Tomorrow is Saturday!
Friday to many is crucifixion day. The day when Jesus was tortured, humiliated, and executed, upon the cross, hurting, bleeding, dying, looking down at the people forsaking him, denying him, betraying him, and in the greatest act of love in the Universe, He stayed. And 2 days later, Sunday, is the day believers sing for joy!
As Charles Wesley penned about Easter Sunday in 1746
See the Lord is ris'n indeed,
His Rise proclaim your Sins forgiven,
Go tell the followers of your Lord
Lives to quicken all Mankind.
Friday. Sunday. But in the middle, there’s Saturday! Why? Could God not just get on with it? Why tomorrow. It's a strange day. An in-between day. In between despair and joy. In between confusion and clarity. In between bad news and good news. In between darkness and light. For the early disciples of Jesus, Saturday was the day when they all woke up and realised ‘We have to go on’.
It was a day on which they remembered. Things he said. What he thought. Things he did. People he touched or healed. They remembered what it felt like when this Jesus wanted them. They remembered that they had hopes and dreams. They were going to change the world…but now it's Saturday. Saturday was also a day of questions. What in God's name just happened? What went wrong? Was he for real? What have we given our whole lives to?
And in some ways, every one of us knows Saturday. Saturday is the day your dream died. You wake up and you're still alive. You have to go on, but you don't know how. Worse you don't know why. Saturday comes in big and small.
In fact, Jewish people were used to three-day stories. The Old Testament was full of them. When Abraham was afraid to sacrifice Isaac, he sees the sacrifice that will save his son's life on the third day. Joseph's brothers get put in prison and they are released on the third day. Israelite spies are told by Rahab to hide from their enemies, and then they'll be safe on the third day. As we have recently read at Jubilee, when Esther hears that her people are going to be slaughtered, she goes away to fast and pray. On the third day, the king receives her favourably.
The Old Testament pattern: the first day is trouble, the third day is deliverance and on the second day there is….nothing - just the continuation of trouble. I guess the point of these stories is that until the third day happens, we think Saturday will go on forever. You never really know if Sunday will even come.
However, the early Christian writers thought differently and as a result, lived totally differently. Many around them would've thought history is just a cyclical, repetitive series of events. What comes around goes around. But this new minority were a people with a three day story, an in-between story. Saturday had meaning, Saturday was after Friday and pointed CERTAINLY to Sunday.
This In-Between story started with a tree in a garden called the Tree of Life, which suggested God’s goodness and provision for human beings. The story has a middle. Through the fall, the garden has somehow become lost, out of reach. The story has gone wrong. God’s goodness has been exchanged for a lie. This catastrophic ‘wrongness’ widens and goes deeper and stretches over centuries. And then when we come finally to the book of Revelation the Tree of Life makes a return appearance.
‘Either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22)’
There’s hope. Will all the sadness really come untrue?
As one famous Bible teacher writes, we are a people who live ‘between the trees’. We are not part of a random cosmic accident. We have a three-day story ourselves. Yesterday, today, tomorrow. Friday Saturday Sunday.
Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
As Ginny Burgin one of our ChristCentral Apostolic team leaders recently posted ‘we are a people who ' inhabit the in between' moving with ever-increasing glory, with hope, with purpose, to a light at the end of the tunnel. A light that will shine for eternity way beyond that tunnel.
In the West, although many people profess not to believe in God, we still yearn for a three-day story. For tomorrow. During the Enlightenment, some thinkers brushed off the notion of God, but they could not bring themselves to abandon all hope for an age to come. They renamed it ‘progress’. They said it would be delivered by education, technology or science. And although these were all good things, God-given gifts, in and of themselves, they did not bring Sunday. They still don't. Rousseau was wrong then and is still wrong now.
Then one day something phenomenal happened. One day a man named Jesus began his ministry with a single phrase about a life between the trees. A life that made sense of time itself. A life which he said was a leading somewhere. Tomorrow. The time has come. This was good news, joy news to the people inhabiting Saturday.
You see Saturday is not strictly speaking the place when nothing happens. Something does happen actually. Saturday is a day of silence. After trouble hits you, after the agony of Friday, you call out to God. Hear me! Listen to me! Respond to me! Do something! Say something….Nothing!
CS Lewis wrote a famous book ‘Surprised by Joy’ describing his coming to faith in Jesus at the older age of 57. Around that time he met a woman actually called Joy who he married. Up until then he was a bachelor all his life. But after publishing this book Joy died of cancer. His next book was a Saturday book. ‘A Grief Observed’.
This is what he wrote
‘When you are happy, so happy you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels— welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become… What can this mean? Why is he so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?’
We know this feeling don't we? I do. All too well. Why did my mum die of breast cancer at age 50? Why did my brother Robin commit suicide at the age of 28? Why did Joey’s friend's mum die of breast cancer a few days ago? Why was our friend Vickie Morpeth experiencing cancer to the point of no return? Sadly these Saturday questions don't go away. Heaven is often silent.
The Apostle Paul writes about this: how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? In other words, apparently, some people said, there is never going to be a Sunday. It's Friday. Get used to it. Some of us silently, secretly live there. We hide it. We dress it up. Simplistic explanations, denial, impatience, easy answers, artificial pleasantness, maybe forced optimism, cliched formulas, false triumphalism. It all out there. ‘Tomorrow Management’.
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.
But there is another way. A real way. A 'three day way’. Not denial, not despair, but waiting. Working with God even when he feels far away. Resting. Asking. Whining. Complaining. Trusting.
Why? Because after Saturday the God of Sunday will come for sure!
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Jesus inhabited our in-between world. He lived between the trees with us. The miracle of Sunday is that a dead man lives. The miracle of tomorrow, Saturday however is that the eternal Son of God lies dead. Somehow no suffering you go through is suffering Jesus will not endure in order to serve you. This helps me live out Saturday. Why? Because if you can find this Jesus in a grave if you can find him in death if you can find him in hell, where can you not find him? Where will he not turn up?
Deuteronomy 31: 8
It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
Although he may seem silent. Although he may feel distant. He is never ever not at work in your life. In fact in those silences sometimes his work is the greatest.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And that is the Joy News of Jesus that we bring to everyone everywhere. It really is. In Jesus, we have suffering God. A god who put his feet in our shoes. Corrie Ten Boom recounts her sister Betsy dying in her arms while incarcerated in Ravensbruck concentration camp, slim and bone, emaciated. She recalls Betsy saying;
‘we must tell people what we have learned here Corrie. We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that He [Jesus] is not deeper still…..They will listen to us, Corrie, for we have been there.’
That’s our greatest encouragement. Our greatest strength.
The Apostle Paul says in Romans 3:5:
There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! (MSG)
Tomorrow is Saturday. Between Friday and Sunday. A day God uses to transform your very soul. A day we cannot skip over. A day that makes sense of either side. A day of waiting and faith. A day of questioning and crying out. A day to not sit back. A very important day to God.
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