The Saturday between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday is often overlooked. It’s one of those days we don’t really know what to do with. The Church calendar calls this Saturday “Holy Saturday”. It’s as if the Church historically didn’t want to let this day that seemed insignificant be neglected.
This is the day after the chaos of the trial, torture, crucifixion and burial but the day before the glorious resurrection. On this day we reflect on the death of Jesus of Nazareth as he would have laid dead in a tomb 2000 years ago. I find on this day the readings from the Book of Common Prayer very helpful to guide us on what we should think of on this Holy Saturday.
Psalm 88 serves as the voice of the buried. It is the cry of the abandoned.
3 For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah
Lamenations 3:37-58 the prayer of those under the judgment of God for their continuous rebellious sin and questioning God’s apparent absence.
42 “We have transgressed and rebelled,
and you have not forgiven.
43 “You have wrapped yourself with anger and pursued us,
killing without pity;
44 you have wrapped yourself with a cloud
so that no prayer can pass through.
Hebrews 4:1-16 speaking of the outstanding promise to enter that true Sabbath rest and our high priest who was tempted as we are but was without sin, through whom we enter that rest in confidence.
6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience,
7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Romans 8:1-11 comforting those who are in Jesus with the blessed hope of the resurrection and calling them to live lives marked by holiness.
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
It isn’t too difficult to consider how those who lived through these events must have felt on this Holy Saturday. Uncertainty, confusion, questioning God’s faithfulness were certainly at a minimum present. They had just experienced the rejection of their prophet and teacher by the Pharisees, priests, and rulers. They witnessed his humiliating and shameful death by the Romans, a death only a criminal deserved. And now, after the dust has settled, Saturday arrives and they are trying to “take it all in”. Has God abandoned them? What were they to understand from all they experienced? But in the back ground God was at work. The words of Jesus were ringing in their ears “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” (Jn 13:7) In this time of uncertainty they were called to look back at God’s faithfulness. To see that he had always been with them and never abandoned them. And believe that he would be faithful in fulfilling his promises.
Sunday will come. We, many years removed, have that blessed privilege of knowing already what they were about to learn. Tomorrow they would be proclaiming “the Lord has risen”but today they are asking “Has God forgotten?” They would have to go through Saturday to get to Sunday.
Saturday for us, at times, can be representative of our life as a whole. Some are not always joyfully living in light of the resurrection of Jesus. Some are still looking to the sky watching for him. We are waiting. We have been waiting for 2000 years. And perhaps we also ask “Has God forgotten us?” Today we are reminded, as the followers of Jesus were reminded on that Saturday many years ago, that God is faithful. That he is at work. Soon we will see our risen Lord face to face. Remember that God’s faithfulness is great and we know that he’s faithful because Sunday is coming.