By: Sarah Norman
In the last several weeks, we have asked lots of questions in learning why God came to this earth. If you could ask God one question, what would it be? Would you ask why there was so much pain and suffering? Why did COVID-19 have to happen? Why did your loved one have to die? Would you ask why God chose to do things the way He did? When you ask God your question, will you trust His answer?
God has spent all of time showing us He is trustworthy. From the first garden, the Garden of Eden, to the garden where Jesus was laid, we see that God had a good plan in the works. He knew when he first made Adam what Adam's choice would be, yet He still created him. He made a creation that He knew would betray Him, would cause Him pain, yet He still chose to enter into relationship with us. He chose to do that because He had a plan to save us.
The last words Jesus said while He was dying on the cross were, “'It is finished'. Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit,” (John 19:30). Jesus didn't just come to die, to experience what dying was like. He actually died. He was dead for 3 days. He experienced what no one living currently has experienced. As Christians, we observe Good Friday because we know what's coming and we celebrate Easter because of the miracle that happened, but we often don't talk about or think about what happened on Saturday. Jesus was dead. They laid his lifeless body in a tomb and still expected him to be there Sunday morning when they went to finish the burial. Saturday is the messy middle, the in-between place that we most often live. It's the place where we question God, where we cry out in our anger and sadness over whatever is happening. We see Mary Magdalene, John and Peter on Sunday morning but what was Saturday like for them? They spent 3 years following Jesus around, learning from him, hearing his teachings, hearing the prophecies, and yet they still didn't quite understand. They were heartbroken, probably asking the same questions of God that we often ask, Why did this have to happen? What does it all mean? What do we do now? We all have our Saturday's, our in-between, messy middle times in life where we have no answers and no solutions other than crying out to God, wondering what we should do next.
But the amazing thing about this story that is not just a story, but historical reality, is that Sunday came and Jesus was not there. John 19:41 says “Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid.” Jesus was not placed in a graveyard, he was not burned as was custom of victims of crucifixion but rather, he was placed in a tomb in a garden. Graveyards are where people go to die and stay dead. Seeds may be buried in a garden, but they don't stay buried. They sprout new life. Jesus was buried in a garden. That was not done by accident. He never intended to stay dead for long. On Sunday morning when the women went to finish the burial they went into the tomb and saw a man dressed in a white robe. He said to them “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.” (Mark 16:6) Do you think the prophecies finally made sense? Do you think they finally began putting the pieces together. They were told to go and tell the disciples so they did. Mary Magdalene chose to see the tomb in the garden, not the grave. After she saw Jesus, she ran to the disciples and proclaimed, “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18).
We know the story from their. Jesus did not stay dead. He resurrected from the grave. He defeated death. He did that so we may know new life in Him. He experienced death, suffering, separation from God, the weight of the sin of the world so that we could know Him and live with Him. Our faith means absolutely nothing if this did not happen. We would be worshiping a man still in the grave, able to do nothing because he would just be bones, degraded over 2000 years. But instead, we worship a risen Savior.
In the first garden, there was a tree that ended Adam's life, cursing the entire world. Near this garden, there was another tree that ended Jesus' life, saving the entire world. (Justin's Message 4/4). Jesus did not die just for the Jewish people, as we learn later in scripture. He did not die just for the men of his time as we see in his appearance to Mary Magdalene first. He did not die for one race, one class, one gender, but for all the world. Our faith is open to every person and is the answer to whatever question you have. God is not afraid of your questions, even the hard ones. He's not afraid of your anger, your hurt, your disappointment. God is big enough to handle your big stuff. We know that because of Easter. Jesus rising from the dead and ascending to Heaven, doing what no one else had ever done or has ever done is the reason I know things will be ok. It's ok to be in the messy middle. It's ok to ask your questions, to even wonder at times what the point of it all is or if God even exists. God is not afraid of those questions. But if you're going to ask, then trust God's answer. Trust that because of what he did on the cross, being willing to step into our pain, step into death, experience those things alongside us, then He has the answer. He sees you in your pain. He hears you crying out. He is not ignoring you. He is the answer to your questions.
So are you in a Saturday season right now? Are you in an in-between, messy middle place? Are you questioning God, wondering why? Don't be afraid to cry out to him. Don't be afraid to ask him your questions. Look to the cross and the empty tomb for your answers. Will you choose to see the tomb in the graveyard or the garden? Will you choose to see that Jesus died to bring new life to this world, a new covenant, not born out of empty rituals but a lasting relationship with Him? He wants to be in relationship with you where you are, rather in your in-between place or on the other side. He wants to walk with you through it. The cross and the empty tomb in a garden are what make that possible.