Holy Saturday, April 16

Holy Saturday, April 16

Reader:  “That deceiver once said while he was still alive:”

Response:  ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’

Scripture:  Matthew 27:57-66 & Job 14:1-14

​​As evening approached, Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea who had become a follower of Jesus, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. And Pilate issued an order to release it to him. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a long sheet of clean linen cloth. He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance and left. Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb and watching.

The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. They told him, “Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’ So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.”

Pilate replied, “Take guards and secure it the best you can.” So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it.

 “How frail is humanity!

    How short is life, how full of trouble!

We blossom like a flower and then wither.

    Like a passing shadow, we quickly disappear.

Must you keep an eye on such a frail creature

    and demand an accounting from me?

Who can bring purity out of an impure person?

    No one!

You have decided the length of our lives.

    You know how many months we will live,

    and we are not given a minute longer.

So leave us alone and let us rest!

    We are like hired hands, so let us finish our work in peace.

“Even a tree has more hope!

    If it is cut down, it will sprout again

    and grow new branches.

Though its roots have grown old in the earth

    and its stump decays,

at the scent of water it will bud

    and sprout again like a new seedling.

“But when people die, their strength is gone.

    They breathe their last, and then where are they?

As water evaporates from a lake

    and a river disappears in drought,

people are laid to rest and do not rise again.

    Until the heavens are no more, they will not wake up

    nor be roused from their sleep.

“I wish you would hide me in the grave

    and forget me there until your anger has passed.

    But mark your calendar to think of me again!

Can the dead live again?

    If so, this would give me hope through all my years of struggle,

    and I would eagerly await the release of death.

Some thoughts:

For the early followers of Jesus this sabbath was surely the most hopelessly crushing day of disillusionment. Whatever the expectation one held regarding the Messiah, it was utterly destroyed. Joseph followed the proper Jewish law of burying the body before sundown. You’ll note the two Marys watched what Joseph did and knew exactly where Jesus was buried. Pilate made sure the tomb was sealed with a Roman insignia to prevent possible tampering and stationed two guards as well to insure the integrity of the tomb. I want to tie this burial to the pericope in Job and look at the three emboldened questions.

Who can bring purity out of an impure person?

They breathe their last, and then where are they?

Can the dead live again?

Jesus’ “sabbath rest” in the tomb was profound in answering Job’s questions in his conversation with God. The Pure One was laid to rest having absorbed all the impurities of every person who has ever lived or will live. Only a sinless person can do that. The reason Jesus was killed is because he claimed to be that person. His resurrection confirmed that he was, indeed, that person. While we don’t know the details of all that was transpiring during the time his body lay in the tomb, we do know he was victorious over death!  

It is curious to me that in many conversations I’ve heard in past months concerning death, I have yet to hear one serious conversation regarding where people go when they die. It usually ends up with something like “they were a good person” and so they’ll “go to a better place.” We don’t know that, but we do know specifically where Jesus was on this Holy Saturday.  His body was in the grave and his spirit was in Paradise. For in his own words to the repentant thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in Paradise,” the place of the righteous dead. Then there is that curious line in Job: “But mark your calendar to think of me again!” The grave is not the final resting place. It’s like saying, “I’m in the grave for now, but I won’t always be here.” That’s true of Job and that’s true of us and our loved ones who have put their trust in Christ.

While we know where we are after death, we’ve also answered Job’s last question with an absolute positive YES! We live again because Saturday’s graveyard lost its hold on death. Jesus, our Savior, broke its stranglehold on sin forever! The fear of death was annihilated. That Sabbath Rest ushered in a New Creation on the eighth day!

Music: “Agnus Dei”   Ola Gjeilo    Tallgrass Chamber Choir

Agnus Dei,      qui tollis                peccata      mundi

Lamb of God  who takes away    the sins    of the world

Miserere        nobis

Have mercy  on us.     ( this text repeats)

Agnus Dei,      qui tollis                peccata      mundi

Lamb of God  who takes away    the sins    of the world

Dona nobis   pacem

Grant  us      peace


This is the night, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell, and rose victorious from the grave. How wonderful and beyond our knowing, O God, is your mercy and loving kindness to us, that to redeem a slave, you gave a Son. How holy is this night, when wickedness is put to flight, and sin is washed away. It restores innocence to the fallen and joy to those who mourn. It casts out pride and hatred and brings peace and concord. How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined and man is reconciled to God. All glory be to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit world without end. Amen.                ―Book of Common Prayer

Beginning this coming Monday the Eastertide daily devotionals will continue taking us through Ascension Day and on to Pentecost on June 5th. You don’t have to do anything; they will appear in your email box each morning.