Scripture Reading: Luke 23:54-56, Matthew 27:62-66, Isaiah 53:8-12
Every time I visit my hometown, I stop by the grocery store to buy a bouquet of flowers. And just like any good tight-knit community, I usually run into someone I know—an old friend from high school or one of my parents’ coworkers. We’ll catch up on recent happenings and wish each other well, but recently, it’s occurred to me that no one has ever commented on my armful of fresh flowers. Maybe it’s because they don’t notice, but more likely, it’s because they already know what they’re for.
I had a lot of plans for my young adult life, but becoming familiar with a cemetery was not one of them. My brother was 20 years old when he passed away, which is why it will always seem more appropriate to pay my respects with something from his favorite football team instead of tulips or roses. Yet, I bring them anyway. Others do, too. In fact, the groundskeeper once told me that the hill where my brother is buried is one of the most frequented areas in the cemetery. It’s a strange compliment I never thought I’d have to accept.
Holy Saturday is the day we acknowledge that things are not as they should be. Sitting between Jesus’ death and resurrection, this is the one day we are absolutely unable to look away from the tension of faith: what has happened and what is to come. Theologians refer to this as the “already and the not yet.” But because we know Christ’s resurrection is coming tomorrow, it’s easy to overlook the sunrise and sunset that took place while He was dead and buried in a tomb.
While we already know this arrangement is temporary, the people of Jerusalem had no way to be sure. It was the day Jesus’ followers had to choose between putting His promises into practice or going back to doubting that He was really the Son of God. But even those who were not His followers were unable to return to business as usual on Holy Saturday. The chief priests who’d crucified Him the day before, certain He was no longer alive, warned Pilate that something strange may be going on with the tomb. “Go and make it as secure as you know how,” Pilate ordered (Matthew 27:65).
We cannot deny the significance of death in the gospel story. We usually see this in Jesus’ own experience and eventual defiance of it, but the in-between is important, too. All the pain and the unknown of death is real—so real, that Jesus faced it head-on to reverse its power over us.
Sometimes, it’s enough to know that He has gone before us, even in this. Because Christ lay in His own grave, we get to lay hope on ours. We can acknowledge that things are not as they should be, while still holding onto His promises of redemption.
Let us gather our grief and hope, disappointment and joy, and wait by His tomb together, for resurrection has been promised to us. Alleluia.
For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death,
we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection.