Day 48

Holy Saturday

from the reading plan

Matthew 27:62-66, Luke 23:54-56, Isaiah 53:8-12

Our church ends the Good Friday service the same way every year. We read through Jesus’s last words on the cross, sing, pray, and then end by singing these words: There in the ground His body lay / Light of the world by darkness slain. 

Then the band stops mid-verse and goes quiet. The lights go out, we extinguish the Christ candle, and everyone leaves quietly. It’s the one time a year the church leaves in dark silence. Then, we gather again on Easter Sunday in a bright, life-filled room and start the service by finishing the verse: Then bursting forth in glorious day / Up from the grave He rose again.

The verse we left unfinished on Friday we get to sing with resurrection hope on Sunday. It is always a rich moment for our church. 

I have come to treasure the time spent between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The time when we intentionally leave the verse incomplete. It’s thirty-six hours lived between the “darkness slain” and the “bursting forth.” It means a lot to me because much of Christian life is marked by that kind of between-ness. 

Matthew tells us that on that first Holy Saturday, Jesus’s opponents were still plotting against Him and His followers even after He was crucified and buried. The command to “go and make it as secure as you know how” (Matthew 27:65) reveals the kind of heart that misses both the power of Jesus and the need for Jesus. However, Luke tells us that Jesus’s followers continued to honor Him and obey God on that Saturday. As sad and confused as they must have been, Luke says they still “rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56). There must have been a very pronounced sense that the verse was incomplete; even still they offered obedience despite the uncertainty. 

Every Christian lives in that moment in history now. While we know that Jesus does not stay dead and the sadness of Friday gives way to the surprise of Sunday, we remain in a scene of the redemptive story that looks forward to completion. We are right in the middle of the verse, looking forward to the following line that sings of Christ’s glorious return. In a sense, all Christian life is lived in a Holy Saturday kind of waiting. The call on our life is to offer our daily, hopeful obedience while we wait for the day when we finish the song. 

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