Holy Saturday Reflection 3
This reflection is a combination of two sets of thoughts from Tom Wright, Lent for Everyone: Mark, Year B, (pp169-71), and from Chris Cocksworth, Reflections for Daily Prayer, (p.127)
18 The Jews then responded to him, ‘What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?’ 19 Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’
20 They replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’ 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
A disaster hits. Months ago it seemed every few days, there was a new story of yet another approaching hurricane in the Caribbean and southern United States. It became more horrible an event as it unfurled, the news camera crews staying as long as they could, and the snippets of mobile phone footage uploaded, showing the increasingly destructive winds or tidal surges. It would have been exciting and dramatic, if it had not been so nightmarish.
But after the storm, the calm. Not a calm of respite and waking up and discovering it was all a bad dream. Or waking up to find, all was well. Rather seeing a broken twisted calm of a landscape destroyed beyond all recognition. People walking aimlessly to and fro, unable even to imagine where to begin to clean up, to clear up, to rebuild lives and communities…
Holy Saturday must have been like that. Any bereavement leaves you numb, squashed under the heavy choking cloud of grief. This was a bereavement like no other. For Jesus followers, devastation. Not only was Jesus dead – how could he be?
But almost as bad, looming up, like a further great dark wave, the sense of impossibility, of hopelessness of a future, not just blank, but full of nothing but horror.
Jesus was the last best hope.
And he was dead.
And yet he had predicted it. In a number of ways, at a number of times, including at the start of his ministry. This particular statement, the disciples had forgotten until after Resurrection Sunday (v22). The Jewish leaders did not understand Jesus meaning. Later they used this statement to accuse him at his trial of opposing the laws of Moses and the Jewish faith, (Mark 14:57-61). The leaders claimed that Jesus said HE would destroy the temple. But in fact it was them, who with the Romans, destroyed the ‘temple’ which was Jesus body.
As we read this reflection at 3pm, just 24 hours before, all this had occurred. Jesus’ body had been destroyed on Friday, it had been racked by intolerable pain, ruined by slow starvation of oxygen and desecrated by penetration of nails and spear. The religious leadership had declared, (you can almost hear the laughter as they challenge Jesus’ words), that it had taken 46 years to build the temple, and now he was saying he would destroy it and raise it. On Friday, it took only 6 hours to destroy the temple of Jesus’ body.
On Saturday, Jesus’ body, destroyed by such an ugly death, lay limp on the cold stone of the dark tomb, while his spirit descended to the region of the dead, even there proclaiming the gospel (1 Peter 4:6).
On Sunday, the prophecy by Jesus would be fulfilled. The sign would be given, that he was the Messiah and he had the authority to do and teach all that he did. Only then did the disciples remember and believe. The body of Jesus would be raised from the dead. And now those who trusted in Jesus, who were now body of Christ, would also be known as the temple, (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). The new glorious temple of Christ’s risen body would beckon all of humanity to step through the open doors of Jesus wide embrace into the Holy of Holies of God’s gracious presence.
Pause to consider
”Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,” ( 1 Peter 2:4-5).
Pray – for yourself
Thank God that in even difficult times, he is working to make all things work for good. Pray that in difficult times we can remember the promises and teachings of Jesus. And that our eyes would be open to see when those promises are being fulfilled.
Witness – looking outward
St Paul invites us in our lives to remember that our bodies individually are temples of the Holy Spirit. May our lives and our words inspire others to trust in and worship Christ.
Prayer for the afternoon
Lord Jesus, Lord of life,
you became as nothing for us:
may those who feel worthless and as nothing in the world’s eyes
become aware of your presence.
You were laid in a cold, dark tomb and hidden from sight:
may all who suffer and die in secret hidden from the eyes of the world,
know your presence with them,
To you, Jesus, your rigid body was imprisoned in a tomb,
be honour and glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
now and for ever. Amen.