Good Friday and then Easter!
But a day is missing in that story. To move from Friday to Sunday we must walk through Saturday.
Saturday, however, is a lonely day. Death has won. Hope is lost. Jesus of Nazareth lies in a tomb. His disciples are afraid, hiding, and deeply depressed. Everything they had invested in for the past three years seems pointless now. They forsook their Master; they lost faith in that moment. They are leaderless, hopeless, and aimless.
Holy Saturday is the day we sit by the grave. It is the day to feel the gloom of the grave, to face the reality of death itself. It is a day to weep, fast and mourn. The late second century church (e.g., Irenaeus) fasted from all food on this day because it was a day of mourning. They did not break the fast till Easter morning.
Those of us who have spent time at graves–in my case the grave of a parent, wife and child–understand this grief, the despair of the grave. I have spent much of my life running away from graves, and have rarely spent much time thinking about Holy Saturday.
It is much easier to skip from Friday to Easter than to dwell on Holy Saturday. It is like, as happened in my life, skipping grief as much as possible. It is easier to run from grief. We prefer to escape it rather than face it.
Holy Saturday reminds me to grieve, to lament. It reminds me to rail against death, the enemy of both God and humanity. It reminds to protest death and renew my hatred for it. It reminds to feel again and sit with the disciples in their despair.
Indeed, to sit with the disciples in their despair is to sit with humanity in the face of death. When we sit at the grave we recognize our powerlessness. We cannot reverse death; we cannot defeat this enemy. Holy Saturday creates a yearning for Easter. We need Easter for without it we are dead.
Today (Friday) we remember the death, tomorrow we sit at the grave, but on Sunday we are renewed by the hope of the resurrection.
Jesus walked that path and we follow him. We, too, will have our Friday, one day we will be entombed in a grave, and–by the grace and mercy of God–on that great day we will rise again to walk with Jesus upon the new heaven and new earth.
That is the meaning of Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter.