By the time you read this, Easter would have come and gone. Good Friday would be done and dusted. Dramatic remembrances of Jesus’ last meal, long bloody trek to Golgotha and final breath would probably be relegated to the back of your mind.
Recall how your Good Friday went. What about Resurrection Sunday? You’d might have been sombre and quiet last Friday, as you would at a funeral. Your Instagram posts were probably reflective – emotional even. But on Sunday, things made a 180º turn and moods were up again, especially for the choir up front. Hallelujah, God be praised, He’s risen from the grave!
Do you remember anything about the Saturday in between? For most of my life, it meant going back to life-as-I-was. It was a day of rest between the services on Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. And it was also one day closer to the stress of Easter being over.
But this year of being abroad has been a shakeup to the yearly routine of choir presentations and dramatisations that I’d grown accustomed to. And God spoke in this bit of stillness.
You see, it’s the Easter holidays now and that means a 5-week break from classes. In the midst of this lower-level of busyness, I completely lost track of time and forgot that last Friday was, well, Good Friday. Contrite me then spent a bit more time on QT because I’d not sung or listened to any songs about Jesus’ death.
In that day’s quiet time reading, I learnt how Silent Saturday is an analogy in itself for what theologians call “living in the here but not yet”. Early in his ministry, Jesus claimed that he would rise again in three days (John 2:19). And that narrative continued throughout (Matthew 16:21), all the way to his last Passover feast (Matthew 26:1).
The people of Jesus’ time knew of the promises He’d made with regards to his resurrection, as we do. But what they did not have is the benefit of hindsight – the fulfilment of the promise – like us.
The people of Jesus’ time saw Jesus being strung up on the cross and later carted off to a tomb in the hillside. They heard him cry out to God, heard him mocked by the guards. They saw him take his last breath. Then more other-worldly things happened. As Matthew writes in his Gospel:
“And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’” (Matthew 27:51-54)
There was no way they could return to business as usual on the Saturday that followed. I mean, their world was turned upside down, and the disciples believed Jesus was truly and permanently dead. In fear of being next in line for the firing squad, the men went into hiding (John 20:19), while the women prepared spices and ointments to embalm Jesus’ body (Luke 23:54-56).
Shaken by the violence and tragedy surrounding His death, most probably found it difficult to expect that Jesus had power to overcome death, even though He’d promised it and already demonstrated it by raising Lazarus – and several others – from the dead (John 11:38-44).
We may not live in quiet dread and anticipation for Jesus to rise from the grave – He already did! – but what the disciples faced then may not be as foreign to us as we modern-day Christians might think: We too live in the now-but-not-yet. Heaven lives in us now, as Jesus Christ in our hearts, but the fullness of Heaven is not yet.
This period that we are living in – between the first Easter and Jesus’ Second Coming – is an extended Saturday. Jesus has already done whatever is needed for us to be reconciled with God, and we live in hope that one day all the very real pain and suffering in this life will end.
So then, what are we to do with ourselves in this very, very long Saturday? We remember. We think of what Jesus has done. We acknowledge that the state of our world now is truly temporary. And we cling to Jesus’ promise of eternal redemption when He returns.