Saturday, April 23, 2011

Meditation for the Saturday Before Easter

Looking at the four Gospels, here is what they have to say about the time between Jesus’s burial and the morning of the following Sunday:

Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said, "Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I am to rise again.' "Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead,' and the last deception will be worse than the first." Pilate said to them, "You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how." And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone. (Matthew 27:62-66, NASB)

It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. Now the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment. (Luke 23:54-56, NASB)

That’s it! Of the four Gospel authors: two, Matthew and John, were among the Twelve; Mark accompanied Peter, another of the Twelve, and may himself have been an eyewitness to at least some of the events; Luke, a Gentile living at the time in Asia Minor, tells readers that he had sought out and spoken with as many eyewitnesses to Jesus’s life as he could find. So the Gospel writers were either eyewitnesses or drew from eyewitnesses' accounts (probably both). Yet that is all the Gospel writers had to say about that awful day after the crucifixion.

Granted, it was a Sabbath, but they had just gone through what had to have been, individually and collectively, one of the most traumatic days of their lives. Then again, maybe that near silence is a mute testimony to the intense sorrow, mental anguish and fear through which they just been wrenched . It’s not easy, in modern terms to describe what being a religious teacher’s disciple meant. It was like being an apprentice, and even more. Disciples lived, ate and slept their teacher’s life and teachings. Jesus had been the Disciples’ lives for some three years, and he had just been brutally executed. His women followers were practical and loving (and maybe a bit more courageous!) in the midst of their sorrow. Jesus had been buried in haste because of the impending start of the Sabbath, so they prepared according to their customs to do things rightly and properly on the following day.

The action of the Jewish religious leaders in the aftermath of the crucifixion is interesting. This had been their great moment of triumph over a man they feared would upset their applecart, ruin their lucrative racket. And here they were, acting out of fear while hiding behind an absurd pretext. Jesus’s Disciples were a scared and intimidated lot, not likely to attempt the sort of deception the religious leaders claimed to fear. Perhaps they really feared something …

... much more.

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