Lenten Reflection #40 – Holy Saturday


I noticed for the first time a turn of phrase used only by Luke to describe the disciples at the Mount of Olives on Thursday night: Jesus returns from his solitary prayer to find the disciples sleeping “because of grief.” (22:45) In Luke’s depiction, they can read the writing on the wall and have already begun to grieve, and their grief leaves them exhuasted, craving sleep.

Within a few hours Jesus breaths his last breath, and his lifeless body is placed in the tomb. The sun setting on Friday marks the beginning of the sabbath. Referring to the women and presumably all of the disciples, Luke succintly concludes the story of Christ’s passion: “On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” (Luke 23:56b)

It is worth noting that after recording in such detail what took place over the course of the past week, the Gospels record absolutley nothing that took place on Saturday. It is the day of rest. Nothing, humanly speaking, takes place. Just rest, and waiting.

Now, presumably something DID happen on that Saturday, something so wonderful we marvel over it two thousand years later. The resurrection took place.

But the BIG THING is not witnessed — not directly. On Easter morning the tomb will be empty, angels will show up, and Jesus will make fleeting appearances. But the actual moment in which the lifeless body of Jesus was transformed and filled with a life that could not die is never described nor witnessed.

This gap in the story calls to mind a parable that Jesus had told in his ministry: “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the round, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.” (Mark 4:26-27)

In the end, the resurrection isn’t something we do. The disciples could no more have brought Jesus back to life than all the kings horses and all the kings men could put poor humpty together again. We haven’t a clue how to pull resurrection off.

There is not a matter of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps. What takes place is a miracle; it’s God’s doing, not ours.

Lent ends with the Sabbath rest.

Now there is nothing to do but rest, to wait.

Living God, it is out of our hands. We cannot create life where there is death. Like the women who will come to the tomb on Easter morning, we cannot roll away the stone of grief. You are God and we are not, but that’s okay, because we’ve never been up to the job anyway. We will place our trust in you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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