When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone. (Matthew 27: 57-66_
I went back to the cemetery the day after Daddy was buried and just sat on the ground beside his grave, trying to absorb the enormity of what had happened. He was gone. This man who had been so strong, so faith filled, so always there to make things better, whose piercing blue eyes communicated for than his voice ever did. He was gone. The man who held the reins in our family, our rock, our hero. Could this have really happened? How could this man die? We thought he was invincible. What now?
How much more so did the Disciples feel, those men and women whose lives had been totally centered around Jesus? How could this have happened? In spite of raising the dead, in spite of healing lepers and changing water into wine and feeding thousands of people with a couple of fish, in spite of the belief that he was the Messiah, that he was believed to be the son of God, that he was supposed to be invincible, he was gone…
And this is where we are today. All of us have experienced “Holy Saturdays” in our lives.
Holy Saturday is the in between time. The tragedy of the crucifixion is past but the glories of the resurrection are not yet here. We are neither here nor there. We are stuck in the middle. What was is no more and what will be is not yet clear or known. It feels as if there is nowhere to go and nothing to do.
Holy Saturday comes to us in many ways but it always seems to involve death; the death of Jesus, the death of a loved one, the death of a relationship, the death of hopes and dreams. In the church calendar Holy Saturday is only one dreaded day a year. Not so in life. Those of you us who have suffered the death of a loved one know that you do not move from Good Friday to Easter Sunday in just one day. Holy Saturday can last months, years, even a lifetime. Holy Saturday calls us to the tomb. Where else is there to go?
That’s where Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are today. Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’ body wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, laid it in the tomb, rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, and went away. He left. Some will do that in the Holy Saturday of life. They will close up the tomb and walk away as if there is nothing there, no possibilities for anything new. The two women, however, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, are sitting opposite the tomb. They are silent. There is not much to say on Holy Saturday. What can be said? There are no answers.
Holy Saturday is a day of silence and stillness, waiting and wondering, remembering and hoping. Perhaps that is what faithfulness looks like on Holy Saturday. There is not much to do except be present to what is, to sit beside the tomb.
“Media vita in morte sumus ; quem quaerimus adjutorem, nisi te Domine, qui pro peccatis nostris juste irasceris? Sancte Deus, sancte fortis, sancte et misericors Salvator, amarae morti ne tradas nos.”
“In the midst of life we are in death: of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased? Yet, O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty, O holy and most merciful Saviour, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.”
Holy Saturday is a difficult day. We so much want joy to replace sorrow. That’s not what Jesus does. Instead, sorrow is transformed into joy, the tomb becomes a womb, and death gives birth to new life. Christ’s triumph is not apart from death but within death. Christ is trampling down death by death and giving life to those in the tombs.
The two women of Holy Saturday will become the first people Jesus greets on Easter Sunday. So trust the silence and the waiting. Be still. Remember, wonder, hope. Pray. It is Holy Saturday and your Lord who loves you is at work.