“But we were hoping that he was the one who was about to redeem Israel. Besides all this, it’s the third day since these things happened.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
If this virus outbreak hadn’t happened, tonight I would have been sleeping under the sharks with my son. This week, his class was set to go on a three-day, two-night trip to the coast. As a part of it, tonight would have been spent in an aquarium where they have you sleep in a room where the whole ceiling is a giant fish tank. I could have drifted off to sleep to the soothing images of sharks wishing they could bust through the glass and eat me. I, like my son, am disappointed. Have you ever been disappointed?
This particular story comes after the resurrection, but it reflects well the mood of the disciples on the Saturday before it happened. It is difficult to put into words just how powerfully disappointed they would have been when Jesus was nailed to that cross. All of the other emotions they would have undoubtedly felt mattered, but this sense of gut-level disappointment would have threatened for a time to overwhelm all the rest.
I can understand this to a point. I’m a Kansas City Royals fan. And a Kansas City Chiefs fan. Learning to live with soul-crushing disappointment is actually a required course before becoming a card-carrying member of those fan clubs. Now, sure, both have won championships in the last five years, and everyone walks around just a bit taller than we used to, but before that? A whole generation of disappointment. Not a few seasons or hard years. A full generation.
Consider the 2014 baseball season. That was the year things suddenly clicked and the years General Manager, Dayton Moore, had invested heavily in creating the most talented farm system in baseball came to fruition. We were good. Really good. For us. We still managed to have a losing streak in July that left the whole city heaving a collective sigh of resignation. That’s how things always went. But then they didn’t.
We spent the last half of the season playing catch up. Slowly, but surely, though, we caught up. It all came down to a September 30 wild card play-in game against the Oakland Athletics in Kansas City. In what would become one of the greatest baseball stories ever told, the Royals managed to stage a wild, 9th-inning comeback to send the game to extra innings. Forty-thousand fans delirious with forbidden hope sat on the edge of their seats until well past midnight as the Royals came back yet again in the bottom of the 12th to reach the playoffs for the first time since before many of the players on the team were even born.
The team swaggered into the playoffs like the World Series title was their right to claim. Like the crowd delirious with hope as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, singing and shouting, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Royals fans across the country knew this was their moment. They were going to be the ones to redeem all the hope the fans had invested in the team over the years.
Then came Madison Bumgarner. It’s so hard to dislike him. By all accounts, he’s a great guy, a committed Christian, and–as I have learned recently–grew up in a small North Carolina town as a regular country kid who would do anything for you if you needed him. For goodness’ sake, the guy secretly competes in rodeo competitions and is really good at that too. I suspect that if I ever met him we could be great friends. But man did we hate his guts that October. We had a man on third, down one run, in the bottom of the 9th. We were 90-feet away from sending game seven, in Kansas City, to extra innings when we just knew the magic of September 30 was going to repeat itself. And then Bumgarner forced an easily caught, pop-up in foul territory, and the game was over. So close.
The disciples knew Jesus was the Messiah. All of His closest followers believed it with every fiber of their being. They were absolutely convinced of it. And then He was arrested. And tried. And nailed to a tree. So close. Yet so far.
“Then he asked them, ‘What is this dispute that you’re having with each other as you are walking?’ And they stopped walking and looked discouraged. The one named Cleopas answered him, ‘Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that happened there in these days?’ ‘What things?’ he asked them. So they said to him, ‘The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet powerful in action and speech before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. But we were hoping that he was the one who was about to redeem Israel.'”
Why reflect on all of this today? It’s always occurred to me that the biggest joys often come out of the biggest disappointments. It is at that moment when all hope seems to be totally extinguished, that the breaking of dawn is the brightest and sweetest. The resurrection is world-changing, soul-saving, spirit-lifting truth of the highest order. But it is worth it to remember that just before they heard the news, the disciples had all but burned their hope in Jesus on a funeral pyre.
As we draw nearer and nearer to Easter and with the ongoing waves of bad news from the virus pandemic still wreaking havoc on the world sounding louder and louder in our ears, it is worth it to remember that there is no disappointment so deep, no discouragement so devastating, no doubt so despairing that the resurrection cannot overwhelm it with hope and life. The light isn’t merely dawning, it has come. The dark may look very dark indeed by comparison, but the light has dawned and no darkness will ever overcome it. Have hope. He is risen.