I believe Christians sometimes forget the full scope of the Easter holiday. Of course, we remember communion for Maundy Thursday. We also remember the crucifixion for Good Friday. And then there’s the celebration Easter Sunday. We certainly have activities and services to commemorate these particular days! Yet what about Saturday? Is there anything to do for this seemingly random day of waiting before Easter morning?
I’ve been guilty of this forgetfulness myself. For several years, I didn’t exactly know how to handle this Saturday. Was it just a time to rest up for sunrise service the next morning? Or could there be something quite enriching to remember on this “in-between” sort of day?
Today is in fact referred to as “Holy Saturday.” As you can tell, it isn’t as popular as other days in the church calendar. From a big picture perspective, this counts as the day Jesus was in the tomb before rising on the third day (died and buried on Friday, and then resurrected on Sunday, so three “days” in total).
Holy Saturday is an in-between sort of time. We reflect on how Jesus is dead in the tomb, and eagerly await the gloriousness of Easter morning. Too often we want to skip over Good Friday and focus on Easter! Perhaps we are eager to eat candy from the Easter bunny, but I think that we often feel uncomfortable about death and periods of waiting. We don’t like to show patience. We want happy emotions, rather than somber reflection.
As I grow more in my faith, I find myself feeling like I’m in a Holy Saturday sort of mode. Occasionally, I will feel like Good Friday, particularly during a stressful or tragic season of life. I will seek the solidarity of Jesus during these times, knowing that he experienced unimaginable pain while on the cross.
There are other times where I feel the joy of Easter morning. I think of moments of intense good news, like meeting my wife for the first time, being approved for ordination, or having an incredibly joyous day with friends. I resonate with the joy of the resurrection and the empty tomb, knowing that God is turning our world upside down.
But most of the time, I find myself in this “in-between” state of being. Jesus of course rose from the dead, but I’m still waiting for God to resurrect certain areas of my life. I still anticipate the full healing that comes when we are reunited with God after death. In other words, sometimes I feel like God’s kingdom is already here, yet it’s not fully arrived just yet. There are parts of the resurrection I’m still yearning for.
I wrote on this topic a couple of months ago with a sermon on miracles, the early church, and a bible study we went through. Here’s how I described the “Holy Saturday” nature of human life:
Jesus was clear that we can experience the kingdom of God. In fact, Jesus’ first recorded words in the Gospel of Mark 1:15 are “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” You may be familiar with this idea in our faith. We are to repent, ask for God’s forgiveness, and believe in the good news of Jesus in order for us to be saved. This transformation allows us to live in God’s kingdom. This relationship could be described as an already-but-not-yet kingdom…
We can already experience the healing of Jesus… but full healing will come in the future. Miracles remind us God is continually working.
We can know what eternal life is like right now… but “full” eternal life in heaven can only happen after we die. We all will eventually die on this earth.
We can already know what perfection looks like through following Jesus’ commandments… but we are not perfected just yet—God will purify us at the final judgment.
We can already see the kingdom of God moving around us in the church… but it’s completion is “not yet.”
You probably find yourself in “Holy Saturday” in one way or another. You wait for God to do something—to rise from the grave—and eagerly hope for the restoration of Christ to come. It could be a broken relationship within your family. It might be an illness you’ve been battling. You may want God to fix a situation you’re dealing with. Maybe you miss a spouse, parent, or grandparent who has died, and long for just one more hug or conversation from them.
Holy Saturday has a very powerful place in our faith. We often find ourselves seeking God’s healing, awaiting the power of the empty tomb. We catch glimpses of it happening every once in a while, but we long for more.
The important thing is to never give up hope while we are waiting. We might feel “stuck” in Saturday and like Jesus Christ is still dead in the tomb… but never forget that Sunday is coming.