OK, let's back up a minute.
It's Easter Week in the Christian tradition. We had a thoughtful sermon on Palm Sunday, in which the preacher talked about something I've often thought a lot about: Saturday.
Think about the two major events of Easter week: on Friday, Jesus is crucified; on Sunday, he's risen from the dead.
Imagine the followers of Jesus on that weekend. On Friday, their hopes and dreams die on a cross. Perhaps they remember Jesus saying he'd rise from the dead, but do they really believe it? Oh, they may hope it's true, but do they really believe?
So now they sit and wonder if all the promises they believed were real or just lies.
In a sense, all Christians are currently living in Saturday. We believe Jesus was who He said He was (the Son of God), that he lived and died and rose again - and someday He's coming back!
So we wait.
Those first followers hid. There aren't a whole lot of verses of what happened in between Friday and Saturday, but we know Peter denied knowing Jesus, that they rest of them fled and hid behind locked doors, afraid to come out.
I can relate. I'm ashamed to say there was one time, in particular, when I denied knowing Jesus. It shames me to this day.
And there have been times when, as a Christian, I was living in such a way as to not be found out; locking my doors so to speak.
Years ago, I read Foxe's Book of Martyrs. It's both an inspiring book and a depressing book, in the sense that it's inspiring to read about the commitment and unwavering devotion of some very common people who lived like, well, saints; and depressing in the sense that I don't know that I have the courage or strength to do the same. I don't do well with torture.
As a kid I grew up hearing stories of great "heroes of the Faith,'' people who sacrificed it all for their call. People who went to India and Africa and the most remote jungles of South America; people who faced down demons and drug lords and headhunters.
In my little Southern church. the biggest threats to our faith were over zealous legalistic Christians who condemned boys with long hair and listened to rock music and went to movies.
It was tough to be a "hero of the faith'' when the people you most feared were the people who were supposed to be the examples of what the Christian life was supposed to be. Sad to say, sometimes it's hardest to be a Christian when faced with the threat of judgement from other Christians.
When I was younger, deep down I secretly dreamed of being put in a position to give my life for Christ. I could see myself being arrested in some future country by the authorities who order me to renounce my faith or die; I choose death, of course, but I'm allowed to speak my last words and so I boldly and loudly recite the 23rd Psalm or the Apostles Creed or John 3:16. And while the firing squad still kills me, my last words so move people who witnessed my execution (it's televised, of course) that it causes them to rethink their own lives, to become Christians, and one day they bring their children and grandchildren to the place where I was martyred and they say, "See? Here's where Ray died" and they'd have their pictures taken and leave heartfelt notes and flowers in my memory.
Of course, most of us will never (thankfully, I must admit now) be asked to make that big sacrifice; to - as I heard it described once - "cash that big check. Instead, most of us cash checks for $1.23 or for 87 cents or maybe every now and then one for 11 or 12 dollars."
But then, that's really what life is like for most of us, isn't it? We're living here in Saturday, looking back at Friday and what we know happened while looking forward to Sunday and what we believe will happen.
There's an interesting verse at the end of Matthew, the 17th verse of the 20-verse 28th and last chapter of the book. Jesus has been crucified and risen. the disciples have been lured out of hiding, and come to the mountain where Jesus told them to go, where they'd see Jesus. And the verse says, "And when they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted."
Amazing, isn't it? They saw him, they worshipped him, and yet there still remained some doubt.
That's what Saturday is all about. We worship, even as we wait. And as we wait, sometimes we wonder.
It's Saturday. Sometimes it feels like Jesus is never coming back.
The waiting is always the hardest part.
That's what I think about every Easter: the wait.