Luke 23:54-56 – It was the Preparation Day for the Sabbath, and the Sabbath was quickly approaching. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph. They saw the tomb and how Jesus’ body was laid in it, then they went away and prepared fragrant spices and perfumed oils. They rested on the Sabbath, in keeping with the commandment.
Gratitude Day 735
Today is a day of waiting. The day after Jesus’ death and the day before the rest of the story happens. The day between the most awful event and not knowing what will happen next.
I can’t imagine being those women who stood near the foot of the cross and watched Jesus die; some of whom were the first to go to the garden and find the empty tomb on Sunday morning. By Jewish law, they had to wait. My guess? Saturday was pure agony because they had to wait.
They had to be patient. They had no choice but to wait until the sun came up before they could give Jesus’ body a proper burial. Without adequate time on Friday afternoon, all they could do on Saturday was wait for Sunday.
How much patience do you have? Personally, my answer is, “It depends.” If I’m late for something and behind a slow car or at a stop light, my patience is not good. Other times, I can have patience. Unfortunately, there are some people I have more patience with than others. Usually, it’s the people that I should be more patient with whom I lose my cool too quickly.
I envision the hours dragging by on Saturday. The women would have gone about their normal Sabbath activities, but completely distracted by the events of the last days. How could they focus? What hope did they have for the future?
The story is so different for us because we know the ending. We’re not staring into tomorrow, unsure what will happen when arriving at the garden tomb. Obviously, the women made plans to get to the tomb at first light. They are prepared, ready to give the body a proper burial.
Until they found an empty tomb.
Personally, Easter has so much significance for me. Twenty-two years ago, I had my first Easter as a pastor. Four months earlier, I experienced my own awful, life-changing event. I had started dating a man, a man I often call Hubby Rick within this space. Two months into our relationship on a cold January night, his eldest son was killed in an awful accident. Those months between Nate’s death and Easter had been pure agony. I watched the man who would eventually be my husband become a shell of himself after losing his eldest son. He functioned … but sometimes, not well. He tried to make sense of a situation that was completely unsensible. Those four months between Nate’s death and Easter Sunday seemed like a lifetime.
Imagine my surprise when Rick proposed to me on Easter Sunday morning … in front of one of the congregations that I was serving at the time. He asked me to become his wife in front of the people who had watched him grow up and then later, watched his children grow up. His parents and sister were there, just as shocked as I was when he began a little speech at the end of the worship service, while everyone was still in the sanctuary.
It had been four long months of darkness. Here was this man, who had suffered so much, making lemonade out of lemons on Easter morning. It was the first big “monumental” holiday after Nate’s death. Rather than have the day be filled with sadness and pain, Rick wanted to make the day a joyous celebration. And boy, did he ever!
When asked why he proposed to me on Easter morning and in front of his church family, Rick often says he didn’t think there was any other way to propose to the pastor. He proposed to me in the very place where we first met, on the day I was hired to become a pastor. Within the same walls where Rick was confirmed and later, his three children were also confirmed. The very place where Nate’s funeral had been just a few months earlier, a day the church was overflowing with people and filled with so much sadness and heartache.
For weeks, Rick had been anticipating the hope and excitement of Easter morning. He needed the tomb to be empty because this gave him hope of something beyond life on this earth. While he had known this for years, it seemed to me that Rick needed to be reminded of this even more after Nate’s death. He wanted himself, me, and others to know there is hope beyond death. He needed joy and celebration of the empty tomb in his own life. Desperately.
I do not believe that Rick knows how God felt when his son hung on a cross and died. He doesn’t. Rick’s son did not die this way. But if there is someone who can relate to the pain of losing a child, it’s another parent who has lost a child. In this sense, Rick can relate to a degree. Every loss is unique and different. Losing a child puts people into a club that no one really wants to be a member of, nor wish anyone else will have to experience this type of membership.
Just like those women needed to get to the tomb and have hope for the future, Rick needed to get to Easter morning and hear the story of everlasting life once again. He chose to make it even more special by proposing to me on Easter Sunday, in front of a full house inside of the church where he grew up.
I do not really remember the Saturday before the day Rick proposed to me. I do remember Maundy Thursday and how this was not a good day for Rick. The Good Friday service was in a field and out in the country. The service was deeply meaningful, and my voice cracked at different times during the service as my emotions got the best of me. We started the service on the edge of the field. At the appropriate point in the scripture reading, volunteers carried three crosses up a hill where they were placed into prepared holes. My heart nearly broke as I watched Rick carry one of the crosses. The significance of him carrying a cross, just like Jesus did, seemed to be part of this journey he had been on the last few months. When people were invited to pound nails into the cross as a remembrance of what Jesus did for each of us, I noticed how Rick pounded two nails into the cross; one for him and one for Nate.
Today, is Saturday. We will have another day of waiting, the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. For years, this day has felt a bit strange to me. For most of these Saturdays during the last 22 years, I have been making final preparations for Sunday Easter worship; wanting it to be a significant celebration that we all desperately need.
Why do we need Easter? Because we all yearn for confirmation of hope of something beyond this world. We need to peek into the empty tomb ourselves and once again know that life conquers death. The songs and stories of Easter confirm for us that there is a different ending of the story than everyone anticipated.
I think of the women who were waiting to go to the tomb on Saturday and give the body a proper burial. How they patiently waited and waited because they had no other choice.
We have the choice of what to do today, as well as tomorrow. Will we patiently wait today and prepare our hearts to celebrate an empty tomb tomorrow? I pray we will. Because we all need to celebrate the joy of Jesus conquering death.
Friends – it’s been a long few years since the pandemic began. We watch what is happening in other parts of the world and shake our heads. We see the challenges that exist within our families, communities, country and world. And we need to make some lemonade out of all the ugliness that we see.
Let’s be patient today and wait for tomorrow. And tomorrow, let’s celebrate like crazy because the tomb is empty, and Jesus is alive!
For a day of waiting and hope for tomorrow, I am grateful.
Lord God – while we may or may not be very patient, I pray that we can take in this day of waiting. This day of knowing the story is not over and we have reason to hope. May we prepare our hearts for a joyous Easter celebration tomorrow. Amen.
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