We pasted all our hopes on Him
Like the paper hearts on a homemade valentine
Thank God the Easter story didn’t end on Friday.
On Friday, sorrow and despair reigned. You can imagine the heartache that rose up inside Jesus’ followers as He was arrested, tried and executed. It wouldn’t be too dissimilar to that sinking feeling you have when something is unfolding before you and you’re powerless to intervene. As Jesus drew his last breath and then fell silent, the hopes and dreams of those who had dreamed to believe in Jesus would have felt like they were torn up and thrown to the ground.
Friday for these men and women was the lowest day. After Jesus’ incredible welcome into Jerusalem, none of the disciples would have believed that within a week Jesus would be dead, surrounded by thieves and criminals, His lifeless body hanging limp on a cross. The mocking voices of the local people, the cold eyes of the Roman guards and the grief that was gripping those who had followed Jesus for three years would have hung heavy in the air.
If the Easter story had ended on Friday, the movement Jesus had sparked – a movement built on remarkably unremarkable men and women – would have died with him – left with nothing but failed hopes and dreams, restless in the thought of what could have been. Following Jesus’ death, His closest followers were left feeling abandoned and disillusioned after putting their hopes in one they thought would liberate them from the Roman Empire. Instead of liberation, Friday came – and Jesus was killed in an anticlimactic, horrific and embarrassing crucifixion. He died a style of death that was so humiliating, it was considered too low for any Roman citizen to be sentenced to.
Following the humiliation and death of Jesus on Friday, His disciples hid in fear from the Romans, doubted any further work from Jesus, and even returned to their old way of life. If the Gospel story had ended on Friday, Jesus would have left us with a story of ignominy, a story told by followers who had seen their hopes destroyed, and controlled by the religious leaders of the day who had seen Jesus arrested, convicted and executed. But thank God the Easter story doesn’t end on Friday. Because Sunday came, and along with it, life anew.
On Sunday, when the woman who’d followed Jesus out of Galilee took spices to anoint His body, they were living in the light of Friday’s events – they expected Him to still be dead. In light of the horrific things they had witnessed, they were confused to discover Jesus’ body missing. When Mary Magdalene, discovered Jesus’ body was missing, she fell into deep mourning, assuming it had been taken. As the realisation of what was occurring in the early light of that Sunday morning dawned upon these women, they ran to tell the others, and the full purpose of God’s plan began to unfold.
Sunday was the culmination of God’s plan of salvation, bought forth in the fullness of time. In many ways the Christian narrative views the entire Bible as the story of salvation – a story that moves from man’s separation from God to the arrival of the saviour promised through the Prophets and the books of the Old Testament. A saviour named Jesus – not simply a good man or an example to follow, but rather the word made flesh, totally God and totally man, who chose to humble himself to death on a cross. God had promised that one would come to take away the sins of the world – and on Friday that promise seemed short lived. But Sunday showed us the fullness of God’s mercy, the total measure of his grace and the faithfulness of his promise that he would reconcile man to Himself.
Sunday is the day that completes the promise God made back in Genesis 3:15 – the promise of a saviour. On Sunday Jesus revealed hope to all mankind – hope that we don’t have to live our lives as slaves to sin, and that in Him we can be forgiven, and all things can be made new. On Sunday we step into new life, no longer looking forward to the promise of a saviour, but living in the reality of Christ, risen from the dead. On Sunday we see the windy paths made straight, the lost, the condemned and the hated reconciled, and hope for the human condition. On Friday we all were lost, separated from God through sin. On Friday we were hopeless, left without the fulfilment of God’s wonderful promise. And on Friday we were powerless, watching hope die.
But thank God the Easter story ends with an empty tomb, a risen saviour, and the promise of wholeness in Christ Jesus, who gave his life as a sacrifice once for all time.
A huge thank you to Bevin H for his significant input into this post.