Yesterday was Good Friday, which is the day that Jesus was murdered for the sins of the world and all of the wrath of God that we deserve was poured out on him. So I made a point to write a few relevant things. I want also to write relevant things about the days leading up to Easter. What were the disciples doing between Good Friday and Easter? That is certainly an interesting question and there is certainly a bit of speculation from historical scholars.
Did they expect Jesus to rise again? After all, there were numerous times that he alluded to the resurrection or even directly told them. But the gospels tell us that the disciples were never convinced that Jesus would be crucified, despite that he told them several times (Luke 18:34, Mark 9:32, Luke 2:50, John 12:16, etc etc etc). It is very unlikely that they were anticipating that he would rise from the dead. In fact, when Mary found the tomb of Jesus empty, she was distraught and confused, wondering where the body had gone. When she returned to tell the disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead, they did not believe her.
This is obviously not the picture of people who were expecting him to rise from the dead. The original Jews testified that the disciples spent their time stealing the body of Jesus. But is that really what one does when they find out that their leader was a liar, and that they would suffer the same fate for following him if they continued to promote this movement? So between Good Friday and Easter, the disciples were not anticipating that Jesus would rise from the dead, nor were they busy stealing corpses. What were they doing? What were the disciples doing between Good Friday and Easter?
The disciples were mourning. Here is something that we often do not really understand about what it means to be a student of a particular teacher in Judaism. It is not just going to their class and going home at the end of the day. When someone becomes a disciple, they dedicate themselves to imitating that person. They are immersed in their teaching for the service of God. They did everything that they could to become just like Jesus of Nazareth and follow his teaching. They followed him everywhere he went, every day, for three years. When Jesus said that he was going to die, Peter became so upset that he rebuked him (Mark 8:27-38). Jesus was their best friend.
And he was dead. The man that they knew as the Christ, their leader, and their closest friend, had died. The man who told the lowliest of people, “Blessed are you!” The man who ate with sinners and said for these sinners, he came. The man who called many of them out of their unrighteous lifestyle and offered them what the religious leaders never did: the unconditional love of God. The man who said, “Come to me, all who are weary, and burdened, and I shall give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) The man who said in himself, the Kingdom of God had come (Mark 1:15). He was dead. Just like when a relative or a friend dies. That is what the disciples felt when Jesus died. No expectation to see him again. He was dead.
They were full of doubt. There is something that we have to understand about traditional beliefs in Judaism about the Messiah. They expected him to come and be a powerful political leader, freeing the Jews from the clutches of the Romans. False Messiahs rose up all of the time, and the Jews dealt with them in the same way: crucifixion. Far from vanquishing the enemies of Israel, they put the Messiah claimants on display like criminals. They were not heroes nor did they rescue God’s people. So when the false Messiah was murdered by the Jews, it showed him to be a liar, a heretic, and under the curse of God.
That is what the disciples were thinking when Jesus was crucified. He did not fulfill the prophecies. They thought that the power of God had been revealed to them. They thought that he had died and maybe the Jewish authorities were right. Their tradition revealed him to be a heretic and a liar. This man that they have dedicated themselves to was a liar. Everything that they believed was a lie. In Jesus of Nazareth, they believed that the prophecies failed. The disciples were full of doubt in the very cause, and the very man, who they had committed their lives to.
They were angry with themselves. Peter promised Jesus that he would go to death for him and with him (Matthew 26:33). They were the disciples of Jesus. That means that they were supposed to imitate everything that he did. When he had courage, they had courage. If he is willing to die for his claims, they need to die for them as well. That is what Peter promised he would do. But he did not fulfill that promise. Faced with fear and the threat of death, Peter denied even knowing him.
Just imagine your wife, husband, or someone that you care about is arrested and about to be tried. The state declare that anyone who knows your wife will, too, be arrested. Somebody points to you and says, “Look! That’s him! That’s her husband!” You deny it. You say that you do not even know the woman that you have loved for so many years. She hears you say it, and you make eye contact with her. They they throw a bag over her head and bring her to the electric chair. You get away. How would you feel?
That is how Peter felt. That is how the disciples felt. They denied even knowing him.
What were the disciples doing between Good Friday and Easter? Nothing. They were having a surge of emotions. From the deepest guilt one can possibly feel, to doubting the living reality that had meant so much to them, that is, the power of God, to just being sad because they had lost their closest friend. That is what the disciples were doing.
If you would like to get in on the discussion about this, join my Theology Discussion Group!