One of my favorite authors, Phillip Yancey jolted my thinking about Easter several years ago. He wrote:
Its Holy Saturday as I write this reflection. As we’ve celebrated Passion Week, we’ve experienced the tremendous spiritual and emotional ups and downs of Jesus’ story. We’ve undulated between joy and sorrow—from the triumphal entry of Palm Sunday to Jesus dangerous teaching in Jerusalem—from the bitter sweetness of Maundy Thursday to the horror of Good Friday to the victory of Easter Sunday
But what about Saturday? Yancey’s words seem to ring truer today than ever before in my life and certainly in my memory. It’s been over three weeks since our social lives have been put on hold with the sheltering in place that has come about with this COVID-19 pandemic. What are we to think? How are we to feel as we’ve put our lives on hold. I suspect that we’ve all been struggling what to think, feel or do. Many have written about the problem of personal, familial and national grief. It seems that we are in a Saturday that will not end for a while—and what is it that we do?
So, I opened my Bible to see what it said about that Saturday. The gospels of Mark and John say nothing about Saturday. Their accounts skip from the burial of Jesus directly to the accounts of the resurrection. The day seems voided—much like the mourner feels drained of all feeling after the horror of death sinks in. In Luke, we find that the women who were present went home and rested. They persevered in the ordinary tasks and returned to old routines. The disciple’s whereabouts are unclear. One can only wonder what they were doing. Was it guilt, confusion, lostness, desperation? Matthew reveals that the Chief Priests and Pharisees went to Pilate to beg permission to seal the tomb and to post a guard. These things were ordered and accomplished.
What I come up with, as I look through these scriptures, that Holy Saturday represents the normal, the mundane, the ordinary, the business as usual, a time that is lost in the limbo of our western culture. It is what we are living, now in this time of social distance–this time of waiting when we await the return to our lives, our normal pastimes, our jobs, our schools, our houses of worship.
So what about Saturday? It is Easter Monday. Even as we live in this time when all our days feel like Saturday, we are an Easter People! We have once again heard the story and felt the exhilaration of Christ’s triumphant victory over death in the resurrection. Saturdays? Yes, we live in them, but they are not us and ultimately, we are not of them. The Gospel reading for Easter Evening is the story of the walk to Emmaus (John 24:13-35). The line that always strikes me is this one: “They stood still, with sad faces.” But then, later in the story, where to two disciples reflect to themselves “Wasn’t it like a fire burning in us when he talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?”
The Risen Christ gives us hope for this day—his presence is with us even in our Saturdays—an ever-present source of hope burning within us, even in these days of waiting. Easter Sunday brings us the hope that Saturday will end. He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!