The challenge for us is to live in the daily sorrow with faith and hope. When we don’t know the outcome. When we don’t know resurrection is coming.
We could say those early disciples should have known. Jesus had been explicit enough with them, after all. He had talked of resurrection enough that the Romans decided to put a guard and seal on the tomb just in case someone tried to steal the body away and proclaim further insurrection through resurrection. But the disciples weren’t in any position to mount a coup d’état. They were crushed.
Everything had been hurtling to a climax in just a few hours. Imagine their feelings: disbelief that the betrayal came from within their own ranks, fear and denial, hope that the trial might result in acquittal, the agony of watching a loved one die, the sense of helplessness and hopelessness. And the questions. Those hollow, unanswered questions. Why, God? Why did You let Him die? Why didn’t You come with Your crowds of angels and rescue Him? Why?
For anyone who has been bereaved, this is familiar territory. Numbness. Denial. The sense that the world has changed irrevocably. I wonder where they all went, these women standing on Golgotha. Did they eat food that tasted like cardboard? Did they listen to other people laughing without a care in the world and want to scream? We don’t know. But Good Friday always makes us pause at the weight of sorrow.
We want to step ahead, to run to the empty tomb, to proclaim the victory. But we do well to pause here.
For most of life is spent here, in the valley of the shadow of death. In not knowing the answers. In having hope crushed and in not really understanding, for the most part, what on earth is going on.
When death comes, we feel life is impossible. Each morning, we wake to the sick knowledge that it wasn’t a dream or a nightmare; the loss is real. For many today, this is the reality of coronavirus or even cancer or heart disease or road accidents (statistics which aren’t being thrust on us in the same way.) People are not consoled by the thought of a loved one having lived a good life or sacrificing themselves for the greater good. They weep and they ache.
But death is not the end.
It takes faith to believe that.
It takes a miracle-working God to achieve that.
As we linger at the cross, we only see loss and sorrow and failure. But this is the place where the work of salvation was finished.