What must they have been thinking as the night fell marking the beginning of the Sabbath rest while the body of their Lord, beaten and lifeless, lay in a borrowed tomb? Surely, they talked about the Passover meal just some 30 hours past. How the words must have haunted them, “This is my body broken for you.” As He had encouraged them to break bread in His memory, none of them could fathom, or even imagine, that He would be dead before Passover slipped into Sabbath.
Haven’t you been there–totally blind-sided by loss? The phone rings as you are laughing with your husband, getting your three-year-old ready for bed. He answers the phone with a cheerful, “Hello!” as you turn your attention to swinging your baby up into your arms to head to the waiting bubble bath, but something in the way he says, after a long pause of listening, “Yes, she’s here; I’ll be right here” causes your heart to slow, the smile to fade, and time to slow down. You take the phone from his outstretched hand as he eases the baby out of your arms and guides you into a chair all in one tender, sad movement. I don’t remember much about the call beyond my mother’s voice saying, “There’s been a terrible accident” and then something about the train at the crossing near my brother’s home. Over the next day, I replayed the last time I had seen my brother Karl—every word as we talked our way through a misunderstanding that had ended with hurt feelings; that smile that crinkled the skin at the corners of his blue eyes when he teased me about being even more stubborn than he could be; the feel of his arms around my shoulders, my arms around his waist, my cheek against his chest as he hugged me goodbye and assured me that “I love you—almost as much as you love me.” I replayed the conversations about his daughters, his dreams for them, his concerns and hopes for them—over and over again as I grappled with the shock of the loss.
On the Sabbath after His crucifixion, did they ponder that earlier Sabbath when Jesus defended them to the Pharisees criticizing them for plucking grain to eat as they walked through a field? Did the words, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” ring in their ears? Did their hearts slow as they wondered how the tomb could possibly contain the Lord of the Sabbath on the Sabbath? Did they keep glancing at the door expecting Him to suddenly appear and beckon them, “Come, follow me”? But He didn’t.
He had so clearly been warning them of what was coming, yet they had not understood. “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
So much blood—how could they have ever been prepared for that level of torture or agony, that much innocent blood?
As their holy day of rest ended and Nicodemus wrapped the body of Jesus in burial clothes infused with spices, did their hearts cry out with the anguish of leaving the Light of the World lying in the darkness of the tomb for another night. How could they reconcile the very words He Himself had spoken with the darkness that surrounded them as the neared the third day of Jesus lying dead in the tomb: “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”
Did any of them count the days—“Friday, one . . . Saturday, two . . . ” and even think of (let alone dare to grasp) the promise, the gauntlet Jesus had thrown in front of Satan, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” I wonder if Martha whispered over and over again His precious words to her after He had called Lazarus from the tomb: “Didn’t I tell you if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
How deeply they must have struggled to believe in the midst of fear and grief, loss and utter confusion.