A Most Stunning (and telling ) Omission
As most Christians are wont to do on Easter weekend, I found myself rereading the account of Jesus’ last days before His murder. Then I went on to the crucifixion account itself, and the events following, culminating in His resurrection and subsequent appearances before His final ascension. Then something caught my eye. All four Gospels carry their accounts of the crucifixion. They record how Joseph of Arimathea (John includes Nicodemus) saw Him wrapped and buried in the tomb. And then – silence. Silence until at the conclusion of the Sabbath, the 2 Marys went with spices and ointments to tend even more to His hastily buried body.
It is the silence which intrigues me. Not a word from the Apostles. Not one. No record of what they did. No account of what they were thinking at that point. Not even a hint of what they felt.
If the crucifixion had happened today, there would have been a news crew stationed outside of where either one or more of them could have been found. The paparazzi would have haunted every side street and the places they were known to frequent. Some group would have been stationed outside of Peter’s door for sure. And we all know the first questions which would have been asked had an interview been granted: “What did you feel when you saw Him brutalized? When you saw Him on the Cross? When He died? How do you feel about all of this now?”
But Scripture doesn’t address these things at all.
Truth be told, many a Christian even today might hear a sermon with a similar query. Or maybe a small group studying these things in this season would find the members asked or asking that same question – “how do you feel about all of this?”
And given today’s contest, we surely would have expected a spate of books – biographical or autobiographical with titles like: “3 Dark Days”, “The Hours of our Deepest Pain”, “How I overcame despair – The Memoir of a Disciple.” Etc. We look for such documents in vain. Not just extra-Biblically, but among the pages of Holy Writ itself. Why do we hear nothing of this span of time from the pen of John, or Peter, or Peter’s probable amanuensis Mark? Nor from the carefully researched history of Dr. Luke? Why nothing of it even in Peter’s epistles?
Short answer? Because it doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter.
What they felt in those hours – both to THEM, and to the Holy Spirit, was and is utterly and completely irrelevant. As irrelevant as our feelings about it too.
If we just glance quickly at Peter’s post resurrection writings, what we come away with is this – what matters is: That it was Jesus who came. It was Jesus who suffered. Jesus who was Crucified. Jesus who died. Jesus who was buried. Jesus who rose from the dead. Jesus who ascended to the Father and Jesus who is coming back again to judge the world in righteousness.
So it is Paul can write to the Corinthians: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” (1 Cor. 15:3-35)
And Peter: “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3)
You see, grace and peace are multiplied to us through “the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord”, not by what we feel about them. It is through knowing Him, not sympathizing with His sufferings. Loving Him, not weeping at the brutality. Obeying Him, not feeling overwhelmed at the physical pain. Any normal human being can be moved by the spectacle of what took place. But being moved, and resting the whole of our hope for the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation to the Father and eternal life are two very different things. We can grieve and mourn and feel horrible for such things if they had happened to anyone. Our feelings about it do not save us. Our faith in His accomplished atoning work there does. “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
The question is this – not how do you feel about His death, burial and resurrection – but do you know Him as you sin-bearer in His death burial and resurrection? If you do know Him savingly, it will impact your feelings and emotions. But do not confuse feelings which are evoked by the impact of the truth of the Gospel upon your soul, with feelings simply aroused by the brutality and physicality of Jesus’ crucifixion. Countless numbers have done the latter, who have never reckoned with the former. One is salvation. The other is not.
So as you contemplate the wondrous realities this weekend occasions us to recall so pointedly – put the focus where it belongs: On Him, and what He did in dying on the Cross and rising from the dead. Not on yourself, or your feelings about it.
All glory, laud, and honor
to you, Redeemer, King,
to whom the lips of children
made sweet hosannas ring.
You are the King of Israel
and David’s royal Son,
now in the Lord’s name coming,
the King and Blessed One.
The company of angels
is praising you on high;
and we with all creation
in chorus make reply.
The people of the Hebrews
with palms before you went;
our praise and prayer and anthems
before you we present.
To you before your passion
they sang their hymns of praise;
to you, now high exalted,
our melody we raise.
As you received their praises,
accept the prayers we bring,
for you delight in goodness,
O good and gracious King!
Theodulph of Orleans