Friday, April 3, 2015

The Dark Side of Sunday

It is Friday night. I just returned from attending an Easter cantata at a local church that begins in the fall each year preparing for a deeply impactful ministry to our community.

Through song and story, we walked through the life and ministry of Jesus’ here on earth. We remembered His birth, re-lived His miracles and life-changing teaching, reflected on His suffering, and rejoiced in His resurrection. Hope, amazement, anguish, sorrow, joy. All these emotions and more poured into a two-hour recounting of the greatest story ever told.

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As the story unfolded, several songs bridged the gap between the sorrow of the cross and the victory of the empty tomb. Here on the bright side of Sunday morning, we can see how the story of the cross turns out. We know that weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5b) We know that their sorrow and loss did not last forever. We know that hope and joy was just around the corner.

Not so for Jesus’ disciples. That night over two thousand years ago, Jesus’ followers grieved on the dark side of Sunday.

Jesus had told them what was going to happen to Him. He had told them that he would suffer and die. He had explained to them that this was necessary. He had even let them know that He would come back. In spite of all this, His closest followers seemed to not really understand.

Perhaps they didn’t even begin to grasp the significance of Jesus’ mission. Perhaps they still thought that Jesus would one day fulfill the hope of Israel by becoming a king who would lead them to freedom from the tyranny of Rome. If that is what they were hoping for on that dark side of Sunday, they would not have realized that Jesus had taken onto Himself the brokenness and bondage of the world, so He could set His creation free from the tyranny of sin and death.

Maybe some understood that their Master and Friend had come purposefully to suffer and die so He could bring His people back to Himself. Perhaps they believed that He would rise again. Yet on the dark side of Sunday, they felt keenly a sense of deep grief and profound loss. We can understand that grief. It is the grief that mourns the passing of a loved one, even though we have hope that we will see them again someday in heaven. We know that death is not the end, yet we mourn the loved one’s loss in the here and now. Even those who have hope still mourn on the dark side of Sunday.

Then there were those, like Peter, who had denied that he even knew the One who was his dearest friend. He had left Jesus alone in His darkest hour. The fact that Jesus knew all along that he would do so was no comfort. On the dark side of Sunday, Peter carried the crushing weight of failure and regret.

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All those gathered together behind locked doors hid in fear of the Jews. Their Master and dearest Friend had just suffered the most brutal execution. For all they knew, they might be next. Numbed by the very thought of His suffering, perhaps they sat in silence. Terror lurked in the shadows on the dark side of Sunday. Fear stalked them in the night.

The dark side of Sunday is not a place anyone wants to stay. Thankfully, we don’t need to remain there. Yet on Good Friday, it might be beneficial to linger for a time in that place of sorrow. Perhaps we should allow ourselves to truly feel the weight of the sin and shame that Jesus took on Himself so we could be free of it. Give God time to impress upon us the extent of Jesus’ love—a love that led Him to lay down His life for you and me.

Jesus reaches out to each of us in the midst of grief and sorrow and loss. Let’s meet Him in a special way right here, right now—on the dark side of Sunday.

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