Pastoral Series

Church Matters: Holy Saturday

   Hans Holbein daringly painted Jesus lying in the tomb. In there, Jesus was listless, still, dead. Outside the tomb? Pilate and the soldiers had moved on, thinking their work was done. Jesus’ mother? I can’t even imagine the horror, the numbness she felt. Mary Magdalene, so attached to Jesus, must have felt some deep gash in the very core of her being. The disciples, Jesus’ friends, having staked everything on him, having left behind jobs and family, had to have felt the crush of the worst disappointment, dizzy between moods of feeling foolish and devastated.

God could have raised Jesus immediately, one minute after the tomb was sealed. But God waited. We wait. We have all found ourselves in the throes of some numb day, or many days, our own Holy Saturday, our Holy Saturdays. We’ve endured the losses – but there’s no new life yet.

Of course, it was the Sabbath, the day of rest. As Jesus was buried right at sundown on Friday, which is when the Sabbath began, the women couldn’t do the work of anointing his body until the Sabbath was over – which is why they showed up Easter morning. The Sabbath: the day of rest, for them, for us, and even for God. Remember that the very first Sabbath was during the very first week of Creation itself. God labored, and then God rested. If God could rest, after Creating the world, and after enduring the horrific agony and gruesome death of God’s own son, then we can rest.

“Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31). “I wait for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning” (Psalm 130:5). Saturday was, for them, the Sabbath, a day of rest. Jesus rested in the tomb; God rested in heaven. And so, with the disciples, and Jesus’ mother, we wait this day, and every day, trusting the God we cannot see, resting in the hope that Easter really is coming.

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