Recent photos of empty streets and parking lots leave me feeling uneasy. Playgrounds and ballfields. Stadiums and universities. Restaurants and doctor’s offices. School buildings and churches.
Where did everybody go?
I know how this happened, so sudden and with little warning. I would never have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself. Not in our lifetime.
Easter weekend has just passed; the first in my lifetime I’ve not been at church. In my search for holiness and celebration, for history and consistency, I traveled back through that last week of Jesus’ life. From Palm Sunday to that tortuous Friday, to Resurrection Day. I tried to relive it all, as best I could.
And it brings me back to those pictures of abandonment. Empty streets and hillsides. There is one haunting question that continues to burn in my heart.
“Why wasn’t anyone there, waiting at the tomb?”
After all, Jesus promised he’d come back on the third day. Many times.
“Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.'”(Luke 9:21-22) NIV
And a second time:
“For he will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon; they will scourge him and kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” (Luke 18:31-32) NIV
It’s important to realize how many miraculous signs the apostles had seen over this time. They’d walked alongside of Jesus, watched him do many amazing miracles and recognized that he was clearly not of this world.
Still, they didn’t get it.
Keep in mind, eight days after he first predicted his death and resurrection, he took Peter, James and John (three of the sleepiest friends he could have ever found) with him to a mountain to pray. Not only did these three get the chance to see the previously deceased Moses and Elijah in all their restored glory, but they also witnessed a cloud surround Jesus and heard the voice of God clearly saying “This is my son, whom I have chosen. Listen to him.”
You’d think that would have done it for them. They could have easily gone back and studied his words. Asked him to clarify, or to be more specific.
Still, they didn’t get it.
Where Did Everybody Go?
When things took a drastic turn and he went from being a hero to being hated within a week’s time, you’d think they might have recognized the signs of all he’d predicted. They could have, should have, stood back with a twinkle in their eyes and gathered everyone around to watch what happened next.
Instead, they scattered. Ran off in fear, afraid they might face the same tragic downfall. And forgot everything Jesus had taught them to prepare them for this exact moment.
And as frustrated as I get reading about them, I realize these apostles are much like us. Too human to see the spiritual. Repeating the same mistakes, time and time again.
The area around that tomb should have been packed on that Sunday morning. The nine-thousand people Jesus had fed should have been there, along with their wives and children. The woman from the well. The servants from the wedding. Peter’s mother-in-law. The completely healed leper. Lazarus. The woman who was no longer hemorrhaging after suffering for 18 years. The woman who was healed by touching the hem of Jesus’s garment.
They all should have been there, waiting for him to return.
Instead, there was only the angel Gabriel and Jesus himself, neither of whom took the time to write down what happened for the rest of us. I wonder what they talked about once Gabriel rolled away the stone. Did Jesus hide around the corner and jump out to surprise him?
Probably not. Jesus had traveled through hell to get to this moment. He pierced the darkness, so we’d never have to be afraid of it. God literally had to turn his back on his Son to get to the other side, and his suffering was very real.
I would imagine he was somber, thankful, and knew his friends were hurting. He couldn’t wait to go find them. To renew their spirits. To heal their land.
To point them toward Heaven and all that truly matters.
I think he’s doing it again.
Through this pandemic, I think he’s using the year 2020 to correct our vision. To make things right.
Because that’s what Jesus does best.