When things fall apart, we return to the familiar. It is human nature. That is why when a bullfighter gets pushed out wide, the first thought is to run away (that gets you run over); but for the experienced (like Chris Munroe, Daniel Unruh, or Lucas Littles), they get to the shoulder, make their circle and make it through. When a new bullrider gets in trouble, the familiar, their inclination, is to look off or get on the end of their arm. But for the experienced, those who have retrained their mind and their body on the drop barrel or the mighty bucky, they are able to execute the moves to get them back into position to make the ride. It is no different for any other sport or skill. When the game plan falls apart, how do teams respond? Mike Tyson once said, “everyone’s got a plan until they get hit in the mouth.” The disciples had a plan. Jesus was going to take on the Romans, reinstitute the physical kingdom of Israel, and they were going to live their lives free of Roman rule. But the arrest and subsequent crucifixion, hit the disciples in the mouth.
It was the Sabbath, so no one was working, planting, traveling, or playing. It was a day of mourning for the followers of Jesus, but a day of liberation for the rest of the Jews. Thousands of years ago, on this day, they were released from their bondage in Egypt. Now they look out their windows, watching Roman soldiers wandering by as the occupying force, the ruling overlords, and they asked when their next liberation would come. Like I said, that was for most of the Jews. Those that followed Jesus, however, were questioning the way they spent the last three years.
It was Saturday and the disciples were questioning. John depicts the disciples hiding in an upper room scared of what might become of them; the ones who were duped by the condemned and executed “Messiah” (John 20.19). Life would go on in a while when they returned to fishing or other jobs. It was familiar for them to return to. With the events of the last 24 hours, the routine would be welcome. Their plan had fallen apart and there was nothing left but to return to the life they had before they became disciples.
It was Saturday and the Leaders were questioning. They had heard that Jesus had said that he would rise from the dead. They had Jesus arrested at night to avoid an uprising. They had him killed to avoid a riot. Now, if his body turned up gone, all their work would have been in vain. Pilate had been such an accommodating ally over the last 24 hours that they felt they could ask one more favor. They wanted guards at the tomb to make sure the body remained there. Pilate would give them what they asked for, stationing soldiers at the tomb and sealing it with his authority.
With the fast paced events of the last 24 hours, Saturday seems like a let down. Outside of the 4 verses that Matthew writes at the end of chapter 27, the day is undocumented. For the key characters in the story, Saturday was familiar, the old familiar. Pilate was looking out for his career, the Jewish leaders were trying to squelch those who would try to usurp Moses, and the disciples? They had a great 3 year ride, seeing things unexplainable, learning things they never thought they would be privy too…but now they went back to wondering. There was something that Jesus saw in them when he called three years ago. Following him had become their purpose. Now they sat…questioning.
There are Saturday’s in our lives; where the familiar looks more and more appealing. When stress hits at work, the familiar beckons. When a bad diagnosis arrives, the familiar seems more pleasing. When family strife takes place, the familiar is alluring. The familiar could be alcohol, porn, deceit, envy, or any other number of things.
Saturday was a 24 hour period, the Sabbath the Jews called it, where rest was prescribed. A reminder that the world was created in 6 days and God rested the 7th. It was an object lesson that God would provide…if the Jews would just rest in Him; a reminder that if humanity takes a break, the world will still function. On this Sabbath, it the disciples questioned. Sunday seems so far away, but God was asking, just as Jesus asked them to trust in Him and his words. He told them that Saturday would come, but Sunday would make it worth it. When Saturday comes, what will we do? Or will the familiar take a hold.
“The next day, the one after Preparation day…” (Matthew 27.62)