Third Day Perspective
I grew up in a church with a tradition of reciting the Apostle’s Creed during Sunday worship services. Practically from the time I could talk, I was repeating that statement of belief. I didn’t fully understand what it meant, but I could recount every word of it.
Contrary to what my kids might think, I wasn’t there when the Apostle’s Creed was written. It dates back to within about 500 years of the original New Testament manuscripts. The Apostles didn’t write it, but it has its roots in apostolic times. It is the oldest Christian creed. It mostly summarizes the life of Christ, culminating in His sitting at “the right hand of the Father” and the impending judgment of “the quick and the dead.”
Mechanical repetition of the words of that classic teaching could lead one to take for granted its monumental meaning and depth of importance. Many people from mainline—more liturgical—denominations know the words well, but don’t necessarily live life in light of their significance.
Nearly as unfortunate is the fact that few people raised in evangelical churches can quote the Apostle’s Creed. It was pretty much thrown out along with most of the liturgy from the past. So, they’ve missed the simple-yet-profound impact of the weekly repetition of words like, “The third day He rose again from the dead.” I can’t remember ever doubting the fact that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. Perhaps that’s because I recited it as fact from my earliest memory, over and over again.
However, though the creed states specifically that He rose “the third day,” I never really considered the significance of the mention of the time involved. The important part seemed to be that He died and rose again. What difference did it make that it happened on the third day, or a nanosecond after He died? Well, Jesus always had perfect timing, so He must have had a reason for waiting, right?
Imagine what happened during that period between the first Good Friday and the first Easter morning. What transpired on Friday was anything but “good” to those who had put their hope in the One they believed was their Messiah; several of them having dedicated three full years of their lives to their now-deceased Christ. They certainly didn’t react as though it was a good day.
Hindsight makes the events of Good Friday qualify as good to us now. However, His encounters with His disciples immediately following His resurrection indicate they hadn’t quite grasped the goodness of Good Friday. Not close. For example, take that day He appeared (unrecognized) to two of his followers, on the road to Emmaus. They didn’t describe to Him the good work of a Redeemer dying for their sins, or a Savior, risen victoriously from the grave. Instead, they expressed doubt and confusion. So Jesus rightly said they were“foolish men and slow of heart to believe…” (Luke 24:25). I imagine He might say the same of me at times.
Perhaps part of what Jesus wanted to convey by waiting until the third day to rise was that between the tragedy and the triumph, there is hope. Perhaps the timing teaches us that unless we approach the in-between time with confidence in Him to bring about a miracle and fulfill His promises, we will default to fear, disappointment, confusion and even sheer horror. Living that way isn’t good, it simply doesn’t jibe with the fact He came that we might have life “more abundantly” (John 10:10).
So, the third day gives us perspective. What happened on the third day completely undoes anything negative about Friday. It doesn’t erase the pain and suffering, but those things lose “big time” to the transforming, assuring power guaranteed by the Resurrection. Life came out of death. Live in light of the third day!
“…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection …”