Why is the day after Jesus’ execution called ‘Holy Saturday’? It seems there’s nothing holy about it. What’s holy about sobbing and wailing? What’s holy about coming to terms with the finality of death? What’s holy about loss, about crying out and receiving no answer? Jesus was dead. Saturday forced the disciples to dwell on it. What’s holy about that?
Easter, now that’s holy. That’s something to shine your shoes for. I mean, we’re talking about a miraculous event here, the resurrection! Saturday just sits as the annoying waiting room of Holy Week, a time to run errands and iron your Easter clothes, a time to stuff the Easter baskets. Holy Saturday is more of a nuisance than anything, right?
I mean, what does Jesus have to do with stillness? What does God have to do with trauma and confusion? What does the Spirit have to do with tears? “Get on with it! Get to Sunday, would you?” says the crowd. Saturday is awkward, like figuring out what to do with our hands during a photo, we’re just not sure what to do with it. Saturday doesn’t fit with us, with our schedules. Saturday isn’t fast-paced enough for us…
So maybe we need to slow down. Maybe this Saturday of mourning is holy after all. Holy Saturday is the space between life and death, between sorrow and celebration. Too often we view Saturday in light of Sunday, and I think it strips Saturday of its power. In the midst of their grief, the disciples had no idea that Sunday was coming, so they were forced to let the pain of Friday sink in. Saturday, then, teaches us how to mourn. Saturday reminds us of the finality of death. Saturday, then, proves the helplessness of humanity.
The truth is, we need Holy Saturday; we need it because, in a sense, we’re living in our own Holy Saturday, caught between the miracle of Easter and the promise of Jesus’ return. We’re in that middle space, clinging to hope while dealing with confusion, pain, sorrow, unknowns. We need Holy Saturday when we watch the news, when we pray “Come, Lord Jesus!”, when we’re faced with oppression and violence and injustice – because God isn’t surprised by Saturday, he’s in it with us.
This seemingly pointless day teaches us that God is present in the sludge of life, that mourning is necessary, that unanswered questions will find their answers in God, that hope is vital to life. Holy Saturday teaches us that God doesn’t gloss over difficulties, that he doesn’t leave when the going gets tough. And though we are privileged to stand on the side of history that let’s us know and live with the reality of Sunday, there’s a whole world out there perpetually stuck in Saturday. We walk in that tension, confessing hope from the middle space, remembering always the importance of Holy Saturday.
“Give Us Saturday Ears” by Walter Brueggemann
Sometimes it seems as though you have given us
eyes so we cannot see,
and ears so we cannot hear,
and hearts so we cannot know,
and we miss it.
Work on our ears today.
Clean them, circumcise them,
turn them so that they may tingle with the ways
in which you have turned loose among us the powers of death
and the forces of life.
Gran that we should not live int he safe middle ground,
on the surface
but push us to the edge,
where the action is.
Your action, where you cause all those terrible Fridays
and all those amazing Sundays.
Give us Saturday ears for your tingling.
We pray in the name of your Saturday child. Amen.
Holden can usually be found spending time with his wife Kira, drinking better-than-great coffee, listening to obscure music while cooking, or passionately discussing wooly mammoths. A recent graduate of Moody, he’s on staff at Immanuel as the Director of Communications.