Holy Saturday–Sitting By the Grave

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 in which they had invested for the past three years seems pointless now.  They forsook their Master; they lost faith in that moment. They are leaderless, hopeless, and aimless.

On Holy Saturday we sit by the grave 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 until 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 I 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. As what happened in my life, we skip grief as much as possible. It is easier to run from grief. We prefer to escape it rather than face it or endure 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 me to protest death and renew my hatred for it. It reminds me to feel again and sit with the disciples in their despair.

Indeed, to sit with the disciples 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.

But Easter is a faint victory if we do not fully recognize the horror of death. Death threatens us with non-being, and it dismantles life so that there is no meaning, purpose, or joy that lasts. Easter is God’s gift; it is God’s “Yes” to Death’s “No.”

Yesterday we remembered the death of Jesus on Good Friday, today we sit at the grave, but tomorrow, 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 and loved ones will mourn at our graves. However–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.

3 Responses to “Holy Saturday–Sitting By the Grave”

  1.   Jennifer Hicks Says:

    Thank you for your courage and insight John Mark. Counterintuitive and counter-cultural. Yet God knows we need the day to feel our loss so that we can more fully experience the grace of His victory over death. So we praise Him in the storm, and wait.

  2.   Donald Crane Says:

    Thoughts I certainly needed today. Thank you.

  3.   rich Constant Says:

    What do you think about this John Mark,
    I would Express atonement inside of this.
    God’s (The Trinity)PERFECT LAW Of LIBERTY (LOVE)is Vindicated. In THE midst Of CHAOS (FREE WILL).THE CREACHER BEING SELF DECIEVED, SO DECIEVING , CORRUPTING THE Trinities VERY GOOD, [(REST); In their Tabernacle] Creation.
    Establishing, righteous faithful love, through actions and harmony, establishing peace through overcoming chaos , establishing
    faithful righteousness.

    For the purpose of his very good! THROUGH THE restoration of all things, establishing his glory in the act of redemption, for all those that believe (His BODY). Through giving his Life(BLOOD), that all SHOULD live THROUGH THE Spirit( the loving law of righteous Liberty). In the new Tabernacle the restoration of the body of his dearly beloved Son.

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