You wake up and, for a moment, feel like you’ve had the worst dream of your life . . . and then you realize it wasn’t a dream. You lie there and hope, and go over the day before, but then you realize, that hope as you might, yesterday really happened. Yesterday you watched them beat and mutilate and mock and kill the One you had thought was God’s Son, the One you had left everything to follow, the One you had endured hostility and persecution to walk behind, the One who had maybe cast seven demons out of you, or had healed you of a crippling disease . . . the One who had offered you love and hope and peace with God when others condemned you and judged you and looked at you with contempt and cast you out.
Yesterday, after the earthquake and the darkened sky and the rumors of dead people walking around Jerusalem, you had hoped, waited, for something to change. You’d seen Him die, there was no doubt about it, but didn’t the signs in the sky mean something? Weren’t the Heavens displaying their anger—and He was going to awaken on the cross, or right after Joseph took Him down, and display your justification, and destroy your enemies, and prove He was God?
You’d waited, and waited, and hope had begun to die, and slowly fear, and numbness, and uncertainty, and hopelessness had crept in. You had watched evil win, and goodness die . . . but was He even good if He had lied and deceived so many of you? Yesterday, every secret knock on the door as you hid from the Jews, every rushing person past the window, awakened a hope. You sat up, crying in your heart for someone to tell you it had changed. But, eventually, somehow, exhausted and drained and broken and racked with sorrow, you’d fallen asleep and awoken this Saturday morning, hoping it had all been a bad dream, but the dirt on your clothes from last night where you’d fallen to the ground sobbing shatters even that hope and testifies that yesterday really happened. Jesus is dead—and He didn’t even defend Himself! He didn’t even DO anything to stop them! Anger at Him mixes with your sadness in a horrible soup in your soul. Two days ago you life had purpose and meaning and direction—you were a follower of Jesus! Today He is dead, and you have . . . nothing! Even worse, you have nowhere to go back to—you are alienated from all that you left, and there is no place for you any longer. Two days ago you had dared to believe that even your life might be redeemable before God . . . but today, you realize you are without hope of redemption at all.
Today is the darkest of days. The Jews continue their celebrations and feasts, and the One who offered you freedom from the law and religion and guilt and fear of God continues to lie in the grave. All of the ones who warned you about Him, and who threw you out for following Him, were right and you were wrong. Now what? You’ve left everything, for what? For a lie? Now, each footstep outside the window brings fear. Are you the next one to be arrested and crucified? Are all the promises and hope and love and acceptance He offered you now a mocking memory that laughs in your face? Clearly the Jews and your family and neighbors were right—and it only rips open the wounds His love and acceptance had begun to heal, and pours salt into them.
What about the power He displayed, the authority He spoke with, the way your religious leaders had backed down before Him, the healings He performed? What about them? Were they a show? No! You don’t want to believe that! You know what you were before He touched you, and how different you are now! But . . . what about the miracles? Was He a necromancer or sorcerer? He clearly had power, but your religious leaders had condemned Him. You’d thought He was good. You’d thought He was from God—but maybe they were right. Maybe you laughed with, and believed in, and ate with, and helped, a man working miracles by the power of Beelzebub as the religious teachers claimed. While He was beside you as they accused Him there was no way you could believe it—He was so good! You felt such pure love, for the first time ever! But now, He’s dead, and they’re still alive and in charge. Could you have been wrong? How could something so good have been so deceiving . . . and what now? What was next?
You thought yesterday, watching Jesus be beaten, mocked, “tried,” and crucified, was the worst day of your life . . . but today promises to be even worse—the darkest day of your life—because at least yesterday, up to the end, you’d clung to hope . . . but today there is no more, and without hope we perish. Yesterday you kept hoping that He’d finally say, “Enough!” and defend Himself. Yesterday you’d hoped that maybe He’d just fainted . . . but, seeing His mutilated body, and the blood and water pour from the spear hole, you knew deep down inside that He was really dead. Yesterday you’d hoped the Heavens would open and He would open His eyes and wrong would be made right. But today . . . He really is dead. It’s not a dream. And He is now wrapped in burial clothes and in a tomb with a massive stone in front of it, guarded by soldiers. If anything was going to happen it would have been yesterday, or last night, but today it is too late. Any hope that you had clung to is gone, and your life lies around you—shattered, impossible to fix. Yesterday you saw evil win, you saw evil have its greatest victory . . . but now you don’t even know what is evil and what is good anymore. Today is going to be a very long and dark day—if you even live through it . . .
Little do you know that tomorrow morning the knock will come, and the words will fly to your ears, “He’s Alive!” Little do you know that within a few days all the Scriptures you’ve known for years, and all the mysterious things He said, will suddenly make sense, and that you will realize that while you thought evil was working its greatest victory, and the wicked were going to prosper, God was in fact turning evil against itself and He was working His greatest victory! Little do you know that, within a few weeks, you will have touched the risen Jesus, been taught by the risen Jesus, watched the risen Jesus ascend into Heaven, and been filled with a fire, and the Spirit of God, and a sense of purpose and destiny that will carry you around the region declaring His truth, demonstrating His power, and proclaiming His name until you, too, joyously go to join Him!
“Today,” may look like the darkest of days, upwelling with hopelessness, doubt, fear, or frustration; seeming to scream out that darkness reigns, and that God must be either dead or uncaring or not real—but “tomorrow’s” cry of, “He’s Alive!” reminds us that, even when we don’t see it or understand how, God is always at work and on our side—and hope, peace, joy, eternal life are ours today, because He lives!