The Darkness of Holy Saturday
Today is a day I struggle with every year. Holy Saturday. It feels like the day that the Bible forgot. We get a full accounting of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem where the crowds shout “Hosanna" while laying their cloaks on the ground to create what was the equivalent of our modern day red carpet. We then get the story of His last meal and see that He reclined at a table where He broke bread with one who would betray Him and said the words: “Take, eat; this is my body.” Lastly, we read every horrid detail of Jesus’ desperate prayers in the garden ending with His betrayal, conviction, torture, and execution. Each day leading up to Easter has its story, told in fullness. Saturday has nothing.
It is a day of silence. A day of waiting. As a person of action, I struggle with the inactivity of this day. Perhaps the painful stillness of Holy Saturday is heightened by the frenetic activity of the days surrounding it. By the time I have walked through the lengthy passion reading of Palm Sunday, a Maundy Thursday service with the stripping of the altar, and Good Friday stations of the cross, I can feel a bit like I have run an endurance race. The path to the cross is lengthy, heavy, and dark, and it comes at the tail end of the lengthy, heavy, and dark lenten season. After a long, dark week at the end of a long, dark season, I am ready to get on with the celebration. But instead, we are made to wait one more day. A day with no services or special instructions to distract our thoughts. Just a day to wait and reflect.
Perhaps, this is the point.
In this day of silence, we are given the opportunity to let all that we have witnessed sink in. Without the luxury of frantic activity to distract ourselves from the uncomfortable truth of this season, we are forced to consider the impact we want it to have on us. Instead of allowing us to get on with the celebration, we are asked to wait one more day, and it is in that day that we must choose even as those who walked with Jesus were forced to choose.
Some deny Him out of fear and shame as Peter did. Some, like Judas, become consumed with all the acts of sin and betrayal in their lives and are unable to see past their own feelings of guilt. Others do their best to forget, returning to their lives as though nothing had happened like the fishermen who cast nets from their boats, hoping to catch enough fish to fill the emptiness in their hearts.
But some will make a different choice in that silence. Some will be like the women from Galilee, whose actions and attitudes were only strengthened by the horrible events they had witnessed. Even though Jewish law forbade work on the Sabbath, in their minds and hearts, they were planning for the solemn task of preparing Jesus’ body for burial. They knew that as soon as the law would allow, they wanted to be by His side and tend to Him, even in His death. Rather than running back to their former life or deny knowing Him to protect themselves, they stayed committed through the day of silence and on Easter morning, went to the tomb, knowing that by preparing His body, they would forever be associated with this executed criminal.
They traveled to the tomb in sadness and silence, hearts heavy and carrying baskets laden with spices and ointments that cost them greatly. Knowing Jesus had impacted them in a way they could not turn away from or deny. In the day of silence, they reflected on the man they had followed, revered, and lost, and they chose to honor Him in the best way they could, by carefully preparing his body for burial.
On this Holy Saturday, and every day, we all have the same choices. We can deny what we have heard. We can allow ourselves to be consumed with guilt or return to our work and the other distractions of our lives while hoping to forget. Or we can honor Him in the best way we know how, by choosing to follow even when it comes at a personal cost.
As we prepare for tomorrow, a day justly filled with celebration and joy where we sing of Christ’s resurrection and triumph over sin and death, let us not forget the darkness of this season. Let us not dismiss His pain and sacrifice for us. Let us take the gift of this Holy Saturday and allow the weight of what we learn about Jesus during this season to imprint our lives in a way that strengthens us to choose to be like the women of Galilee, desiring to honor Him and serve Him with all that we are.