After this, knowing that everything was already completed, in order to fulfill the scripture, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was nearby, so the soldiers soaked a sponge in it, placed it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When he had received the sour wine, Jesus said, “It is completed.” Bowing his head, he gave up his life. – John 19:28-30
“If this week of Christ’s Passion has brought us anywhere at all then it has brought us to our knees, and that is where we must stay today…”
It’s Saturday of Easter weekend. Often, this is a difficult day to know how to handle. If that’s not something you’ve thought about before, then let me explain:
- This week started out with a huge exclamation point (!!!!), the enthusiastic celebration of Palm Sunday! The children, the parade, the palm branches, the evidence of what it could mean to follow Jesus.
- Then – if you’ve been keeping up – you probably read several accounts of the massive disruption Jesus was causing in and around Jerusalem. It’s not that he was needling the religious authorities deliberately, more that the implications of his message became that much more obvious on the big stage that Jerusalem provided.
- By Thursday the tension was palpable, and Jesus spoke to his friends over dinner that night with the intensity and focus of someone who knew this was the last opportunity he was going to have to wrap up his spirit, his thoughts, and his love in words. What amazing words they were, and remain (John 13-17).
- Hopefully you took advantage of the opportunity to attend a Maundy Thursday communion observance with your church family. If you did, then you made your way quietly out into the dark night with Jesus on your mind, thinking about how he walked across the valley and into Gethsemane to pray, to give his future over into the Father’s will, and to be arrested.
- Then there was Good Friday. What a solemn day. More evidence of what it could mean to follow Jesus. If you didn’t attend worship Friday evening (and I know that most of you did not), then I honestly can’t imagine what it is anyone could have been doing that held more weight than gathering with other disciples to give thanks, to pray, to contemplate the Passion, and to feel our burdens lifted?
All this makes Saturday difficult. Jesus is alive, yes, and nothing can change that beautiful transformational truth. But all the same, the momentum of Holy Week is designed to let Friday’s sacrifice stay with us in spirit until Sunday morning. And, if this week of Christ’s Passion has brought us anywhere at all then it has brought us to our knees, and that is where we must stay today, driven there by the weight of our own culpability, our own poverty of spirit, our profound longing for grace and mercy, our deep need for a Savior.
Simply put, the Empty Tomb is far less compelling absent an occupied cross; and Easter morning nowhere near so wonderful without two dark nights of sorrow between the crucifixion and the risen Lord!
The Empty Tomb is far less compelling absent an occupied cross; and Easter morning nowhere near so wonderful without two dark nights of sorrow between the crucifixion and the risen Lord!
So please, especially if you had let Good Friday slip by essentially unnoticed, remember today that Jesus did not die in general, dispassionately, incidentally, or as a take-it-or-leave-it – impersonal – side-effect of Roman brutality; no, Jesus died specifically for me, absolutely for you, with his eyes and his heart wide open, avoidably, agonizingly, and soaked through with love.
That is where we are today. We are in a temporary vacuum that is so much easier because we know the rest of the story. But let us at least experience just a few desperate gulps for air before we breathe hungrily of his refreshing life tomorrow morning. Let us at least be aware of the emptiness Jesus died to fill.
It’s still Saturday – and the stone has yet to be rolled away – DEREK