The Morning Will Come
I wonder what it was like for the disciples during the hours between Jesus’ death and resurrection. The man they believed to be the Messiah had been killed on a cross. Their hopes were dashed. They had given up everything to follow Him, and they were left feeling that it was all for nothing. Though Jesus had tried to explain to them about His resurrection many times, they couldn’t grasp it. Most fled before He was even crucified. Only John, Mary Magdalene, and Jesus’ mother, Mary, are clearly said to have been there at the end (Jn. 19:25-26). I imagine the sight of Jesus being carried off by guards and tortured is enough to squeeze out any last hope one might have had. So once they had given up hope, what did they do?
Two of them headed to Emmaus (Lk. 24:13-16). Perhaps they were going home, or off looking for a job. The eleven remaining disciples seemed to be mourning and recovering in Jerusalem (Lk. 24:33-35). Beyond this there’s not much detail.
Yet there is one account that stands out in clarity and simplicity. The women who were faithful to Jesus helped prepare his body for burial and were preparing spices and perfumes according to their customs. Luke 23:56 tells us that after this, “…they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.” Immediately when the Sabbath is over, the women went to His tomb and found the stone rolled away. There they heard the incredible proclamation from the angels, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”
These women, truly dedicated to Jesus until the very end, prepared for His burial. These disciples had given up everything to follow Jesus, believing that He was the Messiah. They remained with Him while others betrayed and left Him in His darkest moments. They witnessed the trauma of the cross, subjecting themselves to scenes more disgusting than modern sensibilities can imagine. Their King, they believed, was defeated. Their hope of a Savior is gone. In their minds, they were completely misled. Still, in their grief, disappointment, and fear, these faithful women set aside everything to observe the Sabbath in obedience. They observed a day of rest dedicated to God when it seemed He had abandoned them.
Then, first thing after their observance, they go to the tomb still to care for Jesus, their friend and rabbi. Because of their faithfulness, the women are the first to see the empty tomb and hear the Good News. “He is not here; he has risen!”
As Christians, once we place our faith in Jesus Christ, we live in the glory of resurrection forever. Our old, sinful heart is put to death by the power of Jesus’ work on the cross, and we are raised to new life with Him, forever. We don’t have to fear death or be a slave to sin in this life. We have full access to the riches of God’s glory and power in Jesus Christ. Yet knowing this spiritual reality does not mean that the Christian life will not be filled with suffering, pain, or even just the dull ache of the mundanity of life on earth.
We are commanded to not be surprised by suffering, but embrace it as we look forward to the eternal glory of Jesus (1 Pt. 4:12). Instead, we are to run the race set before us, throwing off sin, with our eyes fixed on Jesus (Heb. 12:1-3). On the Saturday between the crucifixion and the resurrection, that’s what the women who loved Jesus did. They didn’t have the luxury of knowing the end of the story. In their minds, God had just let them down in a massive way. Yet they moved forward in obedience to the rhythms of life that God commanded them. They were faithful in the midst of their disappointment.
This Easter Sunday, I wish I was coming to the celebration with more excitement. In this season, I feel a bit stuck on Saturday. Perhaps you feel the same way. Maybe there’s disappointment. Maybe there’s a sense that something God promised fell through, or your chances have expired. Or maybe it just feels hum-drum. You’ve been following Jesus for a while and despite the season, you’re not feeling the joy of resurrection.
If that is you, I pray that you, and I, follow the example of the women. In the midst of disappointment, we must continue to be obedient, disciplining ourselves to the life of faith and the rhythms that God created to restore us. Then, when we least expect it, Easter morning will come, and we will hear those glorious words deep in our hearts again. “He is not here; he is risen!”
This is our hope as followers of Jesus. There may be hurt, boredom, or anxiety, but Jesus is with us in the midst of it, calling us close to Him in obedience. Then always, always, the glorious day of celebration is coming when new life in Christ is born anew.
Shelby Ryals is a 2018 graduate of the Ministry Leadership Department at Toccoa Falls College, and currently serves as the Assistant Director of Admissions.