Confusion and fear among the disciples.
Holy Saturday is marked by darkness and waiting — waiting in grief, in hope, and with unanswered questions.
Now that Jesus has been killed, the chief priests and Pharisees want Jesus’ tomb secured for at least three days. The Roman leader, Pontius Pilate, commands his guards to protect the tomb from anyone wishing to enter. They also rolled a stone in front of the tomb’s entrance to seal it, meaning they squished a lump of clay (or some soft substance) into a seam that would break if the stone was tampered with. They press an imperial Roman symbol into the clay, so that anyone looking to disrupt the seal would face the consequences of the brutal Roman government.
Imagine you are an early follower of Jesus. You have been waiting for the promised messiah your entire life. And then you heard the word of Jesus — you have spoken with him and seen his miracles, and you have come to believe that he is filled with the unending, indestructible power of God because he is the promised Messiah! But now he’s dead, crucified, murdered. You heard him talk about dying and being raised back into life, but how is that even possible? Was he just another magician? Another wandering sage peddling false promises? Your newly kindled hope in the messiah would have been snuffed out with Jesus’ execution.
Holy Saturday invites us into the experience of darkness, into the questions and grief that so often accompany this life. Where is God? Why do we experience so much pain? We thought Jesus came to rescue us, but what now?
Today, we sit in the painful darkness of Holy Saturday and find rest through knowing that, in the darkness of life, God is alive and working. In deep sorrow, God is still there. In our waiting, God has not forgotten us. He is loving us and working in his ways to restore life to each of us.
The sealed stone will not be able to hold Jesus in place. Death is not the end.
Prayer for Holy Saturday
O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer