When Silence Speaks Hope
A Reflection on Good Friday and Holy Saturday
I am not sure what you call Easter Saturday. Perhaps you have never really considered today as part of the Easter narrative. After all, there are no scripture passages specifically about it, there is a considerable amount of Scripture for the rest often Easter Weekend: Friday and Sunday, but nothing for Saturday. It is just silence. Deafening silence. Yet, it is as powerful a part of the Easter narrative because it relates profoundly to the human experience. We are all waiting!
Today the world is collectively to know what is next with Covid-10. Added to that the church is waiting to see when we can gather again to Worship. Families are waiting to see one another. We are all actively experiencing that interim where normal has disappeared; the chapter has ended, and we are waiting for the new season to begin.
Easter Saturday is for me a reminder that in the waiting God is working. Today, we must allow this silence to speak to us, in our waiting – whether that is Covid-19 or something more personal and profound – we must let the silence to remind us that as we wait, God is at work. Firstly, we will consider what actually makes Friday good as the foundation of our waiting; Secondly, we will discuss how that shapes our waiting; Finally, we will think what that means for Disciples of Christ as they wait.
The Passages set in the lectionary for Good Friday are vast and full of imagery, Truth and hope.1 I would love to spend time in each of them, but for the sake of word count, we will take a birds-eye view and consider three points from Johns Narrative of the Crucifixion. In the silence of the anxiety that is holding our world, these are three truths (of many from this passage) we need to let speak into the silence of our waiting:
- A Hope Like nothing the world has seen (John 18:36-38)
- The Sovereign God is our Hope (John 19:23-24)
- The Hope of Silent Victory (John 19:28-30)
These are by no means exhaustive, as you can imagine there is much in two of the most famous Chapters in the Bible, but these there are essential to today, a reminder of the hope that we have in all seasons, especially the ones where Silent seems to reign.
1 – Good Friday: Our Foundation (John 18:1-19:42)
I wonder when you think of ‘Good Friday’ what makes it ‘good’ for you? I wonder, did it even register? The last few weeks we have all been locked-down, bunkered in, and self-isolating. Even for me, Easter has not been as busy! Yet in this waiting (and working) on Good Friday, what I found was most profound was the sheer lack of anything Christian on TV. There was no shows around Easter, no images of Crosses, there was nothing. Profound that Easter is still such a significant time in our year: Schools are off, Bank holidays are granted for workers, and we all (typically) rush off for our Easter break. Yet, today the Cross has been replaced by the easter egg, and Jesus Christ by the easter bunny.
For the world: Good Friday is simply another bank holiday. Thus, the church must ask itself is a loss or an opportunity? Should we arm ourselves with loudspeakers and attend to the street corners? Or (today more than ever) should we let the silence speak. Today, the very foundation of our security has been eroded by a virus than we cannot see, nor yet fully understand. Today the world is looking for answer’s, and what if we allow the silence to speak of Christ.2
1.1 – A Hope Like Nothing The World Has Seen
John 18:36-38 NIV
Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my Kingdom is from another place.” 37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the Truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” 38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this, he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.
Jesus has been taken before the Roman Governor Pilot, what has been quoted from John is a glimpse of the conversation they had. It is a conversation profound in many ways, as it challenges us to consider the ontology of Truth, as Pilot frustrated with the answers that Jesus is giving him retorts ‘What is Truth?’ A question almost asked in frustration, yet an issue that proves profound, and essential to the entire Christian narrative, and way of being.
Today we live in a world that in its waiting is searching for meaning and Truth. Western culture has to lead the rapid deconstruction of all that was once considered normative and correct. Fact has moved form something absolute, to something experiential, fluid and weak. Which can make waiting all the more difficult because our foundation becomes so insecure. Truth, as we understand it today, has no solid substance to it. This is fine until our foundations start to shake, and that which looked to no longer provides. A problem also arises when we begin to deal with Jesus. He claims to be the Truth! A claim that requires our absolute commitment or dismissal, there is no common ground when it comes to Him, especially as we think of Good Friday and journey into the Silence of Saturday.
Jesus Christ claims he came into this world (was born) to testify to this Truth (His Kingship). This claim confronts us because if it is true, then it must become the essence of our being, doing and thinking; the foundation on which we stand and build, in work and waiting. It becomes our hope in success or silence. Or, it is nothing but the cries of a madman. Yet the events of Good Friday and Easter show us why this Truth needs to be our Truth. This ho This true is unlike any truth because it demands a choice, and that is what Jesus mean by stating: “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” and what Paul means when he writes:
“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” 1 Cor 15:17-19
This Truth: the Kingship of Christ, is the hope the world needs, yet struggles to understand. Why? Because it is a kingship that operates not by the principals of our world, it works by the metrics of heaven. Metrics that confront the very nature of the being and structures of our society. This is a hope that is, in essence, otherworldly, thus there is nothing in this world that can take it from us. It is a hope that changes the world, but cannot be changed by the world. It is hope that confronts you to work in a different way. Hence when we are citizens of the Kingdom we do not fight by the sword, we wait on the work of God. The Crucifixion is the visible display of this Truth: That the King would die to begin his reign, that his death would bring life through the payment of sins of those who are called to be on his side of the turret, and that he would willingly go there for you and me is the most significant indicator of the inverted nature of our hope and Kingdom of God.
How does hope of the Cross help us in the Silence of Easter Saturday and our waiting? Because it reminds us that even when it seems (to the world) that God is not working, he is. The Cross, the beginning of the rule and reign of Christ, and the advancement of his Kingdom are beautiful because it is that. That God would take the most shameful form of death, an empire could think of and turn it into the most profound display of Glory, Grace, and hope is for the disciple a reminder that God works out all things for his purposes and Good and our most basic hope. We remember that as God was at work in the worst of Good Friday, so he is at work in every situation today. This Truth speaks to us that as we wait, God is at work. The question: What is your hope in the waiting?
1.2 The Hope of A Sovereign God
John 19:23-24 NIV
When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24“Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the Scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” So this is what the soldiers did.
There are two kinds of people when it comes to ‘planning’ those who do not, and those who do! I am one that loves a plan, I function well in a structure where there is a sense of direction, vision and purpose. I hate environments that have no idea because it might feel like something is being achieved, but in reality, you can simply end up running around the hamster wheel. It is good to have plans, it is good to wonder where we will be in five years, but how many of us if we think of our life plans are actually where we want to be? Add to that how many of us have trusted in the projects of another person when they have failed us miserably or lead us down a road that we should never have walked? It may even be such a plan that has you sitting in your silence waiting and wondering what is going on.
The writer of the Proverbs reminds us: ‘Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.’ (Proverbs 19:21) What if there were one person who plans you could trust? What if there was one plan that worked out exactly as it was meant to. What would we do with that certainty, we would rejoice in knowing that someone is in control when the world seems to be spinning in a different direction.
In the first section of Scripture Jesus declared this was the reason he was born and came…. meaning it was all part of a plan, and here in John 19 as the soldiers mock and play around the foot of the Cross we are given some almost inconspicuous detail around the diving up of clothes. Why? ‘This happened that the Scripture might be fulfilled that said’A reference to the prophecy in Psalm 22:18, a prophecy was given some hundred years before this event that was fulfilled in the shadow of the most exceptional display of sovereign rule the world would ever see. A mere coincidence? No, a reminder of the Truth that God has always had a plan, will always have a purpose. That he is working out all things to his purpose and Glory, and nothing can stop Him. How more beautiful and poetic that the Lord would take the devious plans of those who are opposed to him – in the nailing of his Son to the Cross – and turn them to his own purpose. That God would take what would seem like defeat and make it a victory. It is as the Psalmist declared: ‘But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. (33:11).
In the silence of Easter Saturday, it still seemed like His Kingdom had been defeated, his rule a fraud, and his followers most to be pitied. Yet, while his followers worried, and Satan waited, God worked to fulfil the purposes that he had set into motion since the foundation of the earth. Thus, the hope that speaks boldly in the Silence of Easter Saturday is that of a God who is always in control. In the waiting and worry, what do you trust in?
1.3 – The Hope of Silence Victory
John 19:28-30 NIV
Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
I love that the fulfilment of that great act of redemption is seemingly at the most disgraceful point. As Jesus of Nazareth, wrongly accused and condemned for political expediency hangs from a Roman Cross. He has been Tortured and beaten, and now clings to life, he was abandoned by those close to him. In the eyes of the world, his defeat could not be more severe. Yet, by the plan of heaven – victorious. The debt of sin has been paid, the curse of death will be defeated, and eternal life secured for those who put their trust in him. It is a silent victory, marked only by three words: “It is Finished.” Then he bows his head, and gives up his spirit, not in shame or defeat but in silent victory because while God is at work, and the Kingdom of Heaven will advance.
I love the anticlimactic nature of the whole narrative, that which would be so profound to the course of human history would be seemingly insignificant in the daily events of a small insignificant part of the roman empire. Think about it, Jesus was nothing more (in the eyes of the world) that a local itinerant preacher, with a few followers and many bold claims, and now he was dead and dealt with, the chief presets and Pharisees could go back to their lives and little Kingdom’s. Think about what Saturday must have felt like for them, they must have had some relief as they breathed out and rejoiced that soon Jesus would be forgotten and things would go back to normal. This is what a silent victory looks like, it lulls those opposed to it into a false sense of security, that somehow they will be alright. But, that which God has set into motion cannot be stopped.
This is the hope that must speak in the silence of our Easter Saturday, the illogical victory of the Cross. A belief that speaks to the work, rule and reign of God in the most hopeless situations. It is the hope that we must cling to when we find ourselves in waiting, mourning or distress. Furthermore, it must be the hope that we allow speaking into the waiting for today. As the world retreats to safety, we by our lives and words must point to the Cross of Christ as the answer and truth the world needs, because it is the declaration that God will work out of our waiting, something for his Glory, and if we have faith in Christ our good.
1.4 This is What Makes Friday Good
What is it that makes Good Friday “good”? What is this Gospel that lets us live confidently and boldly as we wait for the Lord to work? It is the nature of a Hope and Truth, unlike any other. It is the wonder of a God who is in control. That from before the beginning of the world, he set into motion a plan to bring Glory and honour to His Name, and redeem those who would trust in him through faith in his Son. It is the silent victory of the Cross, that declares the plans of man void, and the will of God sovereign, that reminds us God will redeem the world that the flesh can scheme for his Good, and deals with the one thing we could never cure – sin. It is the consummation of John 3:16-18:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
– John 3:16-18 NIV
This is the ‘good’ of Good Friday, is it ‘Good’ for you? As you hear of a God who works in ways you do not understand, who is always in control, and who will redeem the worst of Situations for his Glory and good. Does it give you hope and Truth to hold too during whatever you are going through?
2 – While We Wait
Let’s face it. We are always waiting, it might be as simple as waiting for the next delivery to arrive, or sitting in the take-away waiting for our order. Perhaps it is something more profound, more significant, yet, no matter what or who it is for we are always waiting. Even in the good times, we are waiting for the better times, the next big opportunity or thing in life that when we get it…. then we will be satisfied. Life is waiting.
I think that is why Easter Saturday is so profound, and something the world can relate to. Today, we must ask ourselves: What are we waiting for? That answer will show us what our life is built upon. When I think of my own life when my eyes have drifted off Jesus and the Sufficiency of life in him, it is then that I have started to look and wait on other things. I begin to convince myself that once this season in life is over, then things will be better and I will be able to do what I am meant to do, be what I meant to be… In my misplaced gaze, I become like God while serving him, making my own plans for his work. But, thankfully I come to my sense and look to the one who can be trusted, but the temptation its always there. In the waiting, I can, we can forget the one we are waiting for. What are our eyes fixed on in the silence?
Consider this Covid crisis, where everyone in the UK and Ireland is waiting. In this waiting, we all have different hopes that keep us going. For some, it is the hope of a cure, for others, it is the belief that it will just blow over, for others, it is the hope of family or work. Even in this waiting life has already been profoundly affected for some through the loss of loved ones or jobs, adding a whole unexpected dimension to the waiting. It is in these moments that we know what gives meaning to our life: It is in our waiting that thing that we look to, or hope we cling to. Today, stop and ask what is speaking to you in this silence? For those searching for answers, I pray that for the first time you will fix your eyes on Jesus Christ. For the Disciple, I pray that your eyes are already there.
3 Conclusion: As We Wait For Him; We Wait As him
What I love about Easter Saturday is that it so profoundly relates to our living right now as we wait for the return of Jesus. Christians today are those who live in the tension of the in-between, that we have received full and yet have more to give. We are Children of God fully today through faith in Christ, yet we have so much more to inherit. The Knowledge of Good Friday effects how we wait today because with a right understanding, it affects how we wait. To truly grasp the ‘good’ in Good Friday is to grasp that Jesus is not some mere escape plan, he is life itself. To know Him is to know true life, to love him is to experience true joy, and to follow him is to know security that the world cannot shake. He is the source of Joy that the world cannot understand, nor take from us. So today, in the silence of Easter Saturday let us again look to Christ, let us let him speak to us in the silence of our waiting and let us let his silence speak a new hope to a world that has lost sight of him. As we wait in the silence, let us wait with him and for him.
Tomorrow the grave will be empty, and we will join in with Paul saying “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55) because tomorrow we can declare the victory that God gave us through Jesus Christ if we have put our faith in him. Yet, tomorrow will pass, and the world will still be under the shadow of Covid, the church scattered, and everyone searching for hope. What if they find that hope through us? Today in the silence of waiting, we must speak afresh a renewed message of hope in Christ. Tomorrow the internet will be flooded with bible verses, songs of praise and inspirational quotes and statues – that is great. Yet, what if we carried that on into the weeks ahead, what if we constantly pointed to the hope of Jesus and the joy of being with him in the waiting, what if as we practised social distancing we did it as one committed to the way of the Foot washer. It is the illogical hope of the Cross, the security of a sovereign God, and the silent victory our cry as we wait then let it affect us as we wait. That as we look to Him, we become like him so that others see him. Today, as we wait, let us be so firmly fixed on Jesus that when the word looks to us, they see him and something they want. In the silence of our waiting, let us speak and live out the hope of Jesus.
Better Resources From Across the Web For Thinking Through Easter Saturday
- The Gospel Coalition. 2020. Holy Week: Saturday: April 4, AD 33. [online] Available at: <https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/holy-week-saturday-april-4-ad-33/> [Accessed 11 April 2020].
- Smith, S., 2020. Easter 2018: Silent Saturday. [online] The Gospel Coalition. Available at: <https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/scotty-smith/easter-2018-silent-saturday/> [Accessed 11 April 2020].
- The Gospel Coalition. 2020. Waiting On Saturday For Sunday’S Redemption. [online] Available at: <https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/waiting-on-saturday-for-sundays-redemption/> [Accessed 11 April 2020].
- The Gospel Coalition. 2020. Ravi Zacharias: Easter Reflections From My Hospital Bed. [online] Available at: <https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/easter-reflection-hospital-bed-zacharias/> [Accessed 11 April 2020].
- Manning Shull, M., 2020. Holy Saturday. [online] Rzim.org. Available at: <https://www.rzim.org/read/a-slice-of-infinity/holy-saturday> [Accessed 11 April 2020].
- Carttini, J., 2020. The Silence Is Not Empty. [online] Rzim.org. Available at: <https://www.rzim.org/read/a-slice-of-infinity/the-silence-is-not-empty-2> [Accessed 11 April 2020].
- Isiah 52:13 – 53:12, Psalm 22, Hebrews 10:16-25, Hebrews 4:14-16 & 5:7-9 and John 18:1-19:42. ↩
- “Is Ireland turning to religion during the Covid-19 crisis?”https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2020/0408/1129276-ireland-religion-coronavirus/ ↩