Holy Week: Holy Saturday / Easter Eve. ‘Something to encourage and think upon’.
‘Then they [the women] went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.’ Jesus body was buried with spices by Joseph and Nicodemus. The women – include Mary Magdalene – see where he is buried. They plan to return after the Sabbath. We pick that up in Luke 24:1. But they rested on the Sabbath. The first Holy Saturday was a Sabbath. I would like us to think on that word ‘sabbath’, what does it mean on this Day before Easter Sunday. What principles are there connected to ‘sabbath’, that help us know what to do with this day? I suggest today is more than simply a day waiting for an Easter Vigil or for Sunday to come.
What was it like for the followers of Jesus? How would you have been, if you had traveled through the confrontations, teachings and events of the past seven days and you did not know Easter was coming? How would you have been on that Sabbath day? The male disciples, we know only perhaps two things. That perhaps Peter and John visited the tomb – they knew where to run to on Sunday morning (John 20, unless the location was told to them by Mary). And from John 20, ‘when the disciples were together with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders…’ it is likely, if that was how they felt on the Sunday, it was how they felt on Saturday – fear, to add to their other emotions at all that had happened in the past 24-48 hours.
But not everyone was resting on that Sabbath. Pilate, after a difficult previous 24 hours, may have hoped for a day of quietness, but the chief priests and some Pharisees come and ask him for a guard and seal upon the tomb. They are fearful too, fearful that this may not be over. Pilate agrees to the 16 man guard and the seal. On perhaps a mysterious or humorous note, what were the newly resurrected people doing on this day? Matthew 27:51-53, an absolutely incredible event which often is missed being read on Good Friday. As the curtain is torn, as an earthquake happens, resurrection occurs, dead are raised. But it says these holy ones, only after Jesus’ resurrection, went into Jerusalem. So what were they doing – having found themselves resurrected – on that Sabbath?
So, what are your thoughts or actions on this Holy Saturday?
The word ‘Sabbath’ gives us a compass. Its first use. Genesis 2:2.
‘By the seventh day, God had finished the work he had been doing, so on the seventh day, he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating he had done.’
This act by God, becomes the reason for the commandment to Israel to keep the Sabbath. The commandment, Mary and others are keeping. Sabbath is based upon God resting. John Goldingay writes:
‘’At the end of a week, many people wish they could look back over the week’s work and smile in satisfaction because they have a sense of a worthwhile job completed. But instead, they simply think with relief, ‘Thank goodness it is Friday!’ ‘’ (Goldingay, Genesis for Everyone, p. 23)
On the end of the sixth day, it says ‘God saw all that he had made and it was very good’. To quote Goldingay again.
‘’At the end of the week of creation, God is in a position to stand back, survey the six days work as a whole, and smile in satisfaction. The project has come out very well. It looks great, ”’ (Goldingay, ibid, p.23)
We can only imagine, but surely that was God’s view of these days we call Holy Week? It was very good!
Genesis says ‘’he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.’’ Through the cross and the resurrection , Paul declares new creation has come ‘’For if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come, ’’ (2 Cor 5:17). And the road of history is moving towards the new heaven and new earth in a near future, which the whole creation waits for. The pieces for the new creation have been put in place through the events of Good Friday. ‘He rested from all his work.’ On the cross Jesus said ‘It is finished’. It can be translated ”it has been and remains forever accomplished.” It is a word you’d use, in Greek, when you paid off your mortgage – finally, it is accomplished! Or the final stone is laid to complete a building – it is accomplished! On the first Sabbath. God rests from his work. It is done. On that Sabbath, in April AD33, it had also been accomplished. No more was needed. The resurrection would wonderfully show it.
So. This gives us some ideas to help us prepare for Easter. To think upon and feed our soul with. Remember Sabbath is created first, then man is sent to work (see Genesis 2). We work from our rest. So let these ideas from the first sabbath, fuel our walk with the Lord in the week ahead.
This day – Holy Saturday – becomes a day to reflect upon the work of God that was done, and how much it cost. There is a tomb with a young Jewish man buried inside. But the work is done. All accomplished.
Look back, survey the week, and smile. It is very good.
It is God’s work of new creation. And Easter Sunday proves it!
Prayer on Holy Saturday.
Lord, let this day, Holy Saturday, be one of rest and worship for me.
Give me a heart and mind to look at these days of Holy Week and trust that your work has been done.
Help me see the new creation, that is in me and in billions of others across our world, that it all comes from these days.
Let me look on these days, and as I come to worship tomorrow, rejoice and say ‘I looked at all that God did and it was very good!’. In your name. Amen.
Song: Miracles, by Jesus Culture
It’s lyrics are in both English and Portuguese (!)
By Grant Crowe