Holy Saturday: A Great Rest
For the Jews, a new day begins at sundown and lasts until the following sundown. As Jesus was crucified on Friday, with the approaching sunset, the sabbath would begin and burial would not be possible without breaking the sabbath code. But to leave a body unburied was also abomination to Jewish custom, so caught between converging points of Law, the scramble was on to get Jesus’ body into a tomb before sunset Friday. With hardly any time to grieve or even comprehend the events of that terrible day, Jesus was hastily wrapped in linens and placed in a new tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, a Pharisee sympathetic to Jesus.
The women closest to Jesus have no time to anoint his body before the stone is quickly rolled closed, so after sunset on Holy Saturday when the sabbath has passed, the women buy spices and ready themselves to go to the tomb at first light to complete Jesus’ preparation for burial. Even with all the time they had spent with Jesus over the years, loving him, listening to his words, believing who he said he was, what they find there that Sunday morning is still wildly beyond anything they could have expected…
Looking Among the Living
Sometimes we shake our heads at Jesus’ followers’ shock and surprise on Easter morning–that they were still looking for the living among the dead. We say that if only we could have walked with the Master, we would have faith that really could move mountains. And yet do our lives reflect even a little of that assurance? When the tragedies of life hit us, when the loss of someone or something cuts so deep that it takes our breath away, do we remember that new life is coming with the next dawn? Do we really believe deeply enough to quell the grief, or are we also shocked and surprised when life returns as it always will as long as our Father in heaven lives.
Doubt is a very human trait that we all share, one that endears us even further to our Father who of course understands. But even in the midst of our uncertainty, we can remain thankful that Jesus’ resurrection is always with us to remind that when our hopes and aspirations lie in the grave of our fears, new life is always waiting for the moment we’re ready to turn and see our God again as if for the first time.
Holy Saturday is a day of silence and prayer in the liturgical church. There are no services. The Eastern churches call it the “Great Sabbath,” when Jesus “rested” in the tomb.
We hope these readings and short comments help prepare you this week for Resurrection Day next Sunday. If you’d like to dig even further, here is a daily devotional for Holy Week with some really nice elements.
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