Hope in the Saturday…

We talk a lot about the Friday when Jesus died on the cross. We call it “good” Friday, and indeed the outcome was so much more than just good. I guarantee, though, that His followers would not have called it that!

Let’s look for just a moment at Luke 5 where several of the twelve men closest to Jesus met Him for the first time (verses 1-11 & 27-28). It says they “left everything” and followed Him. They and others were with Him for three years of ministry. They had seen many miracles of healing, provision, and even the dead being raised. They believed Jesus Christ was the Messiah, the One who would come and establish His Kingdom and bring freedom from the oppression they lived under. They walked away from the lives they had known, certain that they had chosen the winning side.

Now three years later, it seemed all that had changed. The one they had given up everything for had been beaten, mocked, humiliated, spit on and crucified. He must have seemed anything but the victorious King they expected.

Usually, when I hear people talk about Good Friday, as soon as Jesus is in the tomb, they fast forward to Sunday, to the part of the story we all like to think about – the resurrection, the VICTORY! Let’s not fast forward though… Let’s spend a few minutes in the shoes of those who couldn’t just read the next chapter in their Bible.

These were the men who would write their stories for us to read and learn from for centuries to come. The scriptures they had available to them talked of a promised Savior whose Kingdom would not end (Is. 9:2-7) But those dream were gone, apparently, and they had nothing left… nothing aside from fear and probably guilt (Matt. 26:56-58). In the time when their master was taken away, the disciples took off, scattering in fear. Peter followed at a distance long enough to deny Jesus and then fled.

There is very little written about the Saturday after Jesus died because it was the Sabbath. Very little could be done on the Sabbath by anyone under the law. All that we’re told happened was a guard being put on the tomb (Matt. 27:62-66).

Next time we see the eleven apostles, they are sitting in a locked room, in fear for their lives because of their association with Jesus. I imagine them sitting there in disbelief – their minds and hearts a tumultuous mixture of sadness, anger, guilt, confusion and despair, wondering how they could have gotten it so wrong. Even when they were told the good news that Jesus had risen, they refused to believe it (John 20:19, Mark 16:7, 10-14).

What I find amazing about their disbelief in His resurrection is that He had told them a number of times recorded in the gospels that He would be killed and rise again on the third day. Their despair was so complete they had given up on His words to them. They had expectations for how the prophecies and promises about the Messiah would look, and this loss did not fit into their plans. When their expectations weren’t met, they gave up on His words altogether.

They had seen Jesus bring life in place of death several times before, but surely the One doing the miracle had to have life in Him in order to speak it into something else, right? They were forgetting His words to Martha when He raised her brother, Lazarus, back to life (John 11:25-26). He didn’t just HAVE resurrection and life to give others. He IS those things! He said in John 10:10 that He came that we might have life, and have it abundantly.

Are there dreams you’ve had to bury? Have you expected God to do something and experienced despair when your hopes seem to go up in smoke? Do you believe He is who He says He is, and He can bring the abundant life He has promised – even from a place of despair and death?

This week, as we celebrate the incredible event that changed history and eternity, don’t be too quick to skip from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning. Think of the disciples in their locked room, filled with fear and despair so completely that they had given up on His words to them. What pieces of your own heart have been locked away in fear or despair? Invite Jesus to show up and bring life and hope in those locked places just as He did for His friends so many years ago. He is still the same today as He was when He appeared to them long ago.

Distinguishing “the Undead”…

One of my favorite musicians, Andrew Peterson, has just released a new album. An early frontrunner for my favorite song is “The Rain Keeps Falling.” It has a verse that talks about planting seeds and waiting for the death to bring forth new life.

I think this speaks to me because I have been thinking lately about what happens to dreams when they are buried. Sometimes they end up in a crypt, dead forever, mourned and moved beyond. Some become seeds, buried and left to grow, and one day, break the surface again with new life.

Lately I have been wondering though, are all dreams that come back to “life” again meant to live? As I pondered this question recently, I realized that my brain is odd because I very quickly came up with three options for the reanimation of buried dreams. I find this very odd because I’m not interested in the current fascination with zombies or anything of the kind. In fact, I’m not even sure the following descriptions would fit with what the dictionary or traditional definitions are. Nevertheless, these are the options that came to mind:

1. Resurrection – Something is fully alive again. The only true resurrections to take place are brought about by the power of God. He is the One who breathed life into our very being, and He is the only One who can still bring life into the deepest parts of us. Physical death was not the only death over which Jesus was victorious.

2. Zombie – Based on the tiny bit I understand from the stories that have been so popular lately, zombies are the victims of a virus or bacteria that spreads from one person to another. In other words, it is a “natural” phenomenon that makes these “undead.”  It is possible that our own natural desires can bring dreams to the surface again.

3. Necromancy – In an episode of BBC’s Merlin, the villain reanimated someone who had died in a previous episode. The process was called necromancy, and the purpose of bringing this character back to “life” was to wreak havoc in the lives of the show’s heroes. The man brought “back from the dead” did not have his true life back. He didn’t have his memories, and he was totally under the control of the one who brought him back. It occurred to me as I suddenly remembered this episode that sometimes our buried dreams might break the surface again, appearing to be raised to life. In reality, however, they are simply reanimated by our Enemy as a distraction or disruption to what God is doing in us.

Those are the options that came to mind for how my dreams, once buried and mourned were suddenly back. Now the trick is to distinguish which is the one that has brought the dreams to the surface once again… Are they truly alive? Or are they “zombies” that will just eat away at me until I am able to banish them to the crypt once again? Have they grown from a seed that God planted in my heart? Or are they merely empty shells reanimated by my own mind or even the Enemy of my heart? In some cases, they aren’t even solid hopes but simply ghosts that haunt my mind and heart.

Unfortunately, I don’t yet know which is the case in my current situation. I don’t have a definite answer for how to distinguish between the “undead” options. It isn’t always obvious when you’re in the middle of warring emotions – hope for resurrected dreams versus fear of having to bury and mourn for them yet again…

What I do know is that until I figure it out, my heart is safe as long as it is surrendered to the One who loves me and can breathe life into those places in me that I am not even aware of yet. He will bring the growth and the increase of the things that He has planted, and He will sustain me through the process of pruning and even through the burial of those things that are not meant to live. He knows what is best for me, and I am thankful that I don’t have to settle for less than His very best.