Easter is the most important day in the year for followers of Jesus. It is the day when we mark that Jesus was not just a wise teacher or a kind prophet, but that he truly was and is divine, the Son of God, come to earth to suffer the death penalty as a payment for our wrongdoings and to be resurrected as He conquered evil and death.
How do you celebrate Easter (if you do), and how did your family celebrate Easter growing up (if they did)?
The Easter story is a three-day story, yet Saturday is rarely discussed. We talk a lot about the two days on either side of Saturday.
On Good Friday the sky turned black, Jesus’ followers abandoned Him, the curtain in the temple was torn in 2; and Jesus died the excruciating death on the cross.
And for 2,000 years followers of Jesus have celebrated the day after Saturday—Easter Sunday—as the most death-defying, grave-defeating, fear-destroying, hope-inspiring, transcendent, joy-giving event in the history of the world.
But what about Saturday, the in-between day in this three-day story?
Good Friday had left the followers of Jesus shocked, angry, afraid, confused; all their hopes and dreams died along with Jesus.
Then a man named Joseph of Arimathea went and asked Pilate for Jesus’ body. He took it down from the cross, wrapped it in linen cloth, and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
For more than a day—from sundown on Friday until early Sunday morning—Jesus’ followers waited, feeling more powerless, more hollow, more hopeless, than they had ever felt in their lives.
In the Easter story, Saturday is the day when hope is dead.
For all that time, hope is dead and God is silent.
When is a time you’ve felt hopeless and wondered if God was really there or really cared?
There’s a word in the New Testament of the Bible that’s used to describe the painful experience of God’s silence: mystery.
Mystery is the thing that has most disappointed you in life, the thing you may never be able to understand or get over, the chapter that will never make sense.
Perhaps it’s the night police showed up at your front door with very difficult news. It may have been a diagnosis that rocked your family. It could be a fractured relationship or a financial or business collapse. Maybe it was a failed marriage or a painful betrayal by someone you trusted.
Part of the reason that first Easter Sunday was so good, is because the day before was so bad. Jesus’ dead body was sealed in a tomb, and we don’t find one person placing bets on His resurrection. On Saturday evening, no one is dreaming of Sunday morning. The disciples are in a total meltdown. When Jesus died, all their hopes and dreams were crushed.
This isn’t Sunday. This isn’t Friday. This is Saturday: the day God is silent.
If you could ask God one question, what would you ask Him?
There are two kinds of hope, and they are very different from each other.
When you hope for something, you are hoping for a particular outcome, for a particular circumstance to turn out the way you want it to.
Human beings are irrepressible hope-ers.
Hope is why kids go nuts at an Easter egg hunt, why entrepreneurs start businesses, why people go on first dates, why students go to college, and why couch potatoes buy exercise equipment from infomercials… and let them sit on a shelf in the garage!
What is something you’re hoping for currently?
Have a volunteer read 1 Peter 1:3.
The second kind of hope is when you put your hope in someone.
It’s not wrong or bad to hope for things, but ultimately, those things will not satisfy us; they will disappoint us.
Just ask anyone who’s ever been married if their hoped-for spouse fulfilled all of their hopes and dreams. Ask a wildly successful businessperson if that hoped-for success brought them peace and contentment. Ask an empty-nester if raising children brought ultimate fulfillment.
Every circumstance, every situation that we’re hoping for is going to wear out, give out, fall apart, melt down, or go away.
Notice the words hope and resurrection in 1 Peter 1:3. In the New Testament the word hope occurs 71 times. It occurs one time before the resurrection of Jesus but 70 times after the resurrection of Jesus.
God wants us to know real hope, genuine hope, comes from someone, and that person is Jesus Christ.
If you have put your hope in Jesus, have you found Him a worthwhile place to put that hope? Why or why not? If you have not put your hope in Jesus, what has kept you from doing so?
The message of Easter is that God does His best work in hopeless Saturday situations. The story of Easter is that set-backs are set-ups for a comeback. You have to remember that the story of Easter is not a one-day story. It’s not a two-day story. It’s a three-day story.
It was on Saturday, day two—while it appeared the disciples’ dreams had died and nothing was happening—that God was actually doing His best work yet. Saturday wasn’t the end. It was the set-up for the comeback. Saturday was the day God was engineering a resurrection. Three different times Jesus said he would come back to life, but no one imagined such a thing was even possible.
The problem with three-day stories is that you don’t know it’s a three-day story until the third day. When it’s Friday, when it’s Saturday, as far as you know deliverance is never going to come
Maybe you’re still waiting for your third day. Maybe there’s stress at work... Maybe you’re in a marriage that is falling apart, or that has already fallen apart. Maybe there is a son or daughter—somebody you love—who is str uggling or estranged from you or in prison. Maybe you have done the wrong thing, or said the wrong thing, or made a mistake that feels so big it could never be redeemed.
Or maybe life is going pretty well, and there is no crisis at all. But there will be one day. The death-rate is still hovering right around 100%. Whatever you are facing, whether it’s today or tomorrow or the next day, the promise of Jesus to everyone who receives Him is that there is hope, there is a third day coming, because God does His best work in hopeless situations.
When is a time when you’ve experienced a day three comeback, when you thought all hope was lost and yet God came through?
Divide up into groups of 2-3 and spend some time praying for each others’ Saturdays, those places in life where God seems to be silent, where it doesn’t seem like there’s an answer to the problems you’re facing.
Some of you may be feeling a tug to put your hope in Jesus for the first time or for the first time in a long time. If that is you, while you are praying with the group, simply tell God you trust Him, that you believe Jesus came and died to pay for the things you have done wrong and to give you hope. We would also encourage you to reach out to one of our pastors and let them know you made that decision. They would love to support and resource you as you begin your faith journey.
Anaheim: Will Johnston – email@example.com
La Habra: Norm Hamre – firstname.lastname@example.org
Park Rapids: Justin Domogalla – email@example.com