As I reflect on the silence of Good Saturday, my thoughts return to another time of silence. In scripture, between Malachi and Matthew, profound silence lasted some 400 years for our Jewish brothers and sisters, the founders of our faith!
“’Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to the Temple. The messenger of my covenant of restoration, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (Malachi 3:1).
Malachi foretold the prophetic markers of the Messiah’s coming, the continuation of God’s covenant of promise proclaimed in Genesis. However, Malachi prophesies and then God goes silent… a disorienting 400 years of SILENCE.
From our modern perspective, we understand that this prophecy spoke of John the Baptist who “prepared the way” for Jesus (Mark 1:1-2). Jesus told His followers that John is the symbolic Elijah of the Old Covenant. However, John went “unrecognized by the religious leaders” of his day too (Matthew 17:10-13). Jesus tells those He calls to follow that some still fail to fully understand God’s reckless love. Nevertheless, God is working, even as some are SILENCED.
Indeed, “God’s ways are not like mans” (Isaiah 55:8). We easily discern scripture’s ongoing narrative of redemption. However, we can only imagine the profound confusion of that first Holy Saturday. Specifically, the religious works of silencing God’s chosen people. We have the opportunity to “fast-forward and/or rewind” the pages of scripture’s narrative and we can easily overlook the possible perspectives of those who were living out God’s work in and through them. I can scarcely wrap my head around the sheer hopelessness the disciples must have faced. Their racing minds clouded with the memories of recent events and the barrage of human emotions; of confusion, of disbelief, and of a despairing hopelessness. Their hearts broken and despondent, and yet... from man’s perspective God is SILENT.
Jesus’ body, the body of their Teacher, now lies lifeless and sealed in a borrowed tomb! The Son of God is dead and buried?! How can this be? His body being guarded by the Roman troops who committed unspeakable acts against Him. An innocent man killed by the Roman occupiers of Holy Jerusalem. They refuse any access to the tomb. The heartache and pain of that day I cannot begin to fathom. I would at least want to be at the tomb. The disciples broken, without their Teacher’s guidance, as they endure a bone-chilling SILENCE.
Jesus’ miraculous works & words still echoing in their questioning minds. Thoughts of the roaring crowds waving palms in adoration; watching as Jesus "tidied the temple" reminding everyone that God's house is for prayer not some religious club for fleecing God's people; listening as Jesus shared parables with the religious leaders to tell of God's love for ALL people and how to live right to reflect God’s love and life in His kingdom; trying to understand what Jesus meant by washing their feet during supper, their last meal with Him; wincing at the replay of what the soldiers did to Jesus in front of everyone; and re-hearing in their minds the sounds of the hammer strikes of hate nailing him to a cross while Jesus humbly took all of it - in SILENCE!
What has happened? This cannot be what God intended! NO! He was to supposed to restore Jerusalem to its former glory. God was supposed to make Jerusalem great again. Is that not what the Messiah was to do? How can this be? Now, today, the Highest & Holiest of Sabbaths… nothing but clouds of doubt, bitter sobs, surrounded by this deafening SILENCE!
Peter shares his perspective of what was happening in the unseen realm that Holy Saturday in 1 Peter 3:18-20, “Christ suffered and died for sins once and for all— the innocent for the guilty — to bring us near to God by his body being put to death… He went in the spiritual realm and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison because of their disobedience of long ago. For during the time of Noah God patiently waited while the ark was being prepared, but only a few were brought safely through the floodwaters: a total of eight souls. This was a prophetic picture of the immersion that now saves you — not a bathing of the physical body but rather the response of a good conscience.” God was ever-at-work even in subdued SILENCE!
Again, we can read ahead in scripture and easily overlook the profound sorrows the first followers faced. I am so thankful for them and the ones who first shared Jesus with me some 40 years ago. However, I can only imagine the things endured as they, the first who believed, sat stunned and profoundly saddened in a state of mind-numbing SILENCE.
But, this time the wait is shortened in God's gracious mercy. A "new thing" is occurring but the first believers are stunned and the religious shrug their shoulders in righteous indignation (Isaiah 43:19). Today, this Holy Saturday, so far removed from that time and place and culture, I still struggle with disbelief. I struggle with clouds of doubt. I still find it hard to believe sometimes. However, when my thoughts are silenced, when my spirit is reminded of His words... "fear not, all is well," I find peace in both… chaos in culture and God’s powerful SILENCE.
Retrospectively, many are seeing more clearly. Not only does God love ALL but in HIs ever-increasing revelation of Himself through His Holy Spirit’s work, GOD will not leave us in SILENCE!
Be who God needs you to be, for the sake of others! In the confusion, in the pain, in the heartache, Jesus overcomes for ALL who believe! Did He not?
Hold on, through the SILENCE…
Sunday is coming!
-Brad Ploof, UNLIMI†ED Contributor