April 11, 2020
Usually this day, Holy Saturday, is one of frenzied preparation for Easter festivities, dinners, etc. This year though, Holy Saturday looks nothing like any Holy Saturday that we can recall. Holy Saturday is the day between Good Friday and Easter. Traditionally, Holy Saturday marks the day when God’s people waited. As people on the other side of the first Easter, we think of our forebears preparing for the first Easter, going on Easter egg hunts, roasting the Easter ham – I can’t figure out which of those is the weirdest custom to read back onto the first Easter. However, a passage from the Gospel of Luke gives me the impression that this year’s Holy Saturday looks eerily similar to the first.
50 Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51 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. 52 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. 53 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. 54 It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. 55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment. – Luke 23:50-56
Disappointed, stunned, scared…not even sure what to hope for anymore. They had hoped for the Kingdom of God. They had hoped for everything to be set right. They had hoped for God’s shalom to blanket the earth. They had hoped for the whole world to be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14). They had hoped for an end to their suffering. …but hope was now a corpse that had been laid in a tomb, bruised and bloodied…and very, very dead.
As they peered into the tomb, their eyes surveyed the surest sign that their hopes had been futile because while prophets, even great prophets, could be martyred, Messiahs most certainly could not. The violent death of Jesus meant that he was many things, and perhaps even many great things, but a Messiah inaugurating the kingdom of God that they longed for, he was not. The open wounds and caked blood on his body said as much. The only thing left to do was to prepare him for burial, but they weren’t allowed to do so on the Sabbath. So, they had to wait.
Like the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee, we also have to wait. …and we hate it. Like you, I’ve grown accustomed to 2-day Prime shipping, 1-day if I’m lucky. Yet, our angsty world has been upended for an unknown length of time that seems to stretch on endlessly. Our hopes and plans for this season, and even this weekend, have died. They lay in a tomb, completely mangled and unrecognizable. …and we are simply told to wait.
…but I’m reminded that on the first Holy Saturday, God didn’t abandon but, rather, He held the hopes of all who longed for the kingdom. Somewhere between the death of Christ and his resurrection, the hopes of God’s people were held in preparation for when they would be restored in the resurrected Christ. Likewise, on this Holy Saturday, God has not abandoned our hopes but holds them, even the dead, mangled, unrecognizable ones. As such, our job is not to throw in the towel – to result to preparing the body – but to wait.
We wait as God holds our hopes for renewal in our own lives and those around us. We wait as God holds our hopes for our own livelihoods and that of those we know. We wait as God holds our hopes for healing and relief. We wait as God holds our hopes for a restored humanity and a restored creation. We wait because God is not net finished with our hopes and longings…and neither are we.
As you turn toward prayer, I invite you to meditate on Luke 23:50-56. Place yourself into the narrative. Imagine that you’ve come with Jesus from Galilee only to witness the crucifixion of your Lord. You don’t know if or when Easter is coming. In fact, you have no idea what Easter is because you’re a first century Jew. You peer into the tomb to see all that you longed for and everything that you hoped for laying inside. What do you see? What hopes are in that tomb? What longings are in that tomb? Offer those hopes and longings to God trusting that He will not only hold them but restore them in Christ Jesus.
grace and peace,