Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
It must have been as if all of creation was holding its breath, that day “in the middle,” after the Lamb of God was slain (on Friday) and before He rose again to life (on Sunday), the day believers call Holy Saturday.
A day unlike any other…
Jesus’ blood and sweat still covered the rocks and sand of Golgotha beneath where, less than twenty-four hours before, that cross had stood holding Him high during His final hours of agony and suffering.
The screams of the ragers and the haters were stilled. They’d gone home yesterday with their bloody souvenirs and their satisfaction.
I picture only a few mourning there, that day in the middle, perhaps his mother Mary among them. Did she remember, just then, hardly able to look through her grief at His splattered blood still seeping into the ground, the prophecy of Simeon, thirty-three years’ prior, about how her first-born would be “a sign that will be spoken against” and that “a sword (would) pierce (her) own soul too”? (Luke 2:34). Did she feel the pain of that sword just now?
Others milled about the city still discussing, in dread and awe, the events immediately following His last words the day before, the last time He was able to lift His battered head, His chest and lungs engorged with fluid from hours of torture, His heart failing, His strength abating: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
They marveled in horror remembering the earthquake, the tombs opening and the dead rising and appearing to many in the city, the darkness that enveloped the land, and the massive temple curtain tearing in two from top to bottom. (Matthew chapter 27).
Surely, this man was more than just a rabbi, a prophet, a carpenter from Nazareth?
His disciples, however, were in hiding for fear of what Jesus’ enemies might do to them.
But this was not what they had expected, either, of Him Who had raised the dead, healed the sick and the blind, cast out demons, multiplied a few fish and some bread to feed thousands, and so much more that John wrote, “If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written..” (21:25, NIV).
This was also not what they had expected of Jesus Who had on several occasions escaped, as if miraculously disappearing, from the crowds who were bent on killing Him previously!
Here, on this middle day, all was quiet, though it was likely a tenuous stillness, reverberating, if just in minds and hearts, from the natural and supernatural phenomena of the day before, undoubtedly causing some to wonder if this was really He Who was, in fact, the Promised One.
It must have been an anticipatory kind of quiet, a pensive intermission, an uneasy interlude, unlike any other the world had known…
The Bible doesn’t say a lot about this day we call Holy Saturday. Here is the most extensive summary from Matthew 27:62-66, ESV:
62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.
So precautions were taken as people tried to figure out what He and his followers had said about what might come next. Maybe a few had even heard the stories of when He had raised others from the dead.
Bible scholars write only about Holy Saturday there, in the eternal realm, as a day of rest for Jesus after his suffering, and a day of reflection for us.
But from what we now know of what happened on day three, Resurrection Sunday, perhaps we can surmise a bit…
I like to think about the celebration in heaven, the preparations, there in the throne room, for the event to come the next morning, THE event that split time, affirmed the hundreds of prophecies (353) Jesus fulfilled as the Son of Man and the Son of God, and brought a man dead from 3:00 in the afternoon the Friday prior back to life.
I like to imagine the angelic Hallelujah choruses in continuous refrain, and the Old Testament believers drawing as near as they could to the edge of heaven to watch the imminent miracle of miracles on earth.
I also like to meditate on God the Father and the Son Who, in concert with the Holy Spirit, had the redemption plan laid out a long time before, back as far as that garden when the first humans strayed from their instructions and God announced the pain to follow BUT also, at the same time, announced His promise of redemption, we know now, through the life–and death–of the Son.
What touches me most about that scene in the garden, though, where so much was lost for Adam and Eve and for us, is that God, Himself, made their coverings of animal skins–pause for a moment and imagine that. He knew what they did. He loved them still. And He Himself made the covering for their sin, their shame…
Perhaps that was a foreshadow of a time much later called the “fullness of time” when God sent His son, Jesus, “in the flesh,” to be a covering of another kind for sin* (on Good Friday), and not just Adam’s and Eve’s, but ours as well. St. John put it like this:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (3:16)
And, lastly, I imagine up there, on that first Holy Saturday, a much more intimate, tender scene, where a Father, missing His Son, embraces Him now that, after all those years, He is finally home, His grand, terrible, exquisite, agonizing, mission accomplished.
Once and for all time…
Up there, that first Holy Saturday, preparations were surely taking place for the next day, the first Easter Sunday, arguably the biggest day in the history of salvation, but it is that reunion of Father and Son after the mission was completed that gives me the most pause and prompts the most gratitude today, here, on this Saturday of rest and reflection just before the biggest celebration of this trinity of sacred days.
*For a discussion on the kind of love that covers sin, see here.
The forensic details of Jesus’ death come from https://www.godonthe.net/evidence/forensic.htm