Intermission or Final Curtain?
I enjoy attending live performances. Watching a stage performance gives me a sense of being in the center of the action. Plays offer benefits movies can’t. Energy that’s almost palpable. A sense of community in the audience. The drama of watching the curtain close and open again to reveal a new act or scene.
But if I’m not following the plot, I won’t know if a closed curtain is for an intermission or final curtain.
Cue Good Friday, two thousand years ago. Looking back, we have the advantage of knowing how the story ends. But two thousand years ago, the disciples confused an intermission with the final curtain.
Good Friday appeared anything but good to Jesus’s disciples after witnessing His betrayal and subsequent crucifixion. The curtain closed with seeming finality. From their perspective, this was the end. A stomach-churning death of their hopes and dreams for the Messiah’s earthly reign.
Despite Jesus’s multiple predictions of His death and resurrection, His followers focused solely on what they could see in the moment. And what they could see caused them depths of despair beyond anything they could have imagined. The final curtain had closed . . . or so they concluded.
Before we accuse the disciples of a disappointing lack of faith, let’s explore why they would reach this conclusion. Truth is, their understanding of prophecy matched that of most of ancient Israel’s population. Old Testament messianic prophecy falls into two categories: suffering servant and conquering king. Prophecies such as Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 describing a suffering servant were often dismissed as irrelevant. All attention focused on Scripture passages describing the victorious arrival of a conquering king. One who would throw off the shackles of the Roman empire. One who would usher in another golden age, reminiscent of King Solomon’s reign.
They were wrong. Within three days, their conclusions would be upended as they learned the story was not over. With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight and a better understanding of the whole counsel of the Bible, we know the Old Testament prophecies speak of two advents. Jesus came the first time to purchase our salvation. The sinless Christ took on your sin and mine at the Cross. Now we look forward to His second coming in victory.
Sunday morning, the curtain opened once more, this time revealing an empty tomb. That curtain opened Act Two. A second act that will never end.