Saturday, April 8, 2023

Devotional thoughts based on the chronology of the Passion Week

The Day After

As I look out my window this morning, I see the morning light starting to break over the horizon, as the dark clouds of night slowly recede, giving way to the coming daylight.

This weekend is most sacred throughout Christendom, as Christians worshipfully reflect on and celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  However, it wasn’t that long ago (about 3 years) when the dark clouds of COVID-19 impacted the church’s traditional celebration of Christ’s victorious conquest over sin and death.  How?  Governmental authorities at every level (“little caesars”) issued mandates banning public gatherings of ten or more people, including churches – no exceptions – to prevent the further spread of the “plandemic.”

I wonder how Jesus’ disciples felt on Saturday, the day after their beloved Rabbi died on the cross.  For them, the dark clouds of death and sorrow hung over them and all Jerusalem.  Among Jesus’ disciples, hope had almost vanished.  There was no light on the horizon for them, yet.  But hope was on its way.  There is just one more day and then God would execute His most glorious act by raising Jesus from the dead with a glorious new body.  More on this wonderful event in tomorrow’s devotional.  But for now, let’s ponder the day after Jesus died.


As the Preparation Day [Good Friday] was ending, the Jewish priesthood had asked Pilate not to have the crucified “criminals” remain on their crosses, especially on the Sabbath, which was only a few hours away.  The religious leaders did not want to corrupt their religious traditions.  Therefore, they asked Pilate to break the legs of the three crucified individuals to hasten their deaths (John 19:31f).

Granting the Jews’ request, Pilate directed the Roman soldiers to smash the femurs of the crucified men.  When the soldiers came to Jesus, they saw He was already dead.  So, with a spear, the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side from which blood and water immediately gushed out (John 19:33f).

Joseph of Arimathea had secured permission to remove Jesus’ dead body from the cross.  Hastily, he and Nicodemus and others prepared Jesus’ body for burial and laid Jesus’ body in the new tomb, since it was nearby (John 19:38-42).  As for the women who had followed Jesus from Galilee, they took note of the tomb’s location so that they might return the day after Sabbath to prepare spices and fragrant oils for Jesus’ dead body (Luke 23:54-55).


It’s now Saturday.  What’s happening?  Where is Jesus?  Where are His disciples? 

FIRST, after sundown on Friday, the beginning of the Sabbath, the chief priests and Pharisees came to Pilate again, asking the Roman governor to seal Jesus’ tomb because they had remembered what Jesus said, He would rise in three days (Matthew 27:62-66; John 2:19-21).

Concerned that Jesus’ disciples would attempt to steal away His body and claim that Jesus had risen from the dead, the religious leaders wanted to secure the tomb for at least three days.  Moreover, since the religious leaders did not understand the power of God, they believed a Roman seal could prevent Jesus from rising from the dead.  What a ludicrous idea! How could a Roman seal and several temple guards prevent the resurrection of Jesus? 

SECOND, as for the disciples, they were hiding because they feared being apprehended by the authorities and experiencing a similar fate just like their Rabbi, being crucified.  Therefore, the idea that the disciples could muster up enough courage, overwhelm the guards, roll away the huge stone that sealed the tomb, and carry away Jesus body is not plausible.

THIRD, do you remember Jesus’ promise to the repentant thief who was dying on the cross next Jesus?  Jesus said, “Today, you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).  Well, Jesus’ spirit (Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit) was in heaven, along with the spirit of the repentant thief.  As for their lifeless bodies, they were in the grave.   

Some teachers of Scripture believe Jesus descended into hell to preach the gospel to the dead saints, based on 1st Peter 3:18-22.  This is an erroneous interpretation as it contradicts Hebrews 9:27. While there is much more that could be said about this view, I will reserve my commentary for another time. 


So, what are the takeaways as we reflect on the day before Resurrection Sunday?  Sometimes, what we have known and understood about God makes no sense to us; yet, God calls His people to trust Him, to believe His Word, to maintain hope, to watch, and to wait with expectation for God’s promises to be fulfilled.  This is what it means to walk by faith and not by sight. 

If a true pandemic (or a governmental “plandemic”) comes upon our world in the future, may the church find hope and courage in the following words of Martin Luther, when the bubonic plague known as the “Black Death” devastated Europe in 1527: 

Therefore, I shall ask God to mercifully protect us.  Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it… If God should wish to take me, He will surely find me, and I have done what He expected of me.  If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid person or place but will go freely. — Martin Luther. “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague.”

A.J. Swoboda writes, “it is the anguish of our uncertainty that gives shape to our God-given faith.”  I agree.  Therefore, like Jesus’ disciples, we too experience “Saturdays” when our faith in God is tested.  Nevertheless, wait on the Lord.  Do not try to hasten through “Saturdays” but embrace the struggles and reflect on the glory of God, even if those “Saturdays” lead you and me to a cold, dark tomb. 

Watch.  Wait.  God is about to do something great!


Heavenly Father, sometimes it is painful for us to endure challenging times.  The psalmist wrote, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in You” (Psalm 56:3).  And, “weeping may endure a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b).  Just as your disciples wept that night and all day on Saturday, so do Your disciples, today.  It seems that awkward Saturdays are more numerous than the good days we experience.  Help us not to lean on our own understanding but in all our ways to trust You and Your Word (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Here is a blessed hymn to encourage you along the way today.  “It Is Well with My Soul”


Pastor Phil

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