Palm Sunday today begins Holy Week, seven strange days of mixed emotions. On this day the crowds hailed Jesus with their “hosannas,” just warming their voices to cry out for His crucifixion less than a week later.
I confess that as a pastor, I have always really liked Easter Monday, the day I catch my breath after a long week of special services.
A few weeks back, we shook our heads as Mardigras was celebrated with gusto in some cities as the last day to revel before the beginning of Lent.
Ash Wednesday’s symbol on our foreheads helped us begin the solemn 40-day journey to the Cross,
This year, our usual community gathering on Maundy Thursday will more appropriately be an intimate family gathering in our homes, much like the one Jesus had with the disciples in the upper room as He celebrated the Lord’s Supper for the first time.
I think we always know how to do Good Friday, usually thinking about the cross and the price paid for our redemption with one eye firmly already on the joy and power of Easter Sunday morning.
But we don’t do well with Easter Saturday. We don’t do well with delayed gratification. We want it now, even if we have to buy it on credit. We want the painkillers that dissolve quickly with fast immediate action.
We know that Jesus has won the decisive battle. It’s over. He said it Himself on the cross. Why the agonizing wait? Why doesn’t He rise from the dead the very next morning?
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.
There are important reasons of course.
The days in the tomb proved that Jesus was really dead and that His Resurrection wasn’t just some sort of reanimation after He had passed out from pain. God wanted the Pharisees and the Romans to do their best, to set up the guard to try to contain Him – so that the victory would be total and complete and unmistakable. And other texts in the New Testament tell us about things we think Jesus was doing between His death and Resurrection.
But more importantly the wait was for the disciples. As hard as the wait is for us, imagine what it was like for them. They had heard Jesus talk about His Resurrection, about coming back to them in a little while, but they had never seen anything like this and had no concept of what to expect. All they knew is that the one they loved and worshipped was apparently dead and gone. The disciples on the Emmaus road so poignantly say “We had hoped …” (Luke 24:21)
But the wait is for us too. We need to learn that there are moments when we are at the end of our own strength, when events beyond our control have played out, when all hope seems lost in human terms and there is nothing more that we can do. Nothing more but wait to see how God intervenes. This is the lesson of Easter Saturday …
“It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:26)
Lord Jesus, as we wait, teach us to wait patiently. We wait in hope with Gordon McPhee and his family as Margaret was cremated yesterday and we long to be able to celebrate her life, and with Debbie’s family as they have lost a beloved uncle, brother, father and friend … and with our hearts going out to the many families whose loved ones have been lost to this pandemic. We wait in hope with those who suffer from COVID 19 including David Arrayet’s brother, praying for their comfort and their healing. We wait in hope grateful for the caregivers and others on the frontlines still standing in the breach for our health and safety. We wait in hope grateful for the interim measures being taken by our governments and by community groups to relieve financial pressures, isolation and other effects of this pandemic. But above all, we wait in hope, for our salvation, and for the redemption of our world, looking to the God of creation, the One who alone has been our Help in ages past. Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation! O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation! All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near, Join me in glad adoration. Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth, Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth! Hast thou not seen how thy desires e’er have been Granted in what He ordaineth? Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee! Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee; Ponder anew what the Almighty can do If with His love He befriend thee. Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him! All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him! Let the amen sound from His people again; Gladly forever adore Him. Amen