Nobody’s ever had to live through an Easter like this.
That’s what I keep hearing. In some small but important ways, that’s true.
Everything feels like it’s shrinking. Our lives are now confined to only the necessary places — home, the store, work — and the necessary people — those we live with. All those other facets of our lives have been stripped away, and in their places are holes we can’t seem to fill.
I’ve noticed that time has shrunk as well. Before all of this happened, it was nothing for me to live my life a week or so in advance. Always planning things, always so focused on what was ahead that I often lost sight of what was right in front of me. But no more. Now there’s really no point in living a week in advance because weeks don’t feel like they exist anymore. Everything could change by next Friday, or maybe nothing will. We just don’t know. So what’s the point in planning anything?
Days, too — they’ve changed in a fundamental way. Sunday through Saturday doesn’t carry the same weight as it once did. There were once seven days, and those seven days made a week, and 52 of those weeks made a year, and that was the basis by which we all measured our progress through this life. But now those seven days have been whittled down to the only three that maybe have ever really counted:
Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.
Yesterday, back when the world was as normal as any of us could expect and we were living as though our lives were as solid as the mountains outside my window. Change would come, we all somehow knew that, but it would come slowly, gradually, and from a distance long enough that we could see it well in advance.
Tomorrow, which is so filled with uncertainty and fear right now that most of us try to avoid thinking much about it at all.
And today, this moment we’re all trying not to sink inside, where so much of what we think and do is spent just trying to keep safe without losing our hope.
So yes, it sounds right on the surface. Nobody’s ever had to live through an Easter like this.
But the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that’s not true. Surely down through the ages there have been other Easters when so much went wrong in such a hurry. Moments in history when everything felt broken to the point that people wondered if it could all be put back together again. I could maybe dig out some of my wife’s old college history textbooks and find some examples, but I don’t need to. One Easter has stood out in my mind all week as the perfect parallel to what we’re all facing right now.
That first one.
Of the three days that make up the holiest weekend of the Christian calendar, two of them are given the due they deserve. Good Friday and Easter Sunday are so ingrained in our hearts and (believe it or not) our culture that it’s easy to miss what exactly they mean for all of us. But that day in between — that’s the day I’ve spent so much time thinking about lately, because that’s the one that describes exactly where we are at the moment.
Not Good Friday or Easter Sunday, but Holy Saturday.
I only know it’s called that because I looked it up, thinking that day had to have some sort of adjective attached to it. And it’s the perfect one, don’t you think? Holy.
“Venerated as or as if sacred; having a divine quality.”
We know the story of Good Friday. We celebrate the events of Easter Sunday. But the Bible is strangely silent about the Saturday in between, leaving us to only imagine what that day was like for the disciples Christ left behind. Men and women who were suffering from the so much that went wrong in such a hurry. Who were facing their own shrunken world of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Yesterday their world lay drenched in beauty. They spent their days at the feet of their Lord, watching in wonder as the sick were healed the poor were given hope, astonished at every turn that God could be so loving, so gentle and kind.
Tomorrow was an unbearable thought. So much was made unknown now, their hopes dashed by the memory of the dead man hanging from a cross. What comfort could tomorrow bring? What meaning could the coming years provide when life itself felt so meaningless?
Which left them only with today, that first Holy Saturday. They woke from an uneasy sleep heartbroken by the feeling that life as they knew it had come to an end. Everything they had believed had come to nothing. Far from beautiful, their world had become a place of danger, leaving them to hide indoors for fear of the same death suffered by their savior.
Sounds familiar in a way, doesn’t it?
That’s where we are right now, you and I. We’re living out our own Holy Saturday, only ours will last months instead of hours. Caught between a yesterday that aches upon its recollection like pressing on a bruise, and a tomorrow that only offers more of the same.
Like every other Christian with any common sense, my family will spend this weekend at home. We’ve never had to go through an Easter like this. That’s why it will be so special.
Because we know what those men and women on that first Holy Saturday did not — there is a power beyond all sickness and death, a certainty that can tame any doubt, and a hope that transcends anything that threatens to befall us.
That is why even in these days we can yet laugh. That is why we can stand strong. And that is why if I could somehow find those few men and women hiding in fear on that first Holy Saturday nearly two thousand years ago, I would tell them the same as I tell you:
Hang on, because joy comes in the morning.