Mary Magdalene and Mary the Mother of Joses saw where the body was laid (Mark 15v47)
IF there is one thing we can be sure of at Easter, it's that Jesus' followers definitely weren't expecting his resurrection.
They certainly weren't hanging around outside his tomb with flags waiting to cheer him as he emerged. They hadn't arranged for a crowd to be on hand as eye-witnesses to an earth-shattering event.
Mark in his gospel tells us that "Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where Jesus' body was laid," (15v47). They had been watching the crucifixion (v40) – and after Joseph of Arimathea asks for Jesus' corpse they observe where it is placed.
The next thing they did was nothing, as Jewish law commanded that people observe the Sabbath by resting. And the thing they did after that was to get some spices together early on Sunday in order, Mark tells us, to go and anoint Jesus' body. As they did so they were wondering, he adds, who would roll the stone outside the tomb away.
I wonder what that intervening period of 24 hours – that first Easter Saturday – was like. So far as these women and the rest of Jesus' disciples were concerned, Christ was dead – and buried. So that was the end of all their hopes and dreams that he might have been the Messiah, then. That was the end of their expectation that the Kingdom of God might be coming afresh.
They should have known better, of course. Three times, Mark tells us, Jesus had specifically taken aside his disciples and friends to explain to them that he must die – and then be raised. But with delightful candour, Mark also explains that they consistently and completely fail to get it.
On the first occasion, Peter takes Jesus aside and begins to rebuke him for the very idea (8v32). The second time, his disciples do not understand what he is saying and are "afraid to ask him," (9v32). When Jesus makes a third effort to tell them what is going to happen, James and John are most concerned about securing the best places for themselves (10v32-37).
So when Jesus is crucified and buried, there is no indication Jesus' friends and followers are expecting anything to follow. What utter grief, what desolation, what darkness and despair they must have felt. What fools too – leaving everything to follow a man who had proved to be such a failure.
And often we find ourselves in the same position too. The world falls apart, in some way, shape or form. Difficult circumstances drag on; the worst thing in the world we had feared happening to us actually does; those we love suffer and die. For us too, our Easter Saturdays are a mix of numbness, sadness and questioning.
The disciples had forgotten Jesus' promises of resurrection. In fact, they had never really grasped them anyway. And it's sometimes the same for us, too. All seems lost – it feels as if there is no hope. The promises of God never enter our minds.
But before we are too hard on either them or ourselves, let's remember how faithful and forgiving Jesus is. After his resurrection, Peter and the disciples are told they will see him and meet with him (16v7). Those unbelieving, faithless, grieving, confused friends – Jesus is still coming to them.
So if it's dark for you, right now, don't despair. To paraphrase Corrie Ten Boom: "Never give up your ticket in the middle of the tunnel." Remember the promises of God. But even if you don't, Jesus will still – if you are a disciple of his – remain faithful to you nonetheless. Your own Easter Saturday is not the end.
David Baker is a former daily newspaper journalist now working as an Anglican minister in Sussex. The Rough Guide to Discipleship is a fortnightly devotional series.