It’s been several days since my last post. A late winter cold that ran through the rest of the family before hitting me turned into full blown bronchitis. Today I am rejoicing because I feel almost normal! The sun is shining with that almost too-bright quality that I’ve found to be so pervasive here in north Texas with the temperature in the 60s.
My daughter had an easter egg hunt this morning. When every egg had been found (within about three minutes!), Cadi noticed a stark before/after view of the field. I am continually amazed at how the Lord speaks to her gentle heart.
The field before the hunt is like the disciples felt before Jesus died on the cross. Then, after all the eggs were picked up, the field looks empty, just like the disciples felt after Jesus died on the cross. It’s the in-between time that is so sad.
I tried paraphrasing her comment above, but she’ll probably tell me I got part of it wrong! Anyway, my sweet child hit the nail on the head with that one, didn’t she? It’s the in-between times of life that are sometimes so empty, so barren.
I wonder how bowed down with anguish the disciples must have been to see their Lord hanging on the cross. Usually the Easter story is told from the perspective of Christ and the over-arching meaning and symbolism of what he did for us. But buried within that story is the tale of the ordinary humans facing perplexing anguish…and most likely doubt. What did his death mean for them? Did they question their loyalties, examine their hearts? Had they been misled? Those questions swirled in with grief at the loss of their rabbi, their friend. The man they literally followed around the countryside…the one who healed their diseases, miraculously provided food and provisions, walked on water, calmed the waves in a storm, brought a dead man back to life…this one, gone? Dead? How did they react?
Let’s take a walk through the gospels and see how they reacted to Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion:
Peter was filled with fear after the mob came and arrested Jesus. This man whom Jesus had named “The Rock” had very human feelings. We learn that he was not as big of a Christ follower as he thought he would be. Never in a million years would he have thought he would desert Jesus.
Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.” Matthew 26:33
It was in this in-between time that Peter came face to face with his own weaknesses. Indeed, all the other disciples deserted Jesus after he was arrested. They didn’t casually walk away, either. The Bible says in verse 56,
At that point, all the disciples deserted him and fled.
People don’t flee unless they are deathly afraid. People flee from robbers. When the airplanes hit the World Trade Center, people fled as fast as they could to get away from the terror and debris. So these disciples who Jesus had been teaching deserted him. They turned tail and ran. But what about Peter? What did he do?
58 Meanwhile, Peter followed him at a distance and came to the high priest’s courtyard. He went in and sat with the guards and waited to see how it would all end.
He went and sat in the courtyard. Technically, that is still following Christ, but it is doing so at a distance. It’s that “wait and see” approach to life. I am feeling very convicted writing these words because there are many times that I do exactly what Peter did. I follow Christ, yes. But sometimes I do so at a distance. My mind and my heart are not always one hundred percent sold out for Him.
Last week I had an appointment with a pulminologist. When he learned that I am a homeschool parent, he questioned me at length on my reasons for homeschooling. He asked me very tough questions. I could feel my cheeks blushing as I stumbled around my answers. As a former teacher, I answered professionally and spoke of student-teacher ratios and standardized test scores. But not once — not once — did I mention my faith in Christ as a defining reason for homeschooling.
Like Peter, I am shamed by my response and determined to make this right, to use it as a learning experience for myself. And that got me to thinking — if I didn’t naturally spout it as the reason, could it be that I have allowed other reasons to supersede the main one — to train up my child in the understanding, knowledge, and wisdom that comes from the Lord? Am I too mired in math, history, spelling and reading to put the focus on learning about the Lord?
Because of my reticence, I missed a golden opportunity to share my faith. This doctor then prescribed a zillion pills and sent me on my way. But what would have happened if I had looked him in the eye and gently said,
I homeschool my child because the Lord laid it on my heart that it is the right thing to do in this time, in this place. Public education has dissected God from all topics of learning, and my faith cannot let that stand. The One who created me is the same One who created this world we live in, and it is through Him that we learn the truth that sets us free and opens our minds to true wisdom and understanding.
But I did not say that. I kept my faith in the distance. To bring it to the front, perhaps I will write him a letter. I need to communicate with him anyway about my condition. Peter did not write a letter, though, nor did he look anyone in the eye and tell them about the miracles he’d witnessed or the things Jesus had promised. (He did promise, before his arrest, that he would be hung on a cross and that on the third day he WOULD rise again.) But Peter didn’t boast about any of that to the guards. He waited.
The other disciples fled and deserted Jesus when he was arrested. Peter followed — at a distance — but then he deserted Jesus with the words of his mouth:
69 Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.”
70 But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
71 Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.[l]”
72 Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said.
73 A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.”
74 Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed.
75 Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly.
He went away, weeping bitterly.
It was an in-between time for Peter, just as it has been an in-between time for me. There are times that I feel so full of the spirit that I feel like singing or soaring in the air with the birds…if I don’t sing to the Lord it feels like my soul will burst. And then there are times that I feel so low and barren. Doubts zing through my mind and I question the One who made me. I pout. I cry. Modern day doctors call it depression — I call it walking through another valley. I walked through a valley recently when I got so sick. It’s difficult to write uplifting words about faith when your soul feels wrung out! But the Lord was still with me, just as He was with Peter when Peter went away, weeping bitterly.
The other disciples holed up in their in-between time…at least, the men did. Several women followers of Jesus watched the gruesome crucifixion from a distance. From Mark 16:
40 Some women were there, watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James the younger and of Joseph[i]), and Salome. 41 They had been followers of Jesus and had cared for him while he was in Galilee. Many other women who had come with him to Jerusalem were also there.
After Jesus died, Joseph of Arimathea asked for Jesus’ body for burial. He, at least, was a man of action.
46 Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus’ body was laid.
The other disciples were in the middle of terrible grieving, even on the third day. These were the same disciples who heard straight from Jesus’ mouth that he WOULD return to them on the third day. Their grief was so real and so bitter that they forgot his promise and did not believe he would come back even when told that he had been seen alive (from Mark 16):
9 After Jesus rose from the dead early on Sunday morning, the first person who saw him was Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went to the disciples, who were grieving and weeping, and told them what had happened. 11 But when she told them that Jesus was alive and she had seen him, they didn’t believe her.
They were so consumed with grief that they couldn’t see the good news. Have you ever been like that? Have you ever been so down, so depressed, that you forget the promises Jesus has given?
12 Afterward he appeared in a different form to two of his followers who were walking from Jerusalem into the country. 13 They rushed back to tell the others, but no one believed them.
So now the count is THREE witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection, but they still do not believe. Again, this is in spite of the fact that Jesus himself told them he would rise again.
14 Still later he appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating together. He rebuked them for their stubborn unbelief because they refused to believe those who had seen him after he had been raised from the dead.[d]
Finally, they believe! He appears to all eleven of them. After all, eleven witnesses of the same event give credibility to that event, don’t they? Especially when their experience is identical; it’s not as if they all had identical dreams. This really happened! They were all rebuked at the same time. But they didn’t seem to wallow in this unbelief for long after they had been reminded by their Savior. After Jesus gave them instructions to go out and tell this world about him, Mark 16:20 records that:
And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs.
The disciples were in a very bitter “in-between” time. They were so wrapped up in it that they failed to see the Light beckoning, calling them to remember the promise and believe. It is so easy to forget to believe in God’s promises when we are walking through those in-between times. Sometimes we become so encased in our bitterness and tears that nothing short of a miracle can snap us out of it, as it did for the eleven disciples. As I walk my road with Christ, I pray that I will be able to rise above the in-between times. I pray I will come up for air enough times to realize that the Light still beckons. And when my hard heart finally receives the truth and I start to break out of the in-between time in the valley, I joyfully accept any rebuke He sends my way, because the rebuke itself is proof of His unwavering love.