hope, and our hope is not in vain.

The Day Between

Yesterday was Good Friday; tomorrow is Easter. Yesterday we remembered the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; tomorrow we remember his resurrection, the fact that He is no longer dead, and the tomb is empty. But how often do we think about today, the day between? Today it probably has little if any major significance, but imagine what the day between must have been like for the followers of on that very first “day between.” The Gospel accounts tell us nothing of what happened that day other than that His followers “rested according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56), since Saturday was he Sabbath. Interestingly, Matthew records that the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate that day to request a guard for the tomb of Jesus “lest His disciples go and steal Him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead…'” (Matthew 27:64).

Imagine, though, what that Sabbath day was like. There was nothing the followers of Jesus could do to keep themselves busy and try to keep their minds off of the fact that Jesus was dead, because it was the Sabbath, and activity was strictly regulated, most of it forbidden. It was the day to worship God, and it must surely have been difficult to worship God the day after the One Who had proclaimed Himself to be the Son of God had been crucified on a Roman cross. Today, we can celebrate (solemnly) Good Friday because we know about Easter. The death of Jesus Christ is gruesome and horrific but also fantastic, because we know that through His death He paid the penalty for the sins of all who will ask for forgiveness and accept His free gift of salvation. It is also fantastic because Jesus died in order to conquer sin, hell and death, and we know He was not dead for long. But His followers who were sitting around on that very first “day between” had not understood that He was going to rise again, so there was no excited anticipation for Sunday morning. Instead there must have been dread, incredible sorrow, almost a loss of the will to go on living.

We know this because the Gospels record the fact that Mary and Martha prepared spices and returned to the tomb on Sunday morning, something there would have been no point doing if they knew Jesus would not be in the tomb. Luke tells us that they were “perplexed” when they found the tomb empty (24:4). The angel who appeared to them at the tomb asked them why they were seeking the living among the dead. “Remember how He told you…?” the angel asks in Luke 24:6. Verse 8 says they then did remember, but when they went and told the apostles–the very men who had spent three years living with, ministering with and learning from Jesus–the news of Jesus’ resurrection seemed to those eleven men “an idle tale, and they did not believe them” (24:11).

The hopelessness that must have gripped the followers of Christ on that first day between still grips many people today, and understandably so. After all, if there is no God, there is nothing beyond the here and now, so what difference does it all make? If Jesus was just a good moral teacher, but He died and stayed dead, there is really no difference between Jesus and many other great teachers who have lived throughout the centuries. Paul writes in I Corinthians 15:54 that if Jesus has not been raised from the dead then our faith is in vain. It is useless, worthless and pitiful.

Thank God that the day between was just that, only a day between two incredible and essential events that changed the world and made possible the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life.