The Morning After

The Gospels are largely silent about Saturday. Sometimes when something really traumatic happens to me, I go to bed and then wake up the next morning and it takes a minute or two for me to remember what had happened. And, at times, that second shock is worse than the first.

Saturday morning would have been when Peter, John, Mary, and the rest of Jesus’ followers awoke only to be slapped with the reality of Golgotha the day before.

However absent an account of the anguish, despair and uncertainty that almost certainly set in on Saturday, the followers of Jesus were just as human as I am. I can’t imagine they didn’t spend the day in unspeakable grief and trying to make sense of something which to them no doubt seemed so senseless.

If their reaction following Jesus’ Resurrection the next day is any indication, I doubt they spent Saturday in joyous anticipation of the next day.

The Blood

I’m sitting here in my aunt’s house outside of Philly wondering how different my relationship with God would be if I never forgot the events of Good Friday; odd, perhaps, considering I’ve never been to anything resembling a Good Friday service.

I think that must have been much easier for the Apostles, who lived with Jesus throughout his ministry. They ate with him, preached with him, and prayed with him. So, for them, the Crucifixion must have been a terribly personal experience.

I won’t even try to imagine the emotions coursing through Peter as he set out on the road back to Galilee after having denied Jesus in a way that might as well have been to his face.

Shame.

Self-hatred, I’m sure.

It makes me think of all the times I’ve denied Christ by my actions and thoughts and being fully aware of what I was doing. Willfully denying Christ, like Peter, is something I’m all too familiar with, though I can’t imagine the pain and turmoil that plagued his spirit in the interregnum between the rooster’s crow and the charcoal fire on the Sea of Galilee. I’m separated from Jesus’ physical presence by 2000 years, but he lived with Jesus. He saw the miracles.

Forgetting is something I do very well; I guess maybe it’s something everyone does well. In spite of all the gaudy Easter pageants and Passion plays I’ve seen in my life–or perhaps because of them–identifying with the Cross is something I’ve never been quite able to do. The age I live in is so tame, so sanitized and homogenized that images of flesh being ripped from bone and three men hanging on rough hewn crosses on a desolate hill really only seem to belong in a Mel Gibson movie.

That sort of thing never really happens in the real world, right?

Wrong, as it turns out.

I approach this Easter not really knowing what to make of it. Never in my life have I been more conscious of my own inadequacy and my own unworthiness of Christ. Yeah, I know none of us deserve him, but, for once in my life I’m fully aware of my unworthiness of him. I think maybe the sting of that truth was deadened by my own propensity to lump myself in with “everybody else.”

I’m fully aware of how often I forget about the Blood, the nails, and Jesus’ last cry from the summit of Calvary. And it hurts. I have no trouble remembering the Resurrection but what makes the Resurrection so powerful is Jesus’ anguish and horrifying death. Unless Jesus was fully man and fully experienced death, then the Resurrection is a farce.

My perspective on the Crucifixion has always been to look at it framed by the Resurrection which made it easier for me to discount the pain, uncertainty, and despair that Jesus’ disciples would have felt after his death and burial. “Well, now what?” most of them must have said. For them, the Resurrection, though promised, was still yet to come. For two nights, they went to bed for while Jesus was still in the grave.

I’ve really come to think that I can never fully understand the elation of the Resurrection without first understanding the desolation that came with sundown on Good Friday and the resignation that undoubtedly began to set in by Saturday evening.

Surprisingly, I’ve heard people say that the Church has to stop talking about salvation in terms of blood and sacrifice.

Why?

Because, according to them, modernity has no concept of blood and sacrifice like those in the ancient world did. What made Christianity so revolutionary was that it claimed blood sacrifice was no longer necessary. The death of Jesus, they proudly proclaimed, once and for all did away with the need for sacrifice. Over the centuries, this earth-shattering idea became the accepted norm and the concept of blood sacrifice being a part of civilized society was largely lost.

Nevertheless, I pray the Church never stop talking about the Blood, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us. Without the Blood, there could have been no Resurrection. The Blood, red and messy though it was, is the point. Without the Blood, none of us have anything. As I’m coming more and more to see, in order to witness the Resurrection, all must first walk though the doorway and accept the ugly truth that is the Passion.