As another Saturday morning begins to unfold here in America, I’m reminded that for millions of people around the world, Saturday is more than just another day of the week. It’s a day that has spiritual implications associated with it. It’s also the Sabbath, or as the Jews call it, “Shabbat”. For us followers of Jesus, it’s part of what we consider the holiest weekend of the year. Given that significance, my mind goes back a couple of thousand years to another Shabbat that had dawned on Jerusalem.
A Dark Day ~
Jesus’ disciples had some incredible memories of Shabbats they had shared together. They had seen Jesus’ enemies use that day, and the rules associated with it, to launch attack after attack on their Master. In every case, He had turned their accusations on their head. Again and again, He had exposed their hypocrisy and thwarted their evil intentions. The disciples’ fears were laid to rest because they had Him. But the challenges facing them now were different. This was the darkest Shabbat any of them had ever faced.
The familiar sense of “shalom” they had often known in His presence was nowhere to be found on the morning that greeted them then. The One they had abandoned everything to follow was gone. Their beloved Rabbi and promised Messiah, the man who could quiet storms, heal diseases, turn water into wine, and even raise the dead, lay sealed in Joseph’s tomb and every hope they had was buried with Him. The events that began the previous night in the garden had been etched in their minds forever, and there was no place to hide from the awareness that when He needed them most, they deserted Him and ran like cowards. Now, they were the ones left alone.
Unanswerable Questions ~
Even if they could manage to evade persecution at the hands of the Romans and corrupt religious bigots who crucified Jesus, there was no way to avoid the endless loop of unanswerable questions haunting them . . . What does all this mean? What do we do now? What do we tell the rest of His followers? What does it mean about our future? They were desperate for answers, but the One who could always tell them what to do was gone
It wasn’t the first time they had been separated from Him, but those other times were understandable and relatively brief. This was not a temporary inconvenience. This was what, to them, seemed permanent, and that realization made the impact of His absence deeply traumatic on every level. Just as Jesus’ presence had touched every part of their lives, His absence did as well. Once they had known Him, there was no returning to life as it was before they met Him. The encroaching darkness that marked the end of the dismal Shabbat they shared that day was a fitting companion to the darkness that had settled in on their hearts.
One Last Act of Love ~
The morning sun would announce the start of a new day on the calendar, but it could not erase their fears or dispel the sense of confusion and foreboding that had been with them since Gethsemane. Some of the women who had been with them at least had something to do. But their task was not the kind of thing that would offer a distraction from their grief, quite the contrary. Applying the spices and anointing oil to His body would be a graphic physical reminder of what they had witnessed at Golgotha. Carrying out these customary duties would challenge their hearts’ capacity to endure grief, but their devotion to Him overcame it all. It was one more opportunity to express their love for Him and to illustrate that even death could not affect the depth of their commitment to Him.
But then an astonishing thing happened. One of the women came running back from the tomb and breathlessly uttered five words that changed everything. She declared to the disciples who had gathered together, “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18, NIV). Her words were understandably met with shock and disbelief at first. They had seen Him do miraculous things, but there was also the mental image of that mangled, tortured, lifeless body that had been taken down from the cross.
A Struggle to Believe ~
In light of that, the testimony they were hearing was one that they were hesitant to embrace. Did Mary have a vision? Did some angel reveal himself to her? Was she concocting this wild story in an effort to encourage them? If her words were true, the cloud of darkness hanging over them would flee like the gloom of night running from the blazing sun rising over the horizon. If Mary’s testimony was true, restraining the explosion of hope embedded in those five words would be as impossible as it was for the tomb to hold His body.
What Mary expected to find as she made her way to the tomb was the mangled body and decaying corpse of the One who had freed her from demonic slavery. She expected to find all that remained of the One who had redeemed her life and saved her soul. She would have one last look at her beloved Rabbi who embodied every hope she had. She went to find all that was left of the One who had found her and given her life, but instead, it was He who found her – again.
Lots of Changes ~
A lot has changed since that incredible and miraculous morning, but Mary’s words continue to be repeated. When Jesus left to return to His place at the Father’s side, He sent His Spirit to do something that no one expected. The very Spirit of Jesus Himself is here to indwell everyone who will turn from a life of slavery to sin and trust the risen Christ as their Savior. Through those who follow Him, Jesus continues to engage a world agonizing in the pain of its own selfish passions. He meets them in their spiritual darkness and reveals Himself. Sometimes they see Him most clearly in a love they never knew existed. Sometimes He’s seen in an act of compassion instead of judgment and rejection. Sometimes He’s in a meal, or some unexpected kindness. Sometimes He’s in a conversation where He listens instead of just being argumentative.
I saw Him in a co-worker who refused to engage in the profanity and filth that characterized the rest of us. I didn’t see the religious, “churchy”, hypocritical Jesus I would have expected to find. But like Mary, I found the living embodiment of every hope I ever had. I met Him in a ‘59 Chevy while sitting on the side of a road. After that, I could hardly wait to find others and tell them what Mary told the disciples that day . . . I have seen the Lord!
As our Saturday morning unfolds and we think about that gloomy “Shabbat” that preceded Resurrection Sunday, in some ways, we can relate. Fear and uncertainty are pervasive here in our world, too. Mary’s words can still change everything, but a couple of things are vital. Most importantly, a personal encounter with the crucified and resurrected Son of God is essential. Then we must allow Him to be so much a part of us that when people see us, they also see Him. May the living Lord Jesus use you and me, like He did Mary, to unleash afresh the power that can “change everything”.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “The One they had abandoned everything to follow was gone. Their promised Messiah, the man who could quiet storms, heal diseases, turn water into wine, and even raise the dead, lay sealed in Joseph’s tomb and every hope they had was buried with Him.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Once they had known Him, there was no returning to life as it was before they met Him. The encroaching darkness that marked the end of the dismal Shabbat they shared that day was a fitting companion to the darkness that had settled in on their hearts.”@GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Mary expected to find what remained of the One who had redeemed her life & saved her soul, wanting one last look at her beloved Rabbi who embodied every hope she had. He had found her & given her life. But instead of finding Him, it was He who found her – again.”@GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “When Jesus left to return to His place at the Father’s side, He sent His Spirit to do something no one expected. The very Spirit of Jesus Himself is here to indwell everyone who will turn from a life of slavery to sin and trust the risen Christ as their Savior.”@GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Through those who follow Him and trust the risen Christ as their Savior, Jesus continues to engage a world agonizing in the pain of its own selfish passions. He meets them in their spiritual darkness and reveals Himself.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
Check out Ron’s book, “Right Side Up Thinking in an Upside Down World ~ Looking at the World through the Lens of Biblical Truth”
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© 2023 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
Once again my friend, I find myself asking, “How did Mr. Ron hear my thoughts?” I was considering this very question this past week; although I know it’s entirely possible that you wrote this post months ago. The question I was reflecting upon is, “Do others see Christ living in me?” I often lament how there are times when it seems He is far away. Other times, He is (in His Words) “closer than a brother.” What I realized this week as you stated so eloquently, ““Once they had known Jesus, there was no returning to life as it was before they met Him.” “…there was not returning to life is it was before they met Him.” Oh, how that burns with conviction. I found myself asking this week that if He is truly in me, then why do I fail to show His presence in my life at times?” The answer, I can reconcile through God’s grace, is that He is not yet alone. While I remain in this world, the carnal human spirit I was created with will continue to battle with the Holy Spirit that I was gifted with upon salvation. Yet, it is up to me to choose, to deny myself and take up my cross by dying to myself throughout each day, that I can best display His presence in my life. Sometimes I fail, but God knew this and gives us 1 John 1:9 for a reason. It is in our reliance upon His strength and not our own that we can achieve the righteousness He expects from us. It’s nothing we can achieve on our own but our reliance upon Him in every moment is what enables us to draw closer to Him. And the closer we are to Him in each moment, the more others can say, “I have seen the Lord.” Amen and thank you for allowing God to use your words to validate those He placed upon my heart this week. God’s blessings and I pray you, Ms. Diane, and your entire family a blessed Easter my friend.
Just so you know, Brother, I didn’t write the piece months ago. It was just a day or two before I posted it, so maybe the Lord just likes keeping us on the same page. Whether He did it on purpose or not, it sure encourages me when that happens. That question you mentioned about whether others see Jesus when they look at us is a constant challenge to me, too. Like you so clearly pointed out, the battle against my natural inclinations goes on continually and as long as we’re stuck with this fallen human nature hanging around in us, that’s not gonna change. The amazing thing is that the Lord can reveal Himself in us in spite of all that. Thankfully, i’s not up to us to figure out how to reveal Him. It’s probably a good thing that we can’t see ourselves like others see us because the impact would doubtlessly bring a whole new set of problems. Because we don’t have that perspective, I’m convinced that Jesus is revealing Himself in us at times when we don’t have a clue that He’s doing it. For instance, I am quite sure that you may not have noticed some of the ways Diane and I have been sitting up here in Middle TN watching Jesus doing stuff around a ranch down in Texas.
The astounding that thing both of us can clearly see is that the risen, living Son of God was willing not just to love sinners like us, but to take on Himself every righteous consequence for the sins we committed. And as though setting us free from the judgment we deserve wasn’t enough, He adds to it by indwelling us and living our lives along with us. I feel sorry for the Holy Spirit sometimes and apologize to Him for having to live in such a cluttered up dude like me. He really gracious, though, and always says that it’s OK, ’cause He’s used to cleaning stuff up.
So as Diane and I engage in another Resurrection Sunday morning, we’re rejoicing along with you that Jesus lives. Chaos may be going on all around us, but for us, death is impotent, the grave is irrelevant, and hell is on top of the list of places we’ll never see. We’re so glad to have heard from you because it makes our morning brighter. You and your beloved bride have become so special to us. We’re praising God for the undeserved love you’ve offered, the encouragement you have blessed us with, and for the ways we’ve seen the Lord Jesus hanging out with you around the Cross-Dubya and just being Himself.
Every Holy Saturday, I’ve tried to put myself in the shoes of those first disciples, suffering existence in a world without Jesus. How hopeless and forlorn they must have felt! But the good news was coming, and it comes for us, too, when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
May your Easter be blessed, Ron and Diane!
Hallelujah, He is risen, Martha! Happy Resurrection Sunday. God bless you for once again making our day more blessed than it would have been otherwise. No matter how many ways the marketing world tries to take another holy time away from us, committed followers of Jesus like you and your family make it clear that there are still some of us who don’t compromise. May the presence of the risen Son of God be unmistakeable as you celebrate all the glorious implications that this day brings with it.
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