Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Second Day

For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
(Psalm 16:10)
The day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is traditionally called Holy Saturday. It is the Second day, stretched between the Cross and the Resurrection. It is a time of waiting. In the silence and stillness of this moment, it may seem like nothing is happening and that we have been abandoned, but it is in this in-between time that faith reaches its full measure.

David had prophesied this moment long before, in a passage deep with messianic hope. He speaks to God with calm assurance and in a voice bigger than his own:
I have set the LORD always before me;
Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will rest in hope.
For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalm 16:8-11)
It was a difficult time for David and he was in great need of God’s assistance, but the psalm begins, not with fear, but with a note of confidence. “Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust.” There is no sense of being forgotten or abandoned. There is only the recumbency of faith and the expectation of hope. God will reveal the path of life, fullness of joy and glory at His right hand.

On the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” It is the beginning of Psalm 22, which depicts and intense humiliation — the rejection of Messiah. Halfway through, though, there is a turning point where He declares, “You have answered Me” (v. 21), and the psalm finishes with grateful praise. In the Jewish manner of recalling an entire passage by reciting the opening lines, Jesus had the entire psalm in mind. Though, at that moment, He experienced most deeply the sense of being forgotten by God, He also knew that God would answer Him and that He would praise God “in the midst of the assembly” (v. 22). He would not be abandoned; God would deliver Him. Before He breathed His last breath on the cross, He said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.”

Now the Second day had come and Jesus was enshrouded and buried in the tomb. The disciples were still reeling from the events of the day before. How forsaken, how abandoned by God — and even by Jesus — they must have felt. He had promised them the kingdom of heaven; now the King was dead. Though Jesus told them ahead of time, on more than one occasion, of how He would be delivered up to death, He also spoke of the resurrection that would follow. Now they were in the in-between time and, traumatized by the cross, they could not see the promise of the Third day. But God had not abandoned them, just as He had not abandoned Jesus. It was just a time of waiting while the victory of the cross brought forth the victory of the resurrection (which revealed the victory of the cross).

It can be very easy to feel abandoned by God on the Second day, when life gets difficult and heaven is silent. When we cannot see what is happening “behind the scenes,” it so often seems like nothing is happening at all. But as Paul said, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). The power of the resurrection is at work and there is always a Third day.

Because God did not abandon Jesus, He will not abandon you. Even in the silence and stillness of the Second day, we have the promise of the Third. What is needed for the in-between time is the patience of faith.