Holy Saturday: In the Grave He Lay

Good Friday and then Easter!

But a day is missing in that story. To move from Friday to Sunday one 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 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, 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.

10 Responses to “Holy Saturday: In the Grave He Lay”

  1.   john alan turner Says:

    Thanks for this honest reflection, John Mark. In many ways, we find ourselves living on Holy Saturday — between the first and second comings of Christ. We remember his promises, and we hope and pray that they’ll be reality soon.

    And this allows us to grieve w/o being overwhelmed by grief as those who have no hope often do.

    So, with the saints of old we join our voices and say, “Maranatha! Lord, come quickly!”

  2.   Loren Seibold Says:

    I must thank you for this lovely reflection, John Mark. I was so touched by it that I will quote you tomorrow. (As a Seventh-day Adventist, I preach to my people on Saturday; though this week we have an Easter Sunday service, too.) It was the perfect thing to summarize what I wanted to say to my people, and I gladly give you and the Holy Spirit credit for it!

    Loren Seibold

  3.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    Thanks, Loren, for visiting, and for your kindness. You, too, John Alan!

  4.   Bruce Says:

    As the Scripture is quiet on Saturday, so may we be.

  5.   rich constant Says:

    i went to a friday night easter fellowship with my kids last night.
    my first service durning easter…
    as can be imangined there were a lot of mixed feelings on my part from a traditional church of christ perspective…
    mixed blessings any way i finally found my center.and settled in, by the end of the night,(there was only singing,music,scripture on the big screens bringing focus to thought and meditation of the event that changed the nature of creation) no one spoke.at the end of the night everyone was to bring up a peice of paper with a sin or sins written on it and at that time take comunion. my son gave me a peice of paper they had placed a 3 or 4 wooden crosses in the front they gave every one a hammer and a nail as they came up and each nailed there sin to the cross…

    i wrote conceit on my paper…
    john mark makes such simple idiots of us all from our LORDS PERSPECTION…



  6.   Loren Seibold Says:

    Again, John Mark, thank you for this piece. I read it to my church today as part of my sermon. As Saturday worshipers, we’ve often puzzled about what the Saturday of Easter should mean to us. You put it in such good perspective—the day to sit by the grave. I also linked it on my Facebook page.

    Loren Seibold

  7.   Mr. Ducke (Matt) Says:

    Thanks very much for this. I was searching the web for something about Holy Saturday yesterday, and came across this. It moved me deeply and put into words the significance of the day, I was able to sure it with some others who felt the same..

  8.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    May God hear our prayers and our hearts.

  9.   Doug Jantz Says:

    I read this and thought, I have never heard this or thought of it before! You can bet I will next year, though. Excellent.

  10.   Juan Says:

    I have never heard anything about Saturday. I will never look at Holy Saturday the same again. John I will quote you tomorrow when I am preaching. Thanks for a great post.


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