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Holy Saturday

“The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.” Luke 23: 55-56

I’m trying to imagine what the women felt as they watched Jesus placed in the tomb. I’m wondering how they managed to return home, prepare spices for his burial, and then stop as the sun set for the Sabbath- leaving their work unfinished and their friend lying alone.

I think I would have been losing my mind a bit.

I probably would have tried to bend the rules. After all, this was the Lord of the Sabbath we’re talking about. I’m a Martha-hearted person, a “doer”, and rest has never come easy- particularly when the people that I love are involved.

The Sabbath is supposed to be this intentional living out of shalom, of perfect relationship with God and humanity. It’s supposed to be a day where we live out the promise of God to restore creation by ceasing from labor and striving and trusting God to provide all that we need.

But how do we rest if we can’t trust God’s promise? What kind of rest was there to be on that particular Saturday?

A week prior, these women watched Jesus lauded with palm branches as the King and Messiah who would save them all. In the years that they followed him they saw him give sight to the blind, heal the sick, raise the dead, and speak welcome to the outcast. They experienced his love, friendship, and forgiveness personally.

I think it’s fair to say that they had some expectations about how this story was supposed to end, and that Jesus’ death wasn’t how they pictured it. He made so many promises- how could they be answered now? Was it all an elaborate joke? Some sort of test? Was God playing us?

I can imagine they asked those questions, and had those doubts, because I’ve asked them and I’ve had them.

How do we find rest when world as we know it has completely fallen apart?

In recent years, Holy Saturday has become one of the most significant parts of Holy Week for me. Some people may find that a bit blasphemous, since our entire faith is founded on what happens on Sunday, and you can stone me later if you want. The fact remains that I’ve found something incredibly powerful in today’s waiting.

On Saturday, we sit with the lost who don’t yet know the hope of Sunday. Today we stare, slack-jawed, at the ruins of our expectations. Today, we watch our idol of certainty get smashed to bits.

I think Holy Saturday is for those of us who are sitting in darkness- for those who don’t know what comes next.

Holy Saturday is for the families trapped at the border to Macedonia and for the Pakistani men being detained somewhere in Greece.

Holy Saturday is for the million or so refugees waiting for asylum in atrocious camps in Turkey.

Holy Saturday if for the single mom whose daughter has been handed a terrifying mental health diagnosis.

It’s for the family of five facing eviction.

It’s for the husband who just lost his wife of 40 years to cancer.

It’s for the couple whose struggle with infertility has resulted in a third miscarriage.

Holy Saturday meets us where our expectations of how the world should be are utterly shattered.

Holy Saturday finds us in the dark.


This year, today’s observance seems especially personal. I feel like the Lord has led me into a season of waiting. Before I went to Greece, I thought I knew a lot of things- about where I was headed, to what and whom I was called, maybe even about where that should be. Then, God pretty much threw every single one of those things out the window in some sort of radical Greek housecleaning.

While in Greece, he started stirring up some new dreams and planting new desires. And I was SO ready to go. But he said, and continues to say, “wait on me.” And I’m still waiting- and if I’m honest, on rough days, I’m doubting a little.

Since coming back, God has shifted literally every detail of my life and removed whatever control I thought I had. In the coming year, from what I can currently tell, there will be virtually nothing in my life that remains the same as it is now. This is exciting, but also slightly nightmarish for a planner like myself.

For the first time in a very long time, I have zero idea what comes next. All of my expectations have been ground to dust. I’m waiting in the dark.

We have an unfair advantage over the women at the tomb, because we know how tomorrow goes. But what if we didn’t?

Standing beside Mary at the tomb, would I have had the faith to believe Jesus’ promise that in three days he would rise again? It’s not looking good, and quite frankly, the possibility of resurrection seems slightly irrational. People will call us crazy.

And worst of all… how will I bear it if I’m disappointed?

I’m wrestling with similar questions now. Were the promises that God made in Greece all in my head? This all seems a little irrational. Was God just ‘playing around’ to teach me something? And probably the scariest- how is my heart going to manage the disappointment if I was wrong about all of this?

I read recently that “…faith grows but in exercise in circumstances impossible (Mary Butterfield).”

Holy Saturday is a day that calls for irrational faith.

The Lord is trying REALLY hard to build my faith and to teach me to wait and trust when I don’t see what he’s doing. To trust when I haven’t the foggiest idea of what comes next. That’s a lesson that he’s teaching through personal stuff, but also as I cry through the news.

He’s asking me, and maybe you, to trust that his promises are good- even when we can’t see our own hand before our face for the darkness surrounding us.

Somehow this Sabbath waiting is good for us. Just wait and see.

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