Reflection, Theology

The Saturday Experience: Cherish the Questions (Part I)

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On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment…
Luke 23:56

What must the disciples have felt like on Saturday?

They were a failure. The probably blamed themselves personally, wondering what they could have done, regretting haven fallen asleep at such a key moment. They locked themselves away, huddled together in fear. They were so dejected they didn’t even stay for Jesus’ burial. Only the women did. The men must have felt so unmanly and worthless they didn’t even feel worthy to watch the burial. It felt like everything had been lost. Everything they had placed their trust in, worked for, and staked their lives and reputations on was lost. Their fearless leader had been killed, their friend, and in his moment of greatest need they had all abandoned him.

Not only was the cause lost, but all that they thought they had achieved in their own characters was lost. Peter, along with all of Jesus’ closest friends and students, had completely turned his back on him when he needed him most. Betrayal. Imagine your best friend, the one you’ve gone through thick and thin with, had hundreds of meals with, travelled with, lived with, who swore he always had your back and would even die for you if it came to it, at the moment you need him most, denies that he even knows you. He completely stabs you in the back. Peter must have been absolutely inconsolable. Judas’ was a sin of commission, but Peter’s was a sin of omission: failing to do what he should have done. And sins of omission are the ones that people often regret most after someone dies: “I wish I had told her I loved more often”, “I wish I had spent more time with him.”

But come Saturday, it wasn’t only the disciples that had failed, but it seemed God himself had failed also. How could Jesus die? How could the Messiah, the Son of God, the chosen one die? The disciples are in a very unsure place. They are in the ‘in-between time’. The time where they have no idea what God is doing. They are put in the position where they are forced either to trust him, or abandon hope altogether.

This is the Saturday experience. The time in between the horror of the Crucifixion and the joy of the Resurrection where God’s plan is a complete mystery.

It was a Sabbath, the day when they were commanded to rest and acknowledge their lack of control. They are forced to not try to make things right, but just rest. They are powerless.They are in the place where they have to wrestle, and what they are wrestling with are the tough questions. Both their own questions and the questions the accuser is throwing at them. Who was this man? Was he the one, or were they duped? Were they wrong? What do they do now? The disciples seem to be left alone with these haunting questions.

But they were used to questions. Jesus had been a man of deep questions. This was his usual way of teaching, not by spoon-feeding easy, understandable answers, but cutting to the heart with difficult, uncomfortable questions. Sitting and reading the questions of Jesus is a penetrating exercise. On the other hand, of the 183 questions that others ask Jesus in the Gospels, he only directly answers three. Clearly his job is not to give us neat little answers that will satisfy and put all our queries to rest. On the contrary, he wants us to cherish the questions, to wrestle with them and learn their value. This has been God’s way since he struggled with Jacob in the process of making him Israel. By asking he makes us search our own hearts and realise the answers for ourselves. We have to fight for it, but the effect is a change in our character. This is excellent teaching. As good teachers know, by coming to the realisation yourself the lesson sticks with you more profoundly, changing not only your knowledge but your being.

Cherish the questions.

God puts us in the Saturday experience so that we are forced to turn to him. To know him. To have relationship with him. To really rely on him. This is part of the essence of relationship. If every conversation were simply Q and A, there would be no back and forth, no personal communication and fellowship. We would get our answer and say, “OK thanks, bye.” Information could be shared, of course, but not intimacy.

Ultimately, Jesus leaves us to wrestle with the questions so that we can learn that he is the answer.

To get to Sunday we must go through Saturday. On the Saturday in between, the extent to which we will become like him is measured by our willingness to wrestle with the questions and yet still decide to trust him.

 

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