Holy Saturday - Hopes dashed
Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
For us, a day of waiting. We don’t like to wait, whether for a friend to arrive for dinner or while standing in a queue at the supermarket. As society rushes forward with more technology to make things go even faster, we like to wait even less. But waiting is good for our souls, for as we pause we perhaps lean on the Lord a little bit more. We learn to shush the insistent voices inside that hurry us along. We seek to discern the still, small voice—with an emphasis on ‘still’.
For those who love Jesus, a day of grief. They forget that Jesus will rise from the dead—as we see in Luke 24:6–8, when the angels speak to the women at the tomb: ‘“Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered his words.’ The disciples aren’t waiting but grieving. We can guess that they are disillusioned and stunned. We don’t have in the Gospels an account of what the disciples did on the sabbath, except that the women from Galilee rested ‘in obedience to the commandment’ (Luke 23:56). We do learn that on the Preparation Day, which was probably just before sundown on Friday, Joseph of Arimathea obtained permission from Pilate to take down Jesus’ body and bury it in a new tomb. He wanted to obey the law as given in the Old Testament (see Deuteronomy 21:22–23).
Unlike the disciples, the chief priests and the Pharisees remember Jesus’ statement that after three days he will rise again (as recounted in Matthew 27:62–66). When they go to Pilate on the day after Preparation Day to request that the tomb be made more secure, Pilate agrees, sending a guard. As we on the other side of the resurrection know, the Lord uses these persecutors of Jesus to highlight the miracle of his rising from the dead.
But those who have followed Jesus, putting their trust in him and his words, live out a range of emotions. Along with the shock and horror of reliving his gruesome death, they probably feel anger, disbelief and sadness. Who was this man, and why had they trusted him? What next?
On this day before the joy of the resurrection, take some time to place yourself imaginatively with the disciples (perhaps writing out the scene). Picture the setting—the sights and sounds. Discern what you are feeling as you move from one emotion to another. Ponder what sorts of conversations you have with your friends, and ask the Lord to speak any words he may have for you this day.
Lord Jesus Christ, I can only imagine what the disciples felt the day after you died. Hope seemed to be extinguished along with your life. What had they trusted in? Why had they trusted in you? I too can feel this sense of disbelief when things don’t turn out as I’ve hoped and prayed. I face disappointment, and often I blame you. When I don’t understand, help me. Show me that you are the loving Lord who seeks to bless, even though I face trials and hardships while living in this fallen world. Turn my face to you, that I might know you and believe your goodness. On this day as we wait for the resurrection, give me the gift of empathy for those who face dire situations, that I might reach out in love.
Amy Boucher Pye is a writer, speaker and editor, and the author of Finding Myself in Britain: Our Search for Faith, Home & True Identity (Authentic Media, 2015). She runs the Woman Alive book club and enjoys writing Bible reading notes for Day by Day with God and Our Daily Bread, among others. She blogs at amyboucherpye.com.