When I was a much younger woman, I hated to wait. I’d fume in traffic waiting for a light to change. I’d be agitated waiting for appointments at the doctor’s or dentist’s office. I’d be impatient when I had to wait for others. These, however, were petty frustrations—nothing like the pain of waiting for a diagnosis, or the stress of waiting see if a treatment has been successful. There are some things for which we must wait that are unavoidably agonizing.
The disciples had an agonizing wait after Jesus was arrested, and following that, the devastation of his death. Sometimes, when we hear accounts of the crucifixion, the disciples are portrayed as simpletons who should have known Jesus would rise again. I know Jesus gave them lots of hints. And I also know they’d just spent three years with Jesus and during that time he performed many miracles. And yes, I do also know they knew he was the Son of God. In Mark 8, following accounts of Jesus feeding a multitude and healing a blind man, Peter confirms that he believes Jesus to be the Messiah. Okay, so maybe they should have caught on. But they didn’t, and I have a soft spot for them because I kind of think if I’d been there, I might not have caught on, either.
I think of the disciples between the time of the crucifixion and the resurrection, and my soft spot gets bigger. How anguished they must have been. How hopeless things must have seemed. I imagine Peter’s immense grief and I’m filled with compassion. I think of tears, unanswered questions, and their bewilderment. “What do we do now?” would have been one of the questions I think I would have asked. I might have been angry with Judas, or wondered if the past three years had been wasted. I would have felt powerless and hopeless as I waited to see what came next.
2000 years later, we know what came next. We know Jesus rose on the third day, defeated death forever, and provided redemption for you and for me. But the disciples didn’t know what would happen, so they waited in their grief, with a thousand unanswered questions and their hearts in a thousand pieces. They waited without hope. But we are not in that same dilemma. We do not wait without hope.
The 40-day period of Lent is a time when we enter into the suffering of Jesus and wait for Easter. We know that Easter Sunday is coming. In the same way, those who trust in Jesus know that some day their suffering and waiting will come to an end. There will come a day when we will see Jesus face to face. There will come a day when the unanswerable questions of earth will suddenly make sense. There will come a day when physical pain and emotional anguish will end forever. There will come a day when we will be reunited with believers who’ve gone on before us. Just as Lent is symbolic of the suffering of our Saviour, it can also serve to remind us that our suffering on this earth is temporary. We wait for Easter so we can shed our Lenten practices and we wait for heaven to shed our earthly pain. Jesus has conquered sin and death forever and because of this, a pain-free, glorious eternity is waiting for us.