Having just celebrated Resurrection Sunday, we hear a lot about the death of Jesus on Friday and the resurrection on Sunday. But have you ever thought about Saturday?
Friday is about death. It's about the atonement for our sins, our cleansing. It's about paying our every debt. This is where Jesus finished the work of the Law. He did what no other man could do. A perfect blood sacrifice was made in order to fulfil the requirements on us for righteousness. Friday is so important. Without it we remain covered and defined by our sin. We stay unworthy, defiled, and hopeless. But, as believers, we can't stay on Friday. It, just every other day, has to come to an end. So many people are stuck on Friday, focused on their sin and shortcomings. They keep focusing on what Jesus took to the cross. They hash and rehash their failures, trying to nail them again and again to the cross. Some people never move past “sinner saved by grace.”
But Jesus said,
"It is finished."
Finished...complete, over. Your sin, failures, offences, shortcomings have all been dealt with. Leave them on the cross and stop trying to take them down to relive what a terrible sinner you were.
As though written on paper, your sins have been nailed to the cross and once covered in blood, they are no longer legible. They cannot be read and held against you any longer. Stop re-writing the story of your sin. Confess it and leave it. Let Friday come to an end. Jesus didn't die so you could just focus on sin and death your whole life. Let Friday end.
As Christians we commemorate, for good reason, Friday and Sunday of this event. But Sunday doesn't follow Friday. Saturday does.
What is Saturday in this story?
What took place on that day?
There's no mention of the day save for one thing: Saturday was the Sabbath. A day of rest. The disciples weren't allowed to work, they couldn't run away, they couldn't distract themselves with busy work, they couldn't run from the eyes of the town. They couldn't vindicate the events of Friday. They had to rest; sitting in their houses, dwelling on what had happened.
What were they feeling? I can imagine they spent the day recalling everything Jesus taught them, revisiting the parables, the healings, the signs and wonders, looking for an answer to this sudden turn of events.
The despair. Can you feel the hopelessness of the disciples and family? The disappointment that everything they had given the last three years for was suddenly gone and over with? Can you feel the confusion, the anger? Can you feel the gloating of the religious leaders and government officials? What a dark day. In a sense, darker than Friday. It was the first day in three years waking up without Jesus. Waking up without hope, purpose, and significance.
But it was the Sabbath. A day to rest. Why did God institute the Sabbath day? Because he knew we would work ourselves to death. We would self-medicate with our work, accomplishments, even ministry, and forget God. Rest set the Israelites apart from the civilisations around them. No other nation took one day off a week to do nothing. Survival depended upon working. But God said he would be our provider, so we can rest. Saturday is for restoration. But I can't imagine this particular Sabbath felt very restful. Even the women knew there was work to be done. Jesus' body was hastily laid, no oils or balms had been applied. He was simply covered and enclosed because it was the Sabbath. There was no answer for the day except to rest and wait.
Saturday is a hard day for believers. Saturday comes after God seems to put to death something that you loved. Something that you thought was the answer, the way, even God's specific direction for you. The death that marks a Saturday season may bring confusion, disappointment, mourning, even anger or frustration over the turn of events.
But there's only one answer, one thing to do in a Saturday season. Rest. Rest and recall the goodness of God over your life. "Be still and know that I am God." There's no toiling, avenging, or running that will bring that dead thing back to life. Don't give in to distractions, new jobs, new ministries. Just Rest. Know God.
Eventually even Saturday had to come to an end. Sunday dawned like Saturday did. The second day without Jesus. They were released to work again, to fill their day. Up early, ready to do the unpleasant work of attending to Jesus' body, Mary Magdalene headed to the tomb with her oils and spices.
What had seemed like a hopeless day turned out to be anything but that. While God seemed quiet, he certainly wasn’t powerless! It was in the stillness of the Sabbath that Jesus was conquering our enemy. Descending to the depths of hell, he took the keys to the Kingdom, freed the captives and returned to Earth.
Jesus fights our battles while we rest.
Finally, resurrected in power, Jesus revealed himself on Sunday in renewed form to his disciples. The only thing he retained of his old body were his scars. They are proof that the debt that was paid never has to be paid again.
Leave your sins and shortcomings on Friday, because the only way to enter the power of Sunday is through the rest of Saturday.
The resurrection of Jesus is for the believer to live a resurrected life. Sunday is another day that believers camp out on. "I'm going to heaven when I die!" Yes! Isn't that wonderful? But the resurrection is so much more than just your eternal destiny. The resurrection is your key to a life of victory and power to overcome all the work of Darkness here on Earth.
Jesus showed himself to his disciples. He then revealed himself to over 500 people in the days that followed. He continued to teach and instruct his disciples. There was work to be done! Their commissioning came after Sunday. They couldn't just stay in a place of marvelling at the resurrection, they now were being instructed on what to do with it.
This is the life of a believer. When God puts something to death in us, we must respond with rest, for after every Saturday is a Sunday. He will resurrect something new in us with power. But be ready, Friday deaths, Sabbath rests and Sunday resurrections will be followed by the words, “Now go!”