That’s what I’ve always pictured Jesus’s disciples doing on Holy Saturday, the unbearably long day in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is the Sabbath, the day of rest, and it is eerily quiet in Jerusalem. According to the Gospel of John, “the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors, because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities” (20:19, GNB). But in the words of a great preacher, it may be Saturday… “but Sunday’s comin’!” The disciples just had to hang on, waiting, for a few more hours, and then their hope would be rekindled.
Except it wasn’t really like that at all.
As far as the disciples knew on Saturday, there would be no Easter Sunday. As far as they could discern, Jesus wasn’t coming back. Only in retrospect do we understand the disciples to have been waiting. For them, in the moment, Holy Saturday was now their permanent reality. Trying to go on without Jesus would now be their new normal, the sad, ongoing work of the rest of their lives.
For us too right now, our situation isn’t exactly one of waiting, if waiting implies that there is some horizon we know for certain we’re moving towards. There is no such horizon for us. We don’t have any guarantee when we might be able to gather again for public worship. We don’t know if or when appropriate vaccines and medications might be available to effectively treat the coronavirus. We don’t have certainty about our economic future. Many of us have no idea when or even whether we might be able to go back to work. We are, like the disciples that fateful Saturday, not so much waiting as struggling to endure. Not so much biding time as wandering aimlessly in the absence of reliable expectations.
But it’s precisely in this uncertainty that we will hear again — tonight as we keep Vigil, tomorrow morning as we welcome the dawn — the news that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. He won’t come to us again because of the strength of our faith. He won’t come to us because of how patiently we anticipated and prepared for His coming. He won’t come to us because we somehow managed to keep up our optimism, in spite of everything. Instead, He will come to us just like He appeared to his fearful disciples — in undeserved grace, just because He loves us. He will find us in our sadness, our sickness, our joblessness, our hopelessness, and He will say once again, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19).
Even when we do not know what to wait for, even when we cannot wait for Him, He will come to us with mercy.
Under that mercy,
Deacon Wes Hill