Traditionally, the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday has been called Holy Saturday. It is considered by many to be a day of reflection on the completed work of Jesus at the cross.
The gospels tell us that the day after Jesus died was the Sabbath day. This, of course, was the Jewish day of rest. It also explains why Jesus’ body was removed so quickly from the cross. For the Jew, it was a defilement for a dead body to remain exposed for long periods. This is why Joseph of Arimathea rushed so quickly to retrieve and bury the body of Jesus before the Sabbath began at Sundown. Pilate, being obliged to keep the peace with the Jews, granted the request.
Spiritually speaking, I think it is was appropriate that the day after Jesus died was the Sabbath. Why? The Sabbath represents the day that God rested from all His work. With his final breaths, Jesus declared, “It is finished!” With those words, He completed the work of salvation once and for all. That Sabbath, the body of Jesus rested in the grave. In the spirit, He preached His finished work to those who had previously died in faith and were awaiting their salvation. That day, an unchangeable truth about salvation was established. From that moment on, salvation would never be determined on any human work or effort to obtain it, but on the merit of Christ’s finished work at the cross. The author of Hebrews writes in chapter 4, verse 10, “For he who has entered God’s rest (Sabbath) has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.” The propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus teaches us that salvation can never be earned by our best efforts, but by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. After Jesus died, there was rest from our work, and an entrance provided by faith into the finished work of Christ! Sunday, the body of Jesus roared to life to solidify and verify that his work was successful.
For us, Saturday is exciting because we know what happened on Sunday, but for the disciples, the Saturday after Jesus’ death was horrific. It was a day of great confusion, questions, and fear. For them, it was not Holy Saturday, but Sad Saturday; a Saturday filled with dashed hopes, disappointed dreams, and failed expectations.
Interestingly, every gospel leaves out what happened on that Sabbath. Luke briefly mentions that the women who prepared the burial spices for Jesus rested on Saturday. However, John’s gospel does tell us what the disciples were doing on Sunday before they all confidently knew Christ had risen. We get the idea it’s probably the same thing they were doing Saturday. In John 20:19 we read, “That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders.“
That’s it! There they were, locked up and hiding behind shut doors, afraid that the Jewish authorities would be seeking their lives next. For most of the disciples in that room, their last memory with Jesus was fleeing in fear as the authorities arrested Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Peter’s last memory was that of adamantly denying his involvement with Jesus and bitterly weeping after Jesus looked in His eyes at the house of Caiaphas, the High Priest. John was brave enough to visit the cross with Mary, but even his last memory was that of His master and Messiah dying, and all his hopes dying with him.
None of the disciples had recalled to mind or even fully understood what Jesus meant when He told them that He would rise again after three days. These weren’t men who were plotting to steal a body. These weren’t men who were inventing fanciful stories about a resurrection. These were men who were defeated, vulnerable, fearful, dejected, and hopeless. In short order, Jesus would reveal Himself to them in that very room. They ultimately believed, and their despair turned to hope, and their fear to courage. We know the rest of the story. After the ascension of Jesus, the disciples were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and proceeded to turn the world upside down through their transformed lives.
What about us?
As I think about what the disciples were facing and feeling that Saturday, I wonder how many Christians today are living in “Sad Saturday.” Jesus was crucified for their sin, rose again to give them hope and victory, and ascended into heaven that they might be filled with the Holy Spirit, yet they live in the realm of Sad Saturday; that in-between place where they stay stuck in the realm of uncertainty about the past and fear of the future. Christian, there is no doubt about it. Circumstances in life, discouragement in this world, and trials and temptations will seek to keep us behind the locked doors of sad Saturday. The enemy would love for us to remain closed up, ineffective, immobilized, afraid, leery, and hopeless. But brothers and sisters, that is not the reality that Christ has called us to live in! There is a beautiful yet challenging scripture I find from the pen of Paul the apostle, a man who was radically transformed by the resurrected Jesus. This verse reflects the tension between living in Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Of Christ, Paul says to the Philippians, “…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection (That’s Easter Sunday), and the fellowship of His sufferings (The Cross – Good Friday), being conformed to His death (Good Friday), if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead (Easter Sunday).”
Paul says that by embracing Christ, we will experience two realities in life: We will experience the power of His resurrection! The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives in us. In Christ, we will experience abundant life. We will also share in the fellowship of His sufferings – this is actually a great honor and blessing. Christ suffered so that we might be rescued from eternal suffering, but while we are here, suffering can make us more like Christ. Through suffering, we too can experience sanctification and become a greater blessing to others.
But notice, Paul doesn’t put anything in between those two realities. Life in Christ is Good Friday and Easter Sunday, not Sad Saturday. Yet, I see many Christians who try to live in that middle place. Instead of walking radically in His resurrection power, or glorifying God by embracing His sufferings, they try to avoid both and perpetually live in Saturday. They never embrace anything the requires the radical resurrection power of the Spirit because they are afraid of what it might cost them. Like the disciples, they hide in out in a room.
Christian, brother and sister, it’s time to get out of the room! It’s time to move out of Saturday and let our lives reflect the fact that our Savior is alive. Amen!