I noticed a friend posted this morning on Facebook that today is the greatest "pause" in the story of Easter. It is true, I think, because we acknowledge today that Jesus has died. He is in the tomb, anointed with burial oils and wrapped in linen cloths.
And so we wait. In many Christian churches, this time between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is marked by the observance of an 'Easter Vigil.' It seems to me that we are probably unable to grasp the depth of the grief experienced by those who followed Jesus during his earthly life. The 12 men who dropped everything to follow him from village to village, believing He was Messiah, the chosen one of God that the prophets had spoken of...even though they didn't fully comprehend what that meant. His mother, Mary, who had known from His birth that her son was unique and sent from God to save His people, and yet...for her, Jesus' death was experienced as the death of a firstborn son. A wrenching pain, a loss that all parents everywhere will tell you is their worst nightmare.
Grief touches all of us at different times in our lives. All grief is painful, but the grief of death is a different kind of agony. A loss so intense that it can cause our bodies to buckle under the weight of it; grief that takes your breath away; weeping so deep it brings with it waves of nausea and the loss of our most basic daily appetites.
Jesus grieved this way. Did you know that? He wept at the grave of His dearest friend. He wept not just for the loss of His friend, but for the pain He saw in the family members of the friend who died. Jesus knew loss - the kind of loss that we know today. He wept the kind of tears that make your stomach ache and your head throb.
He wept on the day that we know as 'Palm Sunday,' celebrated in the Christian church as the day of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem at the start of the Passover celebration. Why would Jesus weep on such a day? Do you know the story, and how it ends?
The night before Jesus was crucified, He wept bitterly. Did you know that part of His story? Jesus knew what was coming. He knew that it was unavoidable, and that it was necessary to fulfill His purpose for coming. And, He knew that in the end, all would be well. But still, He wept.
On the night before He died, Jesus went to a garden and asked His closest friends to come with Him to pray. This is what He said to them:
"My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me."
Jesus, Messiah, Son of God...able to heal the sick, restore sight to the blind, and yes...raise the dead. This Jesus, when in the hours before He knew His death was imminent, was crushed with grief to the point of death.
Grief can indeed be so heavy it feels like a weight that will crush you. It can take your breath away, and leave you feeling unable to even move. Jesus knows. He gets it. He has been in that very place.
If you are in the 'Saturday' of your own Easter weekend of life, please know that Jesus Himself will observe the vigil with you. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit. -Psalm 34:18
Sunday is coming.