Short Meditations for Easter on the Cross: 29. Pause
Rev 11:8 Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city—which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt—where also their Lord was crucified.
It is Saturday. The terrible deed has been done and the body has been hastily put in a tomb and the tomb sealed. It is all over – apparently. But of course we, with the hindsight of history, know that it isn’t. We are just waiting for tomorrow when we know he will rise from the dead, but we’ve got to go through this period of waiting.
But why? Why did Jesus have to wait for two nights to pass? I mean, the truth is that God could have raised his son within say twelve hours. Why wait for the ‘third day’?
I suppose the simple answer is that Jesus said it: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Mt 12:40) Yet that doesn’t explain why, apart from the fact of paralleling it with Jonah in the fish.
You may wonder why I have associated today with this strange episode in Revelation where ‘two witnesses’ have been killed in Jerusalem, now labeled as a city of apostasy, and we read, “after the three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet.” (Rev 11:11) Well there we have another period of waiting and those who follow numbers in the Bible suggest that seven is the perfect or complete number and so three and a half being half of that signifies a specifically limited period of time in God’s economy. But today we are waiting for three days or, at least, until the third day.
Three crops up a significant number of times in the Gospels, in say Matthew’s Gospel: the crowd, three days with Jesus (Mt 15:32), three shelters on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt 17:4), three witnesses needed (Mt 18:20), Peter to disown Jesus three times (Mt 26:34), Jesus to rebuild ‘the temple’ in three days (Mt 26:61), three in the afternoon when darkness came and Jesus cried out (Mt 27:45,46) and now in the tomb three days. Is it because three is the number of God in the Bible, it signifies His presence, His plan, His will?
It is a mystery and yet it is a mystery that has the prints of God all over it. For another study you might check other times when Jesus (or God) waited. We so often get frustrated with waiting but there are times when God in His wisdom knows that time has to pass with apparently nothing happening. As I say, there are a number of these times in the Bible.
Peter got frustrated waiting (Jn 21:3) and went fishing and had to realise that Jesus had it all under control. Waiting makes us feel it is out of control. It isn’t. Be still and know that He is God. Wait quietly.