Holy Saturday

Crown of Thorns on a Cross
There’s no end to what’s been written about Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But what about the day in between, traditionally called Holy Saturday? What happens on that day? It is the Sabbath day, which begins at sundown on Friday, and ends at sundown on Saturday.

• The chief priest and Pharisees go to Pilate asking for a guard at the tomb because they remember Jesus saying, “After three days I will rise again.” They fear the disciples might steal Jesus’ body and claim a resurrection. Pilate agrees to post a guard unit at the tomb. (Matthew 27:62-66)

• Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and others, prepare spices in order to anoint the body of Jesus on Easter morning. We assume this was done Saturday night in order to avoid working on the Sabbath. (Luke 24:10) Sadly, they’re not expecting a resurrection.

• Jesus’ mother. Although the Bible doesn’t record her activity or her thoughts, we assume she grieves with bewilderment and confusion. She had been told years ago by the angel Gabriel that her child would be “the Son of the Most High, and that he would reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom would never end” (Luke 1:32-33). Mary must have wondered if it’s possible the angel could have been wrong. She saw no throne, no kingdom, no reign of her son. Mary was also told by Simeon at the dedication of Jesus, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:34-35). These words seem much truer than Gabriel’s words. A sword has definitely pierced her soul.

• The disciples hide out somewhere. All were absent at the cross except for John. On this reflection day, where were their thoughts? Reliving the events of the last few days. Jesus had entered Jerusalem on a donkey with people shouting, “Hosanna,” and days later crowds shouting, “Crucify him”. The betrayal by one of their own—Judas, the illegal trials, the agony of Jesus having to die a criminal’s death. Their guilt and shame had to be intense—they abandoned Jesus in his final hours. Their thoughts must have vacillated between Jesus and their own future. “What’s next for us? Where will we go? What will we do now?” They’re not expecting a resurrection.

• On Friday, the Roman centurion stood in front of Jesus as he hung on the cross. He saw Jesus’ face and heard his words, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). He witnessed creation’s reaction. Darkness came over the land from noon till three o’clock. An earthquake shook the city. The centurion said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39) What were the centurion’s reflections on Saturday? Perhaps he was the hopeful one, awaiting Sunday, believing that this story was not over yet!


6 comments to Holy Saturday

  • Rosie Handley

    A wonderful reminder on this day, Janet. What a sacrifice, what a Lord.
    Keep up the good work. You continue to be a blessing to many.

  • Richie

    Interesting observations. I’ve also wondered about Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, both Sanhedrin members, who according to John 19:38-40, came out in public and took the body of Jesus and laid it in the tomb. In doing so, they took a stand and put their reputations on the line and maybe even risked ridicule and possible expulsion from the Council, etc. Would they put themselves in such jeopardy merely out of respect for miracles and teachings of someone who ended up dead, not able to save himself, or did they also believe the story was still unfolding? When referring back to the earlier conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus in John 3:1-21, I wonder if those words sunk in over time and pulled him from the darkness into the light.

    • Hi Richie, I agree that Joseph and Nic were believers in Jesus. On that Saturday they were probably thinking through their next move with the other Jewish leaders. So glad the resurrection changed everything for the believers.

  • Shelly Larson

    Janet I love this possibility that perhaps the centurion was the hopeful one! This day needs hope! Can’t imagine all the tension filling the air inside the tomb–just how long can this space contain the Son of God?! Not long!

    • Hi Shelly, I love that thought about the tomb. Even the angels asked the women, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”