Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday and culminates in the greatest celebration of all: Easter Sunday. Many celebrate Maundy Thursday by partaking in a Seder meal. Some churches offer special Thursday services which include feet washing-representing Jesus’ last night and reckless act of love and humility with his disciples. Good Friday is often remembered and celebrated in experiential services, where participants feel, taste, touch, and smell the events of the crucifixion.
What about Saturday? In churches today, Saturday is often a day of Easter Egg Hunts and hopeful anticipation for the Resurrection (or a delicious Easter ham).
But that’s not the emotion the disciples and followers of Jesus expressed on the day after their leader, teacher, and friend was executed. Only four verses in the whole Bible give us a picture of what happened on Saturday.
In Matthew 27:62-66, we read that the religious leaders of the time went to Pilate on the Sabbath (Saturday) to ensure Jesus’ tomb had extra guard and protection. Ironically, the same people who crucified Jesus are breaking the Sabbath by traveling and working on that day. Those who condemned Jesus for doing healing on the Sabbath earlier, are now breaking the Sabbath themselves to do everything they can to be sure his body remains in the tomb and isn’t stolen by the disciples.
What the religious leaders don’t know is that the disciples aren’t plotting a way to steal Jesus’ body, but instead wallowing in the silence and unanswered prayers of that Saturday. Jesus is still dead. He’s still in the grave. They are probably terrified that they are next; that the mere association with Jesus will lead to their crucifixion. They’re grieving the loss of a friend and teacher. They’re humiliated they really believed that he was the Messiah–the savior of the world. Doubt creeps in.
We get a little peek into how the disciples were feeling before the realization of the Resurrection in Luke 24:19-21.
A disciple named Cleopas and another disciple are walking on a road out of Jerusalem on Sunday. They don’t recognize a man who begins to walk next to them who doesn’t know what has just happened. So he sums up the last few days for the man in this:
Verse 19-21: “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. ”
It’s interesting to note that these disciples are on their way home-leaving the city the first chance they get once the travel restrictions are lifted after the Sabbath. The disciples are collapsing because of the confusion, grief, and disappointment in what happened on the dark day that was Good Friday.
The disciples must have forgotten about a conversation Jesus had with them just a couple days earlier. When talking to his disciples on Thursday, Jesus takes time to warn them about the grief, disappointment, doubt, and silence they would encounter during the days to come.
John 16:20-22 records Jesus saying, “I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A women giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
Jesus is talking about his death-about the darkest day the disciples will ever experience. He knows they will be met with silence. But he’s asking them to wait. To hold on to the hope he offers them-the hope that lies beyond the pain and grief and doubt.
I’m strangely comforted by the story of the disciples on that Saturday.
We’re not alone in not fully understanding God’s silence. The disciples had lost hope completely. They were confused and shocked by the silence of that Saturday. Their doubt caused them to abandon the cause completely and stop believing in what Jesus taught.
But despite the silence, Jesus promises that joy is coming. In our times of pain, grief, misunderstanding, and confusion… In our moments where we are left wallowing in the silence of God and unanswered prayers… When we are stuck in our Saturdays-the days following our darkest moments, we can hold on to this promise-one that Jesus gave his disciples some 2000 years ago: joy is coming. A joy that no one can take away.
I’m excited to be able to answer the refrain tomorrow: He is risen. He is risen indeed.
What is YOUR favorite part about Holy Week? In what ways have you wrestled with the silence of God, like the disciples did?
*Photo courtesy of here