Have you ever asked yourself what Holy Saturday is all about? We know the gift of Good Friday – that Jesus suffered and died for us so that we can experience forgiveness now and joy with Him in Heaven. And we understand the gift of Easter – that Jesus rose from the dead, and so doing, conquered death’s hold over us so that we might rise again, too.
So what is the gift of Holy Saturday?
Imagine what the disciples must have felt like on Saturday. Surely on Friday they were numb and couldn’t believe what had happened. But Saturday came and they had to admit Jesus had died. All their hopes for a better life must have died with him. Jesus—who was so charismatic, so good, so filled with potential, who was going to lead them into a new kingdom—had agonized and then breathed his last on the cross.
Think of the women who followed him and hadn’t been able to embalm his body on Friday. Now on Saturday they were not allowed to do so because of the Sabbath. So they were left with no way to show him their devotion, no opportunity to pay tribute to his body. No work to distract themselves from their loss.
I’ve been there, haven’t you? When all your hopes have been destroyed and you realize your dreams will not be realized. Perhaps when someone you love dies? It takes time to process your loss. Your mind doesn’t want to accept the pain and pushes it away in denial. We want to blame someone and often God takes the brunt of our anger. We are where Lazarus’ sister was when she said, “Lord, if you had been here our brother wouldn’t have died!” We are where Jesus was when he said, “Father, why have you abandoned me?”
But at some point in this Saturday experience, you realize a phase of your life is over and you must bear the loss and go on.
I think the gift of Holy Saturday is that even when we are at our lowest, and everything seems hopeless, and even when we can’t feel God is near, he is. When we are in that dark pit, alone and desolate and frightened, he is there. When we are “going through Hell,” we can know the Son of God has been there, too. There is nowhere we can go where he hasn’t been.
Jesus taught us how to make it through the Holy Saturday loss when, though he felt abandoned, he said, “Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit.” He showed us God still exists, even when we can’t feel him, and we can trust and place ourselves in his hands.
Yes, he could have risen on Saturday morning. Yes, he could give us everything we want right when we want it. But then we wouldn’t be given the gift of being able to say, “God, I can’t feel you here. I can’t understand what has happened. I’d give anything to change it and I don’t know why you allowed it. Still, I believe in you. I know, even though it doesn’t seem like it right now, you love me. And I know you are all powerful. So even if I can’t have what I want, I trust you that you know what I need, and you want to shower me with goodness.”
It takes time to get to the point of being able to say this and mean it, all while enduring intense pain. But that’s the gift of Saturday, Time. And because we now know that Jesus did rise and our God isn’t dead, the gift of Saturday is Hope. Because of that Saturday and what happened next we now can trust that a Sunday will come and with it, the resurrection of all that is good.
May all your Saturdays of Despair be followed by Sundays of Life!