Three days – that’s all it took. Just three days to change the course of history. But no one could've seen where those three days were going on the first day.
On day one, Jesus' followers watched helplessly as the person they put all their hope in walked up a hill just outside of Jerusalem called Golgotha. They saw Jesus nailed to a cross – a punishment reserved for only the worst criminals – and watched him breathe his last breath.
They thought Jesus was their rescuer, their Savior. They expected him to lead them to victory and defeat the forces of evil that were working against them. But now, on day one, reality came crashing in as they saw Jesus hanging up on the cross.
“We had hoped he was the Messiah,” they said (Luke 24:21). But standing there, coming to grips with what they had just witnessed, their hopes were dashed – because saviors don’t die.
When you look back on the three days between Jesus’ death and resurrection, there’s a lot we can relate to and apply to the suffering we experience today.
Day 1: reality comes crashing in
It probably wouldn’t take very long for you to recall some deep disappointments in life, where the things you hoped for weren’t realized. You may find yourself easily relating to the way Jesus’ followers felt all those years ago – you know what it feels like when you don’t get what you hoped for.
On the other hand, we sometimes experience disappointment when we get everything we wanted but are let down. We discover that the shiny new thing didn’t deliver on the promise you thought it would give you.
It could look a thousand different ways, but what those followers of Jesus experienced on day one, and what so many of us have walk through today, is when the thing you want least is exactly what you end up getting.
Day 2: when you feel like giving up
If day one is when we realize that the things we hoped for aren’t reality, day two is the day it settles in on us that we now have to live with this reality. The thing you wanted least is exactly what you’ve been handed.
There are 327 verses written in the Bible about what happened on day one and the death of Jesus.
How many are written about day two? One: “Then they went home” (Luke 23:56). That’s all we know. They went home to the reality that what happened wasn’t just a bad dream – it was the next day, and Jesus was in a grave. The disciples probably asked a lot of the same questions you have: “Is this really my life now?” “Why, God?” “Couldn’t you have stopped this?”
It may have been in the middle of a day two life circumstance that you gave up on faith. You prayed, you sought God, and it felt like he was silent – if he was even there at all.
There’s a serious misconception that, if you’re Christian, doubting or questioning God means your faith is shaky, if it’s even real at all. However, we see throughout the Scriptures that God isn’t afraid of our big questions – he actually invites them.
Consider Psalm 22 – a written prayer in the Bible where the writer asks some honest, vulnerable questions:
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far when I groan for help? Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night I lift my voice, but find no relief. Yet you are holy…” (Psalm 22:1-3).
This verse tells us that honest questioning and hope in God can live side by side. “Holy” means set apart, completely and utterly different than us. The writer is saying that even though it feels like God is nowhere to be found, they know who God is and refuse to give up on him.
When day two closes in and we feel like there’s no way out, don’t give up on God. Like we see on day three for the disciples, day two isn’t the end. God has more in store.
Day three: things are not as they appear
On day three, a few of Jesus’ followers went to the grave to preserve the body. But there was no body - the grave was empty! Not long after that, Jesus – in the flesh – showed up in a home that some of his followers were meeting in. He asked them, “Why are you frightened? Why are your hearts filled with doubt? Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me” (Luke 24:38,41)
At this point, the disciples probably had a big realization about day two: they were never abandoned. God was at work the entire time.
In the middle of your suffering, Jesus says the same thing to you: “Why are you frightened? Why are you filled with doubt?”
Things are not as they appear.
On day one, it looks like all hope is lost.On day two, it feels like God is silent.But on day three, everything falls into perspective. With every tear you shed, every cry that escaped your lips, every prayer you prayed, Jesus says, “I’ve been there the whole time – listening to you, fighting for you.”
On day 2, Jesus wasn’t just lying lifeless in a grave – he was overcoming death (Romans 5:17)! When it felt like nothing was happening, everything was changing.
The same is true for you. When you felt like God abandoned you, he was working. When you felt like he was silent, he was listening. What if, instead of giving up and giving in, you reached out to Jesus?
Where do I go from here?
As we look back at the three days Jesus’ followers lived through between his death and resurrection, there’s a lot God teaches us about our own suffering today. He gives us three important questions to consider:
- Will you dare to trust that he’s still holy?
- Will you hold on to hope that something more is coming?
- Will you believe him when he says he hasn’t abandoned you?
The pain of day one and the questions of day two are unavoidable in your life right now. But the resurrection on day three shows us that things are not as they appear – something is going on that you can’t see in the moment.
Instead of giving up, reach out to Jesus just like the author of Psalm 22 did. Tell him about your questions, struggles, and doubts. Then remind yourself who you’re talking to – the God who is powerful and understanding beyond what we can comprehend (Psalm 147:4-5).
Instead of ignoring you, God is at work right now making everything new – including you. Here are some more resources to bring you hope and encouragement in whatever you’re facing:
Was Jesus Done After Easter? How Am I Affected?
3 Truths to Overcome the Lies of New Beginnings
How Should We Respond to the Hurt Life Hands Us?
LCBC stands for Lives Changed By Christ. We are one church in multiple locations across Pennsylvania. Find the location closest to you or join us for Church Online. We can’t wait to connect with you!