David Peppler, Sr.
The Essential Nature of Holy, Silent Saturday
I get so tired of people saying, “Sunday’s coming” on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. As Christians, of course we know this. We already know the rest of the story. A 3-day event two thousand years ago really does give us the whole picture. But just because we know the end of the story does not mean that we need to skip to the end prematurely.
When we experience Holy Week, it is important that we take the last days of it in stride. Thursday is our day to prepare. We acknowledge the washing of feet and Lord’s Supper shared with the disciples. We recognize their confusion and Jesus compassion for them, even the one who would betray him. It is a serene setting where we sit with Jesus and remember what was about to happen.
On Good Friday we turn our attention to the cross. The illegal trial happened overnight and lasted into the morning when the Romans would conduct their court. They had no desire to do so as the city was being overrun with Jewish folks from around the known world who were coming to Jerusalem for Passover - the one feast Jews tried to attend each year no matter how far away they lived. The Romans would already be an aggravated bunch who would have beefed up security for this even without the Jesus situation.
We hear the inauthenticity of the religious leaders and how the crowd knew only to fall in line with what they said. We recognize that Pilate really did not want any of this to happen (neither, more so, did his wife). But the system was manipulated and the trial conducted and the greatest injustice of all time happened. Jesus was brutally killed. Then we read about his burial and a couple of unlikely players in that scene.
Then we skip to Sunday, and this is where I have my issues. Why? When you think about it, Saturday was the actual Passover Sabbath. It was anything but quiet in Jerusalem. There was probably gloating by the religious leaders who finally squashed the latest rebellion and once again were able to reestablish good old traditional authority. This was the highest attended time of their religious year.
But there would inevitably be a massive undercurrent of deep despair even in the crowd. Even the followers of Jesus might have attended the ceremonies and celebrations but in a state of incredible mourning and pain. Perhaps they did, but probably not. Either way, the story of Jesus would still be all over the people’s minds because they came from around the world for this and could not help but notice the trial and crucifixion of Jesus and the stories that spread about him.
I believe the followers of Jesus likely did not attend this high holy day of Passover. I believe this is where we actually get the concept of Silent Saturday. Even in the midst of tremendous commotion in the city, they likely stayed home, possibly huddled together in groups, and wept their eyes and hearts out. They would certainly have had racing minds pondering questions like, “What went wrong?” “How could he die if he was the real Messiah?” “How could we have let this happen?” “Are they coming for us next”?
But in overwhelming sorrow, they likely struggled to speak these questions aloud. Their Lord was dead. For them, the phrase “Sunday’s coming” would not mean anything to them except that they had an opportunity to go finish the ‘proper’ procedures for dealing with the body of the one who was gone. But today was Saturday. They lived through each agonizing second of the day as if they were carrying a millstone around their hearts.
We can not, we must not, skip this day so easily with a superficial slogan.
Jesus was dead. The people experienced mourning and pain. Their minds were wondering and wandering over the thoughts of what would come next.
We all have these kinds of experiences in our minds and hearts. We live our lives with questions and sometimes pain. When we lose a loved one, the suffering of our hearts overpowers our minds’ ability to reason. We do our best to work up some hope and talk of the future where we know God’s love always wins. We are able to stand only because we know God’s promise of heaven is something we deeply believe in and place our hopes in. It’s about all we have to ‘hang our hat’ on.
Then come the days of trying to figure out how to function in the aftermath. There are plethora tasks that need handled and decisions to make and items to be distributed and tears to shed during breaks. We busy ourselves to take care of what is necessary and somehow use this time to feel better because we are moving forward.
In my thinking, this is a challenge and possibly disservice to the needed mourning we should experience. Mourning takes time, period. Maybe it is the Martha in us who tells the Mary within us that there are no feet to sit around any more, so let’s just get busy so it can help us move on.
Holy Saturday should be a time to allow our hearts and minds to grasp the depth of our own reality. What is happening in your life for which you are still awaiting answers? What situation are you still waiting to see straightened out? What relationship is waiting for reconciliation? What are you still hopeful for but have yet to find any solutions? What prayers are you praying that remain unanswered?
When we skip over the times necessary to experience the depth of the losses we experience or hopes unresolved, our hearts suffer. It is beyond an inconvenience, it is a tragedy. It is important to live through the experience, even the sad and silent moments. It is there where we place ourselves fully into the arms of our loving God who holds us tightly and comforts us. These are critical moments when we simply need held. It is the genesis of healing.
Don’t skip this part.