I am nothing, if not a creature of habit.
I have my daily routine, my monthly routine (tasks I perform on the first and last days of the month), and my yearly routine (tasks I complete on days like my birthday and New Year’s Day).
The Saturday between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday has also developed its own routine as well.
It’s typically a quiet day for my crew and I. Sometimes there is a soccer game to attend, and then maybe a spring picnic or some housecleaning/yard work. Not so, this year, as everyone else in the house is having to fend for themselves while I continue to prepare for vastly key meetings for work that begin Monday morning. I sent my boy to the country market to buy us cookies this morning. For breakfast.
Yes, it’s that kind of day.
But even in the hectic-ness of this day, the loudness of the printer which is running non-stop, the noise of the game of kitchen soccer that is going on behind me, played by my boy and his friends (yes, kitchen soccer is a thing. What? You mean you don’t play it? What’s wrong with you people?), and the sound of my girl practicing violin in her room—in the midst of the cacophony of noise that is in my tiny house right now, I am keenly aware of the Silence of that Saturday, over 2000 years ago.
It is the silence that the friends of Jesus–the disciples, his mother, others–not only heard on the Saturday after His death, but felt. It was penetrating. Heavy. Palpable.
In those hours—goodness, how they must have dragged!–there was a profound nothingness. A nothingness filled with shock. Questions. Grief. Doubt, even, as evidenced by Thomas’ reactions.
Why shouldn’t they have doubted, in that silence? I would have. I do–when God seems absent. When He seems so very quiet. Why should we be shocked by the confusion they had to have felt?
Jesus was dead. Judas had betrayed, than hung himself. Peter had denied, three times. Thomas was, well, I’m not sure. But I wonder if he was angry, in his doubt. Maybe not. At the least he recognized the silence and did not–maybe could not–bring himself to join the others in their bewilderment and grief.
It has become my habit, in recent years, on this in-between Saturday, to do two things.
First, I study Thomas‘s response. I do this to remind myself that God had mercy for Thomas, and must certainly have mercy for me, too. Thomas and I are so alike.
Second, I listen to this sermon, by John Ortberg. You can click on his name, to be taken to the mp3 file and listen. It is the clearest sermon I have ever heard–the best explanation–of that time of silence on that day before the resurrection.
I can’t imagine–can’t even begin to fathom–what it must have been like for Thomas on that day. For Peter, for John, for Andrew, for Mary, for Martha, for Lazarus (was he still alive at this point? I assume so), for Bartholomew, for those whom He had healed, and for the other disciples and followers whose names I can’t recall. Because they didn’t know.
We do. We have the gift of scriptures, that point us to the hope of the resurrection. To the hope that Sunday was coming. We have the hope of assurance that what Jesus prophesied as described in Matthew 16:21–His very own death and resurrection–truly did come to pass. We live on this side of history. It is a long history, I understand that, all too well. But we have something in the gift of scriptures that we can both point backwards to as Thomas-longed-for evidence, which–in turn–points us forward to the evidence that there will come a day. A home-going day. A new heaven and earth day.
But sometimes, even if we are Christ-followers who believe in the truth of scripture, we lose sight of this. Our prayers turn into hollow echos bouncing around in our mind. God seems distant. Agonizingly Silent. We doubt–some more than others. We long–for a sense of His presence. Or for an answer to a desperate prayer for physical healing, or for the return of a wayward child. Or we sense something amiss in our souls, that we know not how to fix.
It is in those moments that we can recall the experiences of Jesus’ followers on that Saturday. Of his disciples. His friends. Even His mother. And we can remember that there was this holy pause–uncomfortable–no, that’s not quite right–more than that. Unsettling. Crushing. Mind-boggling.
A holy pause that gave way to an empty tomb, much like a dam breaks in the aftermath of a torrential storm. A crashing in of hope and salvation.
Maybe you need to be reminded of this, in this in-between space of Saturday before Sunday. As you wait. If so, please listen to Ortberg’s sermon.
And know that Sunday is coming. Even when you are in the holy lonesome echo of the silence of God.