The Darkest Sabbath
The four Gospels tell the story of Christ’s betrayal, mock trial and crucifixion, with few variations. All of these events took place on Friday, the day before the Jewish Sabbath. The Romans who crucified Jesus went about breaking the legs of those who had been crucified to assure their deaths before the beginning of the Sabbath, which commences—by Jewish tradition— a few minutes before sundown on Friday and lasts until three stars are visible in the Saturday night sky.
The bible does not directly tell us what happened to the people who survived, who were closest to Jesus, on the Sabbath immediately following his crucifixion and burial. We can only speculate. Based on what we do know about several of Christ’s closest followers, we can imagine how the night and day following the death of Jesus affected them.
In the Gospel of John, the Apostle often refers to himself as the “…disciple whom Jesus loved.” Not only was he one of the twelve, he was, along with his brother James, and Simon Peter, a member of those closest to Jesus and, more—considered himself as the Lord’s best friend. Recall that those three were selected to be with Christ during the transfiguration.
As darkness covered Israel the night after Jesus was crucified, John had Mary, Jesus’ mother, in his house. He had, at the foot of the cross, been charged with acting as Mary’s son. Possibly she was the one who lighted the candles for the Shabbat. John could hardly forget how, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had asked that he, James and Peter stay awake with him as he was in agonizing prayer before the crucifixion, but they could not. He, along with most of the Disciples ran away at the approach of the chief priests and temple guard. Remorse over his failure must have deepened his grief. Did he sleep at all during that during that dark Sabbath?
The fiery, impetuous leader—the disciple who became The Rock—must have had a much worse night and day, following the death of Jesus. Not only had he failed his Lord in Gethsemane, he had openly denied knowing Him three times before the rooster crowed. Peter was a strong-willed, proud man. He was the only one of Jesus’ followers who offered physical resistance when the Jewish leaders and guard came to arrest Christ. Recall, he drew his sword and cut off the right ear of one of the High Priests’ servants. Of course, Jesus rebuked Peter and replaced the man’s ear. I recall a preacher from my youth who speculated that the man whose ear had been severed and healed, “…probably went home.”
Did Peter sleep that Friday night? Could he truly rest during the following Sabbath day?
The woman whose name is, after the mother of Jesus, most prominently mentioned in the Gospels, was faithful to her Lord throughout the Passion. She and Jesus’ mother did not leave the awful scene on Golgotha. They were there until the final moments and didn’t desert Him as his body was laid in the tomb. The women probably watched the mighty stone rolled in place to seal the entrance. Despair and pain must’ve filled her in the night and the following day.
We may speculate that she spent that night and the following Sabbath in the house with Jesus’ mother. This is because the scriptures describe them as being at the tomb together on the third morning.
Mary Magdalene, the woman who had been possessed by demons before Christ healed her, was faithful to Him through the hour of His death.
Did she sleep past tears and mourning during those awful hours following Jesus’ death?
Mary, Mother of Jesus
God chose Mary to bring Jesus into this world. Although the Gospel of Luke describes her as “…troubled…” when Gabriel told her of her mission, the sense of deep fear isn’t in the story. Remember, Luke was not one of the Apostles. His recounting of the Annunciation could have only come from interviewing Mary.
With no scripture that speaks of the desolate day following Christ’s crucifixion, it is possible to consider that the woman who was Jesus’ mother had a deep faith that her son’s death was not final.
She must’ve mourned and felt bereft of her reason for living and the treasure God had given her. Did she, could she, sleep?
Could any of these, who were closest to Jesus, find rest until they knew He was resurrected? Certainly, there was no peace in their hearts until they had seen Christ again, much as there is no true peace in our hearts until we have seen Him.