The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is an unusual day. The agony of the cross is in the past, and yet the glory of the resurrection is still in the future. Can you imagine what Jesus’ disciples must have been feeling and thinking throughout that Saturday, the day after Jesus died? Unlike us, they didn’t have the comforting reassurance that all would be well by Sunday morning.
For three years, the disciples had been intimate with Jesus, becoming ever more convinced as time went on that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, though they, no doubt, didn’t understand entirely what that meant. With Jesus’ death, all of their dreams were shattered—their paradigm shifted and their whole frame of reference was thrown off kilter. If Jesus wasn’t the Messiah, who was he, they must have wondered? They’d witnessed his miracles, heard his sermons, seen his way of life. “Never spake a man like this before,” was most certainly true. One can only imagine their Saturday turmoil.
Think also of the guilt they must have felt, as they had time to reflect on how they had all abandoned Jesus in his hour of need. At
Gethsemane, when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, everyone left him—even after they’d all made pompous promises about never falling away. How many times that Saturday do you think Peter replayed in his mind that awful statement—“I know not the man”—he’d made before the cock crowed?
Think of the helplessness they must have felt, the sense of having no direction. What were Peter, James, and John going to do now? Go back to fishing? Up till now, they’d been hankering after high ranking positions in a coming kingdom. It appeared to them now that any hope of that kingdom being realized was gone.
Holy Saturday is important because it forces us not to skip too quickly from Good Friday to Easter—we need to let the despair that the cross inspired in the disciples to really sink in or else we won’t understand just how glorious that resurrection Sunday was to them.
Do you ever wonder what went on in the minds of Pilate and the Sanhedrin that Saturday? As historian Kenneth Scott Latourette, Fellow of Berkeley College in
YaleUniversity, put it, “In blindness, selfish fear, and stupid anger they had done to death the rarest spirit born of woman, who in his teachings and example had shown the only way by which his nation could avoid destruction and by which mankind could attain fullness of life.” Did the weight of their mistake ever sink in that Saturday? If the book of Acts is any indication, the answer would seem to be a tragic no.
Let the bleakness of Jesus’ death sink in with all its awfulness—ponder the rock bottom feeling that so many felt, that—truth be told—everyone should have felt. Only then will Easter be the jubilant experience God intends for it to be.
“When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave
Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing thy power to save”—William Cowper
* Click here to read “Facing the Future” by Rev. Lane Townsend of Toomsuba Presbyterian Church (PCUSA–Presbytery of Mississippi)