51. THE DAY AFTER

This is the seventh post of an 8 part series I’m writing for Holy Week.  I hope you’ll come back to read the entire series in posts #45 – #52

 FROM PALM SUNDAY TO EASTER

 THE DAY AFTER                     The death and burial of Jesus                         John 19:31-42

 It’s one of my least favorite days of any given year,  the “DAY AFTER”  There’s actually no set schedule, so it could happen in any month and on any day of the week in that month.  Worst of all, it may actually return more than once a year,  more than once in a  particular month or more than once in any single  week.  All sorts of variables make this day unpredictable. Sometimes it brings a huge emotional letdown while at other times it ushers in a welcomed sense of relief mixed with a whole new set of anxieties.  Whether it follows an incredibly positive experience or an absolutely horrible moment, this “DAY AFTER” is a syndrome all by itself.  It creates a strange sense of emptiness that robs you of joy, sucks out your energy, and leaves you looking for a way to get through the blahs. Nothing of particular importance actually happens on this day……it’s just the “DAY AFTER”.

You may think I’m stretching the concept, but I’m had more than my share of personal experience with the “DAY AFTER” resulting from both positive and negative circumstances.  It’s probably better to focus on the positive so let me share a few examples from my own life.  It would take too long to list them all, but here are some of favorite moments.

First, going to church summer camp as a kid was one of  those experiences.  I looked forward to it for months until the day finally came.  Each week at camp was the best week of my year! Moments from my childhood don’t get much more positive that than.  A few years later I vividly remember getting my first driver’s license.  I thought I had conquered the world. I bought my first car on that day too, so I could finally go anywhere I wanted to go.  That was a mountaintop experience to be sure.

Moving into my adult life, watching my future wife walk down the aisle put a lump in my throat I will never forget.  Why had this beautiful creature decided to marry me?  A year later she blessed me again by giving me my first child.  I was amazed as I watched the miracle of childbirth and greeted my son into the world. That moment was seemingly repeated when I witnessed the birth of my other two children.

And then there was my graduation from Seminary with a Master’s of Divinity. Since I hadn’t graduated from High School or college (there’s a long story behind that), that was a huge moment for me, even if all my classmates had participated in a graduation ceremony 2-3 times already in their lives.

That’s just a small sample of the incredible blessings and positive moments I’ve enjoyed.  I didn’t even mention the unforgettable  vacation moments,  being hired for my dream job  (more than once), successes in projects I directed,  unexpected financial blessings,  buying my first new car,  signing the  papers for my first home purchase, and many, many, many more.   Yet each of these highlight moments was followed by the letdown of the “DAY AFTER”.

Obviously I’ve had my share of negative moments too.  Without getting too introspective, that list includes being mugged at age 15,  a broken engagement at age 19, grieving with my wife over the loss of three children through miscarriage,  walking with my son through the car crash that took the life of his girlfriend during his Senior year of High School,  losing one of my best friends to cancer,  being caught in the middle of a church split, living through two major earthquakes,  9/11, and now a pandemic…….and many more.  You guessed it, after all these events there was a “DAY AFTER”.

When the “DAY AFTER” comes you’re not dealing with what is happening now, but rather what happened yesterday or the days just before.  You’re no longer caught up in that moment……you are recovering from it.  Your exhaustion is often palpable, whether it had been a good or a bad experience.

I’m writing this on the day after Good Friday! Because we know the rest of the story I think we often overlook what that Saturday must have been like for those who had just witnessed the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus.  We like to say, “It’s Friday…..but Sunday’s coming!”  because we know about the resurrection on Easter morning.

But those first century witnesses did not know that.  They hadn’t experienced the miracle of Easter. Whether they were a follower of Jesus or not, if you were in Jerusalem on that weekend you probably were aware of what had just happened.  Most likely you had heard the stories about the miracles and healing of Jesus. You may have even witnessed a few of those events. It seemed like such a tragic end to a story that had held so much promise.  In fact, I think if you were part of that crowd on Friday that called out “Crucify Him” you woke up on Saturday with a sick feeling in their stomach.  Even if you were one of the Roman soldiers who gambled for His clothes, drove the nails into the cross, or berated him with verbal abuse the day before, you sensed there was something just wrong about what had happened on that Friday.

The day after the crucifixion was the Jewish Sabbath. I tend to think there was an emptiness in the worship in a number of synagogues that morning. The followers of Jesus had either scattered to the wind or huddled together behind closed doors.  Pilate probably roamed around his mansion with some questions of his own, remembering his wife’s words of caution.  The streets of Jerusalem may have looked normal that day, but things were far from normal. Even the Jewish religious leaders, who had fought so hard for this “victory” had to entertain feelings of guilt over having an innocent man put to death.  Jesus didn’t play by their rules, but there was no denying what He had single-handedly accomplished over the past three years.  Yes, the “DAY AFTER” left a lot of people in Jerusalem that day looking for answers,  losing sleep, wrestling with their thoughts and dealing with a wave of emotions.

Perhaps the lesson from the Easter story is that there is a “DAY AFTER”  after the “DAY AFTER”.  That’s a not so clever way of saying that while there is always a “DAY AFTER”, whether the experience was positive or negative, there is also a ‘’DAY AFTER” that, and things are subject to change.  The resurrection of Jesus changed the entire story of the “DAY AFTER” following the crucifixion.  It didn’t change that fact that Saturday was a day of mourning for many  — some mourning for Jesus and some mourning because of what they did to Jesus. The thrill of victory for those who opposed Jesus so vehemently on Friday became a shallow feeling of self-loathing the next day. The shock felt by Jesus’ supporters at the horrible things that happened on Friday turned to total confusion and despair on Saturday. Sunday may have been coming, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone who took much solace in that on Saturday.

I don’t know your story, but I guarantee you’ve had your share of “DAY AFTERS”.  You looked forward for months to a special moment, a vacation, completing a task, or connecting with a friend or family member.  Finally that day comes and it’s wonderful, but then it’s over and nothing is left but a memory.  The memory may be pleasant, but there a sadness that this special day has passed.  On the other hand, you may have just walked through a difficult experience, had your integrity challenged, found yourself embroiled in a strained relationship, realized that you were trapped a financial maze, or been diagnosed with a serious health challenge.  As you absorb your loss you find yourself dealing with the effects of that reality.  Either way you are suffering through the “DAY AFTER”.  That’s why they are my least favorite days of the year.

The only solution I’ve ever found to the “DAY AFTERS” in my life is to keep doing the next right thing.  I may not always feel like it, but that seems to be a fairly universal answer.  We have to keep moving forward, whether we just experienced a good day or a bad day.

After all, that’s what Jesus seemed to do…..and He had the worst “DAY AFTER” ever!