A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about Holy Saturday. At the time, I had just started attending a church called Calvary-St. George’s, which I am still involved with. The gist of the post is that the time Jesus spent lying in the tomb after dying on the cross, but before being raised on the third day, is worth thinking about.
It’s worth thinking about because it reminds us of the painful necessity of waiting for God to bring his acts to completion. Christ died on the cross. He had told his disciples that he would be raised in three days. Those three days must have felt like an eternity to the disciples, going back and forth between grief over their dead teacher and hope that what he said would come to pass.
When you really want something to happen, sometimes you convince yourself that it’s impossible so that you won’t get your hopes up. I think that the disciples did something like this. Perhaps that’s why Thomas doubted. He didn’t want to get his hopes up. Living in that state of tension between wanting something and suspecting that you will not receive that something takes a serious toll on you.
To the disciples, who saw Jesus’ power over the world first-hand, to whom he predicted his own death, what could furnish better hope in Christ’s resurrection than his claim that he would, indeed, rise from the dead? There can be no better grounds for believing such an extraordinary claim. And yet, the disciples doubted. How can one hope for something so great?
We are in the same kind of in-between period that the disciples were in after Christ’s death, but before his resurrection. We have been told that our flesh has been put to death in Christ’s death. We have been told that Christ will return, establishing his kingdom in full, glorifying our bodies, and making us righteous. We know that this will come to pass. We have been told by one who does not lie, and who has the power to make such a thing come to pass. But we must wait, just as the disciples had to wait for Christ to rise from death.
As it is, we wait and hope for something greater than we can imagine. We wait and hope for something impossible. We wait and hope for the total restoration of the world, a world in which the innocent suffer egregious evils, and in which the wicked prosper. How can this be?
I don’t know how it can be. But I also don’t know how it can be that God could be born on earth as a human infant for the purpose of eventually dying on the cross for the sins of mankind. I don’t know how he could rise from the dead. I don’t even know how it is that Christ’s death on the cross could possibly rescue the world from sin. I just know that it is so. In the same way, I know that God will restore the world, even if I do not understand how.
Because of the resurrection, we wait in confidence, rather than in suspense. Christ has already demonstrated his dominion over all the forces of evil in his death and resurrection. On Holy Saturday, we can remember his promise to his disciples that he would die and be raised on the third day, which he fulfilled. And in remembering his faithfulness in fulfilling one extraordinary promise, we can trust that he will be faithful in fulfilling his other promises to us, no matter how extravagant they may be.