On Good Friday we focus on how Jesus was betrayed, mocked, beaten, and put to death on the cross. On Sunday morning we celebrate Jesus being raised from the dead. But what happened in between?
The Bible is almost silent about what happened on Saturday, though Luke offers insight into the subject. After describing how Joseph of Arimathea laid Jesus in a tomb on Friday with the women looking on (Luke 23:54 ESV), he simply states, “On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56).
It would make sense that they would observe the Sabbath as they always did, but we can assume that this was not a Sabbath like any other.
No doubt, the disciples were filled with grief. In just a week’s time, they had gone through a mountaintop experience as they participated in a crowd shouting praises to Jesus as he made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Less than a week later, their beloved Teacher whom they had come to know as the Messiah, the One they had sacrificed jobs, families, and reputations for was dead. Betrayed by one of their own. How profound their grief must have been!
Besides grieving, they were filled with fear, and for good reason. They feared for their own lives since they were so closely associated with Jesus, who had just been put to death. Though there is no record of where the disciples were on Saturday, John states where they were Sunday evening, “ … the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews …” (John 20:19). They were so afraid that they were hiding out behind locked doors.
Mingled with grief and fear was likely a sense of remorse. Matthew and Mark both record that after Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, all the disciples abandoned him (Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50). John records that Peter and another disciple followed Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest where Peter denied Jesus three times (John 18:15-25). John is the only disciple mentioned in any of the Gospel accounts as being present at the Crucifixion (John 19:26-27). Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record Peter weeping after denying Jesus (Matthew 26:75; Mark 14:72; Luke 22:62). Though there is no evidence in the Gospel accounts, most likely the other disciples also struggled with feelings of guilt and shame after turning their backs on Jesus during his greatest time of need.
Gospel accounts also suggest that the disciples were dealing with confusion. Though Jesus told his disciples multiple times that he would die and be raised on the third day, they did not understand. One such example is found in Luke: “And taking the twelve, he said to them … 'they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.’ But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them and they did not grasp what he said” (Luke 18:31-34). They all must have been so distraught and confused.
The good news is that Jesus didn’t leave the disciples in a state of grief, fear, remorse, and confusion for long. John states, “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hand and his side” (John 20:19-20). Again, Jesus said, “Peace be with you …” (John 21:21).
Luke also records Jesus appearing to the disciples saying, “Peace to you!” (Luke 24:36). After reassuring the disciples that it was Him by showing them his hands and feet, and by eating a piece of broiled fish, Luke states, "Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures and said to them, ‘Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead’” (Luke 24:45-46).
How the disciples must have needed to hear Jesus’ message of peace! I can imagine their feelings of horror and heartache melting away as their minds were opened to understand that their precious teacher, Jesus, was indeed the Messiah and had risen from the dead!
I must admit that there are times when I feel stuck on Saturday, times when I am overcome with grief, regret, or anxiety. Times when I focus on the swirling storm of the circumstances of my life instead of looking to Jesus.
What about you? Do you have burdens that are weighing you down, keeping you from recognizing Jesus as the Messiah, the true Son of God who has risen from the dead?
If you are feeling stuck on Saturday, I encourage you that Resurrection Sunday is coming.
Sunday, when Jesus rose from the dead, conquering death and fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies. Sunday, when Jesus appeared to his frightened followers hiding behind closed doors with a simple message, “Peace be with you.” Jesus reaches out to you today with the same message. Let his Resurrection Sunday message sink deep into your soul. “Peace be with you.”