Hope deserted the disciples after Jesus’s death. Those were definitely the darkest of days, anguish filled hours after Jesus’s body was laid in the tomb. It was over. It was done. There was no coming back from this. There is no coming back from death. Well, ok, sure, they had seen Lazarus walk out of his tomb, still bound by his grave clothes. But that had been Jesus’s doing and now Jesus Himself was in the tomb. Who was going to call Him out?
These disciples, these followers of Jesus, had put all their hope in Him. They had followed Him faithfully for three years, watching what He did, learning from His words. And now He was gone to the grave, just like all the prophets, the priests and the kings who had come before Him. They had believed Jesus was different than the others. We read Peter’s confession in John 6:67-69,
” ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.’ ”
And so they believed. They put all their hope in Jesus. Now He was gone and their hope had gone with Him to the grave. In hope’s place, now sorrow, disappointment and fear filled the spaces in their hearts where hope had so recently reigned unchallenged as long as Jesus walked with them every day. But now Jesus was gone and hope was too. During these days after Jesus’s death (which turned out to be brief, only two, as Jesus walked out of the tomb on the third day) the disciples must have believed this was the end of everything – every hope, every dream, every possibility that Jesus had put before them with His proclaiming of the Good News of God, His promises of redemption, reconciliation and eternal life for mankind – all died with Jesus on that cross. Or so they must have thought during the days following His crucifixion and death.
How long those two days must have seemed! The disciples believed all was lost, forever. They couldn’t know there was a second act coming – that if they could just hold on and hang in, a miracle was on the way. They thought their path had dead ended. (unintended pun) As far as they could see, (which wasn’t all that far) there was not another bend in the road up ahead and so the hope of something better, something just out of sight, something around the next turn in the road, did not exist – it was not a possibility. But with God all things are possible, even what is impossible with man. Especially what is impossible with man. (Matthew 19:26) How soon the disciples forgot those words of Jesus!
As they grieved, the disciples didn’t know that their miracle was on the way, that their miracle was only mere moments away. To them, those moments after Jesus’s death were an eternity. To Eternity’s Keeper those moments were as fleeting as a firefly’s light on a summer night. Their Deliverer was coming! He would rise with the dawn on that third day. They would see Him again.
But the disciples didn’t know that. They didn’t seem to be recalling or holding on to Jesus words given to them when He was still with them.
“Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’ . . . But the temple He had spoken of was His body. After He was raised from the dead, His disciples recalled what He had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.” (John 2:19-22)
Then they believed, after Jesus rose from the dead and joined them where they were mourning together. Even then it took some convincing. We read what happened in Luke 24:36-48,
” . . . Jesus Himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at My hands and My feet. It is I Myself! Touch Me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’ . . . He showed them His hands and feet. . . . Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.’ ”
And just like that, hope was back! From death’s apparent ending, to life’s surprising new beginning, the disciples were back in business – returned to their original calling – following Jesus, proclaiming the Good News and making disciples of all whom God had created. Those were their marching orders until Jesus should return. We read about this in Acts 1:9-11,
” . . . ‘and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud his Him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.'”
Interesting isn’t it? Those following Jesus at the time of His crucifixion had to wait only two days before He rose from the dead and restored their hope. Now we have been waiting two thousand years plus for Jesus’s promised return. The need for hope is as great now as it was in those two post crucifixion days. I confess – difficulty and darkness threaten to make me lose my hold on hope but hope’s hands are holding onto me.
Like sailors on a stormy sea, if only we knew just how close we were to the shore, we would be encouraged not to give up hope. But we don’t know. We can’t see the shore, so we don’t know how much longer our wave tossed journey will last before we arrive at safe harbor. Until then, we hold on and hope. Our hope is in God. Psalm 30:11 says,
“You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,” Further, I am reminded,
“For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)
King David knew the pain of uncertain times when all seemed lost forever, yet he said during his most desperate days,
“I am still confident of this; I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 28:14)
Wait on God, hold on, hope, – I may be closer to safe harbor than I know – my vision is so limited. The day may be about to dawn, the sun to rise, the rain showers ready to fall, bringing the desert back to life, the winds to cease, the sea to calm, truth to take its rightful place, light to eliminate the darkness, good to supplant evil, reconciliation could be closer than I know, – hold on to hope – my Deliverer is coming!
“And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10)
sincerely, Grace Day