Holy Saturday: Remain Together

It must have been a terrible night to be a disciple of the one who was called Jesus, the Christ. Peter, for instance, had wept that night when he denied Christ... he must have felt a horrible emptiness knowing his weakness.  And Andrew, maybe he... just could not believe what had happened.  John had so many questions, perhaps he spent the whole night going over the events of the last twenty four hours, how? why? his head was reeling with thoughts.
 For Thomas, it was impossible to sleep, but it seemed even more impossible to get out of bed the next day.  Overwhelmed by sadness, nothing made sense anymore.

The next day was the sabbath.  Saturday, a day of rest.  But how?  This was no day of rest... but restlessness.  It must have been a perfectly miserable day to be an apostle of Jesus the Christ.  There was no rest for these poor Gallileans, this was the onset of depression.

Imagine for a moment, the emptiness that would have settled over their hearts... hearing the news of how he died, when he died... why he died.   Told through the pain and tears of his beloved John, and Mary, his mother. 

And what now?  Why go on?  It was going to be a decisive moment, what they would do with their grief, their anger, their fear, their disappointment... even their hope.  So many questions, so much brooding, doubt, fear and anxiety.  The trauma of the whole experience!  They had suffered, been through so much, yet it was only the beginning.

Psalm 13 says:
How long, O Lord... How long will you forget me?
How long will you hide your face from me?

The heavy weight of death must have hovered over the apostles...
the smell of blood and sweat and death lingered in their nostrils, their throats were sore from crying out, their eyes red with tears.  Peter, James and John... Andrew, Simon, Jude... Matthew, Bartholomew, Philip... Thomas and James... they themselves had died that day.   They would never sleep the same, that was certain:
Perhaps they had dreams that night... nightmares, running the whole thing through their minds over and over again.  Seeing with precision... and clarity... the wounds, the lashes, the whole terrible ordeal, the cross, the nails, the whips, the tears, the blood, the look on his face... seared on their imaginations forever.

This was not something they would be getting over very easily.

Can you imagine?  Maybe it is all too close for you.  So many people know the wounds of Christ on their own bodies, so many know the sorrows and the pain of his mother, so many more know the heartache, the fear, the anxiety of his disciples.  So many suffer, even now. 

Are you one of them?  Are you afraid, are you depressed?
Are you dying, or is your loved one? 
Do you suffer? 

The disciples of Jesus had only begun their mourning that first Sabbath after his death.  It seemed that God indeed was resting on the sabbath, it seemed that God had fallen silent that day... and no one could wake him.

That Saturday, truly, Jesus' disciples could have made his words from the cross their own: "My God, My God...  Jesus! Why have you abandoned us?"

On the other hand...
 
Maybe they realized all of this this.  Maybe they remembered, through all the confusion, that their crucified Master had said:
 "For it is written: I will strike the shepherd,
 and the sheep of the flock will be scattered."

Maybe that night they had remembered these words again in the infinite reruns of the day's events... and gathered together, in the darkness of their pain and grief.  Perhaps that is why the women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, gathered together, and remained at the tomb.

The Gospel of Matthew tells us "But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there, facing the tomb."  If they had realized that the work of the Evil One was to scatter them... to keep them asleep in the garden... silent during his trial... and hidden in fear in his death.... If they realized that, then maybe their fear, their sadness, and their anger did not have the last word.

It would not have been easy for them to come together on that Sabbath day.  With all of their doubts, pain and regret for how they acted, for not having defended their friend, their teacher... for not dying with him... regret for all their faults, all their failures.  But if they remembered his words: where two or three are gathered in my name... there am I...  then maybe also they remembered, deep within their hearts, the way he went about things: not only did he turn over tables, but he turned over hearts.  Not only did he give sight to the blind and hope to the hopeless... he took all evils, and reversed them.

He invited everyone to see the world upside down... which was really right-side up.  He turned sorrow to joy, and shame into glory.  If they remembered this, and surely if they gathered... someone would have said: "Do you all not remember how he changed all things?"

In the film "The Passion of the Christ"... one of the most moving scenes takes place during one of Christ's falls along the way to Golgotha.  Seeing him fall, his mother Mary comes running, hoping to offer consolation.  She begs him to put a stop to all of the madness... he looks at her with love, touches her face and begins to lift himself up.  As he groans under the weight of the cross and rises again... he says to her, and to all of us: "Behold, Mother, I make all things new."

They probably couldn't have known... didn't remember, or simply doubted what would happen the next day... the third day.  But they would have known the one thing he had left them.  From the Cross he gave them all he had left:
 
"Woman, behold your son."
 "Son, behold your mother."
 
"Behold, your family... Behold, my Church."

All you who suffer, all you who weep and grieve.  All you who are trapped, who have seen yourselves buried in tombs of depression, addiction, sorrow, anxiety, or fear... Remain in me, he said...
Remain, like Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, remain together.
Remain facing the tomb. 
Facing the place where they laid him. 
He will make all things new, he will reverse our sorrow, our fear, our anger... he will conquer all hearts, and empty all tombs.
Remain together, like those faithful women,
remain facing the tomb,
remain facing him.