The Third Day, Easter!
Holy Week is coming to an end. Friday was the remembrance of Good Friday, the day of the crucifixion of Jesus – and today is Easter – the celebration associated with the resurrection of Jesus, defeating death once and for all. But the day we don’t talk much about is Saturday – the day in between these two important days in the Christian calendar. Saturday marks the day that the world waited – the reality of the death of Jesus was just setting in and it is certainly possible that the disciples gathered together to contemplate what the loss of Jesus meant to them. The rush of the previous day’s events was over and the crowds were dispersing. The body of Jesus was laid to rest in a tomb carved out of stone, sealed with a large stone and guards were standing by. Many were probably wondering whether the end of the story had been written.
But it wasn’t the death of Jesus that was so remarkable. It was the resurrection – the deliverance of God’s people on the third day through the miracle of Jesus returning to life. The leaders of many religions have died, but we worship the living God! And that’s what sets us apart from many other world religions.
Historically, the Bible is full of third day deliverances – not as dramatic as the one surrounding the Easter story – but nonetheless, the pattern holds. When the people of God departed Egypt and headed to the Promised Land, it should have been a three day journey. But it was delayed, almost 40 years, because God was trying to teach His people to depend on Him for their survival.
The patriarch Abraham was told to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and when we read that story, we should realize that on the third day, God provided the ram – the sacrifice instead of Isaac. In one of the most dramatic stories in the Old Testament, Esther is called upon to be the voice of her people and is challenged by her uncle, Mordecai, to approach her husband, the king. She was afraid, but decided to fast and pray – on the third day she was favorably received by the king, who could have chosen to have her killed. She was delivered… and so were the people of God as the end of the story approaches.
Jonah, whose story is often compared to the story of Jesus, was in the belly of a great fish for, you guessed it, three days! And then he was delivered to Ninevah to carry out the instructions of God. Then there is the story of King Hezekiah, who was told that he would soon die. He begged for more time and on the third day, he was healed and given additional years of life by God. His son, born during Hezekiah’s newfound lease on life, turned out to be the worst king in history, but Hezekiah himself was spared on the third day, the Scriptures tell us.
We even see deliverance when Joseph imprisons his brothers in Egypt and sets them free on the third day. Of course, there are many more examples of this phenomenon but I think you get the idea. God has a habit of delivering his people on the third day. The patterns usually contain similar elements. The first day is the negative event, full of drama and leaving people scared and unsure. Remember Good Friday, or Jonah being swallowed by the fish, or Joseph throwing his brothers in prison…
The second day is filled with uncertainty. Is this all there is? Does it ever get better or is this the new norm? Stalled, unable to move, stuck after the shock yesterday’s event but not yet hopeful. And then, there is the third day – the day of restoration, deliverance, joy, peace, celebration. Even Hosea, in the Old Testament, saw the pattern. he tells us, in Hosea 6:1,2, “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.” And this was way before the crucifixion of Jesus.
Our verse from tonight is from the good Dr. Luke. He tells us in his Gospel, Luke 24:17, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” That’s it… the confirmation of the resurrection of Jesus. We have this evidence from others as well, but we all know the story. Victory over death – eternal life.
My encouragement this Easter night is that God wants to deliver all of us by offering each of us the free gift of salvation. Because Christ died for everyone – believers and non-believers alike. This is the sacrifice that God and Jesus made several thousand years ago on the cross. My prayer is that you will take a few moments and remember the empty tomb. This just may be the day to re-energize and re-dedicate your relationship with Jesus and spread the Good News to the ends of the Earth! He is Risen! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…