For pastors and many Christians, Holy Week is a busy week. Pastors have to prepare sermons for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday, and members of the congregation may be busy as well depending on the congregation’s Easter traditions. On Maundy Thursday, we focus on the institution of the Lord’s Supper for the forgiveness of sins. On Good Friday, we focus on the bittersweet crucifixion of our Lord. Then on Sunday we focus on His glorious resurrection.
But what about Saturday? We don’t have any fancy names for it. What happened between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday?
The Scriptures don’t tell us what the disciples did the day after Jesus’ death. However, I think the gospel of Matthew gives us a good hint. It’s very subtle, but it’s there. After Jesus had appeared to the women at the tomb, He told them to tell His disciples to go to Galilee where He would meet them. Then we read in Matthew 28:17, “And when they saw Him they worshipped Him, but some doubted.” But some doubted. Let’s place ourselves in their shoes.
The disciples had been following Jesus in His ministry for three years. They left everything behind to follow Him. They saw Him do some incredible, miraculous things, and they heard His many claims to the Messianic title.
Then He died.
Imagine following such a man—the Messiah no less—only to watch Him die in such a brutal way. Granted, Jesus told them He was going to die and be resurrected, but they did not understand what He was saying (Luke 9:43-45; 18:31-34). So, it is only natural to assume they were mourning and even doubting. Even if they did understand Jesus’ saying, it is likely they still would’ve mourned. After all, how many of us Christians have lost a loved one who’s a believer with the knowledge that they will be resurrected on the Last Day? We know Jesus will resurrect them, but it still hurts to lose someone we love.
Perhaps the men on the road to Emmaus capture the disciples’ thoughts, ” ‘But we had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel'” (Luke 24:21). They had hoped He was the Messiah. That passive past verb suggests that hope is now gone. Perhaps it was the same for the disciples in the midst of their mourning, some of whom still doubted when they saw Him in Galilee.
So, as post-resurrection Christians, what should we do the day after Good Friday? I think it is permitted that we mourn. Some of us may have mourned yesterday, but perhaps that’s not enough. Certainly the disciples began to mourn as soon as Jesus was nailed to the cross, and their mourning continued into the next day, and even the day after that until they saw Jesus again. Yet we know Jesus is alive, so what do we have to mourn?
The fact that our sins placed the Son of God on the cross. Yes, the Jews of the day demanded His death because He was apparently guilty of blasphemy; and yes, Pontius Pilate ordered the final sentencing to death and thus the Roman state is to blame. But we are all to blame, too. Our sins put Jesus on the cross. Jesus didn’t die just because the Jews demanded it and Pontius Pilate wanted to appease the Jews.
Jesus died because you and I are sinners. He died because of you and me.
So, I think, it is right to mourn that fact. That is our guilt. Yet although we are guilty, Jesus’ death covers our guilt, and that is why Good Friday has that strange adjective attached to it.
On the day after Good Friday, perhaps some of you are doubting. If you accept Jesus was a historical person and believe He actually died, you might be wondering, “Did He actually rise from the dead?” Or perhaps, “Did Jesus really die for my sins?” The answer is obviously yes to both those questions, and I could give you a list of reasons as to why He really did rise from the dead and He really did die for your sins, but then this would become an apologetic paper and that’s not my purpose for writing this.
But know this: doubting is normal. After all, the disciples themselves doubted. Even I doubted once upon a time and every now and then there are times when I still doubt, “Did Jesus really die for my sins? Has He really forgiven all my sins?” It is that age old temptation of the Devil we all suffer from, “Did God really say…?” Yet even though doubt is normal, that does not mean it’s a good thing. Know that only such belief can be granted by the Holy Spirit. No amount of logical reasoning can make you believe the “yes’s” to each question.
Two years ago for Easter, the satirical Christian column called The Babylon Bee wrote an article called Local Family Attending Church On Easter Just In Case God Is Real. It’s a funny satire, but it highlights a real issue. Maybe you are that type of Christian who only goes to church on Easter and Christmas. If this is you, you probably won’t find it funny but rather offensive. Maybe you only go to church on the holidays because you’re living in constant doubt.
If you are doubting, what comfort do you have? The Holy Spirit isn’t called our Helper for no reason. Prayer is a real, powerful thing. Praying for the Holy Spirit is something we ought to do on a daily basis. Even when we don’t have the words, the Holy Spirit is praying on our behalf (Romans 8:26-27). I would also recommend you talk to a pastor you trust and/or a Christian friend.
No case of doubting is the same, so I can’t do it justice and address the issue here. But I invite you that if you are doubting, go to church on Easter tomorrow, even in spite of The Babylon Bee article that pokes fun at such people. I definitely invite you not to be that person who only attends church once or twice a year. Easter—or rather, Resurrection Sunday—is a big deal. If there’s any day where you can hear if Jesus really did die for your sins, Resurrection Sunday is the day to hear this good news. Don’t just go for the sake of going. Go and actually listen to what the pastor is saying. Take to heart what he is saying. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to approach the pastor and ask him questions that are on your heart, or even simply to ask him to schedule a day where you two can sit and talk privately.
For us Christians who aren’t doubting, what should we do today? Again, I think it is permissible to mourn. Today is technically the last day of Lent, so even though we’ve been repenting for the past 40 days (46 including Sundays), I think there is nothing wrong with spending this last day in repentance. After all, yesterday we just recalled Jesus’ crucifixion, for which we are all guilty. This repentance, I think, will prepare us for the good news we are to hear tomorrow: that Jesus rose from the dead and we, too, shall share in His resurrection.