Today we mark Holy Saturday. This is the day Jesus remained interred in the tomb after the crucifixion. Today we think of the doubt and fear of the disciples and followers of Jesus as they considered their experiences and the promises made by Christ. Little is said about this time in scripture, though services today dwell on the disciplines’ situation as Jesus lay dead in the tomb, and some consider what Christ may have had to do to overcome death and rescue us from sin.
This is how the burial of Christ is told in Matthew 27:57-61:
As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb. (Matthew 27:57-61)
Although there is little New Testament scripture on the day we call Holy Saturday, the Book of Lamentations is often used in Holy Saturday services, as an illustration of Christ’s suffering, and faith overcoming:
He has made me dwell in darkness, like those long dead. He has walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains. Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer. He has barred my way with blocks of stone; he has made my paths crooked (3: 6-9)
I remember my afflictions and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The LORD is good to those whose hopes are in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. (3:19-26).
This Holy Saturday, let us consider what Christ’s first followers went through; the fear and doubt that wracked them as they waited after his death. Jesus promised that the temple would be destroyed and rebuilt in three days by his hands, yet they could not imagine that the temple was his body, broken and renewed so that we may be set free. We mourn Saturday knowing Sunday is coming, but though they were his most devout followers, they questioned everything that had come before, and questioned if Christ was truly the saviour they had believed him to be.
Let us remember their doubt, and let it remind us of how fragile our faithfulness can be.
Holy Father, this Holy Saturday, let us remember you, and the struggle of your followers as they were mocked for their faith, as you laid in the tomb. Dismayed at your death, unable to believe that you were dead, and filled with terror of what may come next. They waited to see what would happen, though in the darkness of their hearts, even after your wondrous works, they imagined you were merely mortal after all. May we remember today the weakness in us all, and remember how quickly the rejoicing of your followers turned to anger, how quickly the devotion of your disciples turned to doubt and fear. This Easter, may we prepare to face the cross, examine our sins, and reignite our resolve to follow you. May we find the places where fear and doubt continue to reside, and strengthen our resolve to follow your mission of compassion, generosity and forgiveness. In Christ’s name, Amen.