The day hope died
Luke 24:21 (NKJV): “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel . . .”
Hope died slowly on that terrible day.
The first prickles of fear had begun in the garden when they were jolted from their stupor by the sound of an unruly mob crashing through the darkness toward them. In disbelief they had watched Judas, their friend and colleague, step forward and identify Jesus with a kiss, then melt back into the shadows.
Rough hands secured their Master and dragged Him down the hill, past the olive groves, through the hushed streets of the sleeping city.
With growing alarm they had followed the rabble from the court of Caiaphas to Herod’s palace and then to Pilate’s judgement hall.
They had seen Jesus mocked, insulted, beaten, cursed at and spat upon.
Now it was morning, and the first shafts of sunlight etched lines on their worried faces.
Terror had separated them. They found themselves alone, isolated from each other, trying to comprehend what was taking place.
What was happening? How had it all gone so wrong?
They were expecting a coronation.
Only a week ago Jesus had ridden into Jerusalem as a king. They thought He would free them from their Roman oppressors, validate them as His trusted followers and usher in His kingdom.
They could only follow, dazed and confused, as the horrible events of the day unfolded, until by mid-afternoon they found themselves huddled helplessly beneath a hideous cross, watching their beloved Master struggling to take His last tortured breaths.
They had hoped that following Jesus would make their lives easier and bring them special privileges.
Now those dreams had all vanished, leaving them devastated and fearful of the future.
What was it that brought the disciples to this point on that terrible Passover Friday?
It was their failure to see the bigger picture.
They did not yet understand Christ’s true mission and the things that must take place before that mission could be completed.
They did not know that they were bystanders during the most tumultuous moment in the history of our planet.
The events of that day would change the course of human history.
Did Jesus understand the doubts that overcame His beloved disciples on that awful crucifixion day?
Yes, He did.
When He left heaven and His sandaled feet walked the dusty roads of Palestine, He became one of us. He was often tired, discouraged and lonely.
He felt the same pain that we feel when the calamities of life overtake us and our world spins out of control.
He felt so alone on the cross that He cried out in agony, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” He thought His Father had rejected Him and His death would separate them forever.
He does understand when our tears flow and our hearts break. He walks the dusty roads of our lives with us, and He truly identifies with the sorrows and disappointments that crush our hopes and threaten to overwhelm us.
And in the darkest times, when the pain is so overwhelming that hope fades and we almost give up, He says gently, “It’s OK, I know what you’re going through. Hold on just a little longer, we’re almost home.” And somehow, leaning on Him, we find courage to hope again.
Incredible hope restored
Matthew 28:5,6 (NKJV): “But the angel answered and said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid. I know you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here: For He is risen as He said.’”
Sunday morning dawned cold and grey.
The women rose before the city was awake and collected the spices they had prepared for their last act of devotion to their Master.
The Sabbath hours had passed slowly for the desolate little group of disciples as they huddled together in a secluded room, trying to contemplate a future without their Leader, and wondering what new horrors a knock on the door might bring.
No-one could erase the stark images of the previous day or the unbelievable events they had witnessed.
Jesus had been tortured, humiliated, denied the most basic justice and hung on a terrifying cross between two criminals.
Only the offer of Joseph’s tomb had spared Him the final indignity of a common burial.
All throughout that terrible day they had expected Him to strike down His tormenters and put an end to the charade. All day they had clung to the last tiny glimmer of hope.
That hope was gone now. The flickering flame had been extinguished and their hearts were cold and empty.
No-one remembered the things that He had told them or His promise to rise again.
The pungent spices the women carried were not for the living.
They’d come to anoint a body.
Their eyes were so blinded by tears as they stole through the quiet garden that they failed to see what had happened.
Even the sight of the empty tomb did not at first convince them that the supreme event of the ages had actually taken place.
What a day! What a miracle!
In the sight of the watching universe the angel who had announced His birth rolled away the great stone. Jesus stepped out of the tomb and changed our destiny forever.
What would you have done if you’d been there on that amazing day?
Mary thought Christ’s body had been stolen.
The women spoke to Gabriel then ran to tell the others.
Peter and John returned to confirm the story.
Cleopas did not recognise the Saviour.
Thomas refused to believe until he saw the evidence.
How like us those weary disciples were as they tried to comprehend what happened on that resurrection morning. Some were afraid, some were uncertain, some were filled with optimism, some were in despair.
But there is one incredible difference between us and the disciples.
We don’t have to wait for the events of that awful weekend to unfold.
We know the end of the story.
It is true that Jesus’ life ended on the cross. But He rose again, just as He said He would. And because He kept that promise 2000 years ago, we can absolutely believe that He will return again on His final rescue mission.
The Bible is filled with promises of hope. And we believe those promises. We are known as a people of hope. This is why we can find the courage to sing at a loved one’s funeral, and smile through our tears when our lives fall apart and our dreams are shattered.
Because of this hope we know that life here is just the journey and not the destination.
Praise God the tomb was empty and the spices were not needed on that wonderful Easter morning.
Judy Fua is from Kingscliff Seventh-day Adventist Church, New south Wales.