What remains when dreams die? Perhaps you know from your own experience the ensuing dazed numbness that alternates with overwhelming emotion. If you do, then you will understand something of the disciples’ grief, hopelessness and disbelief after Jesus’ death. On this day, a welter of feelings consumed and paralyzed them.
Along with his grief, Peter bore another burden. Before Jesus’ arrest, Peter believed himself to be fearless. More than once he brashly declared his willingness to die for his Lord. In his own eyes, he was braver than other men. “Even if everyone else deserts you,” he asserted, “I never will” (Matt. 26:33, NLT). To his surprise and shame, it was not a sword but a servant girl’s question that led him to deny he even knew Jesus. On this day, he was too overcome by guilt to assume his usual role as leader and spokesman for the Twelve. Overnight, they had become sheep without a shepherd.
How life had changed for them! Just seven days earlier they proudly entered Jerusalem with Jesus as cheering throngs greeted Him as the Son of David. Soon, they believed, the whole world would recognize Him as the long awaited Messiah. He would fulfill Israel’s centuries-old dream of deliverance from its oppressors and usher in a golden age of peace and prosperity. Perhaps the people even visualized their place in His kingdom.
But that was seven days ago. Since then, events had swirled around them, ending tragically on Friday at Calvary. Except for those who were too afraid of being recognized as His followers, the disciples witnessed the brutal crucifixion with their own eyes. They heard Jesus say, “It is finished” and watched as His lifeless body was taken down from the cross.
In that last week especially, Jesus spoke often to His disciples of His coming death. But they seemed unwilling or unable to accept that possibility. At the Last Supper He reminded them again that their life together was nearly over. Yet He also promised, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). Several times that night, He held out hope even as He acknowledged coming sorrow: “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).
During the hours of agony at Golgotha, Jesus offered more reassurance. One of the criminals crucified alongside Jesus cried out, “remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus held out hope and mercy as He replied, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). In that dark hour, Jesus affirmed that though His body might be destroyed, He would live on in eternity. But the only thing His followers understood was that He was gone from them.
On this Saturday, comforting words meant nothing to them. What they had seen and heard seemed far more real than a promise, even a promise by a beloved Teacher. Jesus was dead. There was no question about that. How could He keep any promises now? Their despair knew no limits.
On this day, not everyone in Jerusalem mourned His death. Chief priests and scribes celebrated their victory. Their taunts at Golgotha had been prophetic: “He saved others… but He can’t save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe” (Mark 15: 31-32). They had effectively resolved the problem of this troublemaker. No longer would this second-rate teacher stir up the people with His unorthodox way of viewing God and the world order.
For both followers and enemies of Jesus, it was difficult to imagine life beyond this day. As far as His enemies were concerned, Jesus would never be heard from again. His followers, too, feared that His voice had been permanently silenced.
Perhaps like the followers of Christ on that long ago Saturday, you find yourself today in “the dark night of the soul.” You may be convinced that you are doomed to exist in despair. But thanks to God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice, Saturdays and hopelessness are never the end of the story. Years later, Peter himself would write exultantly: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope…” (I Peter 1:3).
Sunday is coming!
By Dorothy Post