Saturday’s Tension–Between the Cross and the Empty Grave

An Easter Devotion
by Jeff Abramovitz

It’s Saturday…2008 years ago. Imagine the tension in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. Yesterday, a man claiming to be the Son of God…in fact, equal with God, was brutally murdered by death on a cross. Yes….murdered. He hadn’t done anything wrong as far as performing any criminal actions. He was wrongfully killed by a religious group that wielded their power within the Roman controlled government to have him put to death. Mel Gibson’s The Passion is powerful because of the depiction of the brutality of this Crucifixion. Some are wary of viewing this because of the violence shown in this dramatic rendering of that event. But I think the brutality is what gives it credence. It reminds us of the hatred that was heaped upon the God-man, Jesus Christ.

Saturday was the day of tension. It was the day between the Cross and the empty grave. Emotions were mixed. There was equal weeping and rejoicing, in the heavens and on earth. Weeping were those who had invested their lives in this man. His claims of deity were backed by physical miracles and an aura that surrounded Him wherever he went. He attracted a crowd everywhere he trod. And, many gave up their careers, their lives heretofore to follow this Man who told them He was the Messiah…the One who came to redeem them and reconcile them to God Almighty. And today, Saturday, their faith was shattered. The One who told them He was God was seemingly overcome by evil…the religious leaders who wanted Him out of the way. Certainly if He WAS God, He could and would have not allowed this despicable, humiliating act to happen to Him. Doubt must have begun to cloud their thinking. Did they follow in error? Did they give up their lives for a lie? He made references to “destroying the temple and rebuilding it in three days”. In fact, he was very clear in telling the 12 disciples exactly what would happen to him: he was going to be handed over to the Gentiles to be killed by the chief priests and scribes and on the third day he would be raised from the dead. That time was at hand. Did they remember His words? Did they believe? Saturday was the day of tension for these men and women.

For those who thought they got rid of the “problem”, there was tension, too. First, there was likely some rejoicing. The trouble-maker was quieted. No more threats to their leadership. No more “blasphemous” claims from this rebel-leader. The movement was quelled. Certainly this band of His followers would get the message that they were not to be crossed. Yet, I wonder if they weren’t thinking “what if?” “What if” they were wrong? Did they kill God? Could they kill God? And, they knew that the means that they used to “kill” Jesus were underhanded and subversive. There’s always tension to keep “sin” under the covers. The “cover up” is always harder than the act needing to be covered up.

There was tension for those who carried out the act. Pilate was walking the line between doing the politically correct action in approving the murder of Jesus without any legitimate reason to do so. His job was to keep the peace between the Jews and the religious leaders carried a lot of weight when it came to keeping that peace among and between the populace of Jews. Pilate’s wife felt that tension and told her husband as much! “Don’t have anything to do with this” was her plea to her husband. There was something different about this man!

And, I think there is tension in the heavenly realm. There is a world that exists outside of ours that is unseen but as real as that which we conduct our daily activities. The demons must have thought that they had won! They knew who Jesus was. When he cast them out of people and animals, they addressed Him accordingly. But they are not omniscient. They don’t know the outcome of tomorrow. So, they couldn’t have known that Saturday was not a day of victory but a day of transition. It was the day between the cross and the empty grave. A day of tension.

So, here we are over 2000 years later. It’s Saturday, between the cross and the empty grave. I began to ask myself, “Do I feel the tension of Saturday?” If not, maybe I need to question my commitment to the One in which I have staked my allegiance. Am I living a life that reflects the pain and suffering of Jesus Christ at the cross? My sin cost something. It cost the Son of God His earthly life. It cost Him dignity through humiliation. His pain on that cross was real. And, the vivid images that Mel Gibson wrote into the Passion doesn’t likely entirely reflect the reality of the barbarity perpetrated on the body of Jesus Christ that day. That should cause me to reflect on Christ’s death. But if I stay there, I miss the hope that comes with Sunday. However, if I only rest on the hope that is Easter, I soon forget the cost. They are inextricably tied together. There is no hope without Christ’s sacrifice. Yet, because of Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf, there is hope. Therein lies the tension of Saturday. As a Follower of Christ, my life must reflect that reality. And, I should never be in so much despair about life and the situations that come upon me because there is hope in Sunday. And, I should never take for granted the hope in Christ and forget that it came at a great price. That’s the tension of Saturday—caught between the Cross of Friday and the Empty Tomb of Sunday.

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