Each day from Palm Sunday until Easter, we’ll publish a short devotional to help prepare your heart for Resurrection Sunday. For each devotional, we recommend opening with a short prayer for illumination, reading the text for the day, spending a few moments meditating on it, reading the devotional, and then closing with a prayer.
That’s what Jesus’ followers experienced the Saturday between the cross and Resurrection Sunday. Three years of preaching, miracles, and parables. Three years of steadfastly marching towards ushering in the Kingdom of God. It all came to a halt on Friday afternoon. The disciples were sure they’d found the Messiah, and, in an instant, all was lost. You can imagine they might still have been optimistic through Jesus’ arrest and trial. “Perhaps,” they might have thought, “He will choose His time before the High Priest to reveal who He really is!” Surely, they were anxious as He allowed Himself to be beaten and humiliated. I wonder if they anticipated He’d turn the whole thing on its head when he faced Pontius Pilate. Yet He did not. He was sentenced to death, flogged within an inch of His life, and forced to carry a splintering cross to Golgotha. I wonder if John, standing there at the cross (John 19:26), held on to a shred of hope that Jesus would free Himself at the 11th hour. Yet He did not.
And so, on Saturday, silence.
The commotion of the crowds had died down. Jesus’ body was in a tomb and guarded by soldiers. The disciples returned to their work, no doubt unsure how everything could have gone wrong. Their faith was shaken. Their hopes were dashed. Their friend was dead. “How could this have happened?” they must have asked. The pain of their loss began to sink in as no answers came.
Have you ever been in a place like the disciples were? Faith wavering, filled with pain, unsure of the future? Have you ever asked God, “Why?” and received no answer?
Why would God allow the disciples to languish in this silence? One reason is likely to ensure that the world knew Jesus was truly dead. The time between the cross and the Resurrection leaves no doubt that Jesus died in every sense of the word. But is there another reason? I think so. God uses periods of silence and suffering to draw us to Himself.
Consider Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. This period of anguish must have been excruciating. Yet who does the Bible say led Jesus there? The Holy Spirit (Matthew 4:1). What was the result of this silence and suffering? Jesus was prepared and commissioned to begin His mission.
Remember the prophet Elijah? This was a man accustomed to hearing from God directly. Yet in 1 Kings 18 we read the story of a three-and-a-half-year drought. This drought was both spiritual and physical. The Lord went silent and the clouds dried up. Silence and suffering. But then, in dramatic fashion, the Lord shows up and reveals His power to the false priests of Jezebel.
We see this pattern in scripture: the silence of God and the suffering of man is always followed by a revealing of God’s glory. This pattern holds true in the death of Jesus. On Saturday, while the disciples sit in pain, asking questions but hearing no answers, God is plotting something amazing.
What can we do if we find ourselves in a period of silence and suffering? Hold on to what we know. Jesus told His disciples that He would die (Mark 8:31), but their circumstances made them forget. They knew that Jesus was God (Mark 4:41), but their pain made them forget. They knew that Jesus was the Messiah (John 6:68-69), but God’s silence caused them to doubt.
What truths should we hold onto when it seems like God has gone silent? What should we remind ourselves of in periods of suffering?
Silence and suffering are a reality for every believer. But, like the disciples, we would do well to remember the prophetic words of the Psalmist:
“Weeping may stay overnight,
but there is joy in the morning.”
Written by Stuart Owens