On this Silent Saturday, I read the last two chapters in my journey through the New Testament reading plan that I’ve been going through with two close friends. It was fitting, that it was the last two chapters of Matthew—his version of the crucifixion and resurrection. Of course, I don’t think that was a coincidence, even though technically I should have been done a week ago. This quarantine has thrown everything off, but I don’t think that was one of the things. What occurred (or rather, didn’t occur) out of distraction, preoccupation, and suddenly becoming an elementary teacher again, God meant for good.
Michael talked in a church update video about Silent Saturday and how the disciples must have been feeling on that day, how they didn’t yet have the hope for Sunday morning that we get to enjoy and celebrate today. I’m looking forward to celebrating that Hope tomorrow morning.
When he was talking, I was thinking about how it kind of feels like we are sitting in an endless round of Silent Saturdays. Every day feels the same, we’re all wandering around aimlessly (inside our home, that is) looking for stuff to keep us occupied while we wait, for what we aren’t even sure. An end to this madness. Freedom to go shopping for more than essentials again. The chance to worship corporately again. The opportunity to hug our mamas. A treatment. A cure. A miracle. Sure, we have some ambiguous dates for possible quarantine lifts, but also at least some possibility of quarantine extensions, too. There’s just so much we don’t know. And life will probably never be the same.
That’s likely how they felt, too. Their world, the one they’d been living in for 3ish years anyway, came crashing down in a weekend. Life would never be the same. They’d been going along, believing things were only going to get better, until Bam! Everything stopped. Their Comfort was gone. They were stuck in their homes, not sure when it was going to be safe to leave, if the government was coming for them, if they’d misunderstood the Message, if they’d misread the signs. Was it going to get better? Was it going to get worse? Are we safe out there? Are we safe in here?
But then, on Sunday morning, the women showed up. Matthew 28:8 says “the Marys” departed from the tomb “with fear and great joy.” They’d just gotten some AMAZING news from a pretty reliable news source (Angel News Network?) But still, what did it mean for the future? I’m comforted by this. These women had gotten the best news of their lives, and yet, they were still maybe a little unsure, while also really, really excited at the possibility. I’m glad I don’t have to be 100% sure of everything all the time to be excited about the kingdom or for God to use me.
Meanwhile, Jesus, no doubt knowing the potential unease that would accompany their joy, went ahead of the women with visible proof (HIMSELF) that the news was, indeed, NOT FAKE NEWS. “Do not be afraid,” He said when they got to Him. “Go share the ANN article with your friends list. I’m here, I’m alive, and I’m going ahead of you.” They didn’t even have to verify their source or check to make sure it wasn’t satire or anything. (I might have paraphrased/modernized that just a little bit.)
So when the disciples got the news, it was likely the first hope they’d had in 36ish hours. They probably had a little “fear and great joy” going on, too. We know this is likely because Matthew tells us that “when they saw him, they worshiped, but some doubted.” They believed enough to go on to Galilee like the directions said, but they obviously weren’t 100% sure either, even after they saw the proof. But it doesn’t say Jesus kicked them out, instead, He gave them further directions, followed by an encouragement: “I am with you always…” In other words, “I’m going ahead of you.” Wherever they went to fulfill His mission, He was there. Wherever we go to fulfill His mission, He is there. And we don’t have to be at 100% all the time, either.
Friends, there’s a lot of uncertainty right now. It feels like we are in an endless cycle of Silent Saturdays. We don’t know if we are going or coming because, well, we’re not doing either. We don’t know when it will be safe to leave the house. Some of us might be afraid the government is coming for us, or at least for our freedoms. We aren’t sure if we’ve been too cautious or not cautious enough. Our comfort is gone. (But not our comfy clothes, thank goodness, right? Lounge-wear is ALL OVER my Instagram feed!) Is it going to get better? Is it going to get worse? Are we safe out there? Are we safe in here?
There’s a lot of “stuff” out there to fill our minds and our news feeds. None of it has been provided by the reliable ANN. A LOT of it has some sort of slant one direction or the other. Much of it feeds our confirmation bias, some of it fuels our outrage culture.
But there’s one Source who is absolutely reliable, and this piece of news we can hold as sure: He is going ahead of us.
- He went ahead of us into a brutal death, so that our earthly suffering can end when our souls leave this world.
- He went ahead of us into Hades, so that we can skip that entirely. (If you’re not sure this is true for you, message me! I would LOVE to help you understand!)
- He’s gone ahead of us into however many Silent Saturdays (Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays…) we have left in this quarantine.
- He’s gone ahead of us into a future full of medical, financial, governmental, educational, social, emotional unknowns.
- He’s gone ahead to prepare a place for us.
And when we get to all those places, he’s already there.
But He’s also here. Right now. Always. Even to the end of the age.
That is our Hope this Easter. And every Easter. And every Sunday. And every Silent whatever-day-of-the-week-this-is.
Etta Waller Linton serves at First Baptist Church, Sulphur, Louisiana. Her husband Michael is the pastor.