The day in between death and resurrection
As we celebrate Easter this year, I’ve been drawn not to Friday or Sunday (though they are vitally important), but to Saturday. The day between Jesus’ death and resurrection. Somehow, I never really noticed this day before — sandwiched between two monumental experiences in the life of Jesus. The Bible tells us nothing about this mysterious day either. But this year for me, it feels like God lit up Saturday with a big neon sign and an invitation to pay closer attention.
Jesus died on a Friday afternoon and in the Jewish tradition, it was just a few hours before sundown —marking the start of the Sabbath. In this tradition, people refrained from all forms of work from sundown on Friday through sundown on Saturday. It was a time of rest with God, family and loved ones. So on this particular Saturday, the day after Jesus’ death, his friends were likely grieving and spending Sabbath rest together.
In a lot of ways, this past year has felt like Holy Saturday, hasn’t it? A space of waiting as the domino effect of loss after loss came our direction. And instead of distracting ourselves with other things, we’ve been forced to look our grief in the face. To stare at our fears in the face. To peer at our pain in the face.
As Easter approached this year, I found myself asking God, “Why is there Holy Saturday? What significance is there in the waiting, in the wrestle, in the wonder?”
“Look at a seed,” I sensed him say. Then a treasure hunt began (thank you Google!) as I researched everything I could about seeds. Here’s what I learned:
When a seed is planted in the ground, it enters the dark soil underground. Water fills the seed and that water begins the plant’s growth. The seed grows a root to access more water and then a while later, the seed grows a shoot toward the sun.*
Well, isn’t this a picture of Easter weekend in our lives if I ever saw one! We’ve experienced some dark circumstances over this past year, haven’t we? You may be grieving the loss of a loved one or a job or a way of life. You may be heartbroken relationally or wondering about your future. You may have noticed more fear or anger in your life than you thought was there. In that darkness, don’t we find ourselves grasping for something more? It’s for a reason. We were created for more. We are invited to something deeper — to the root. In the waiting, in the mess, in the sorrow, there’s an invitation to connect even more deeply to the lover of our souls. It is with him we find true healing until we eventually experience life again as we look to the sun.
In God on Mute, author Pete Greig writes about attending a funeral after the tragic death of his friend. “I drove away later thinking how very fragile faith must be if I can’t just remain sad, scared, confused and doubting for a while. In my fear of unknowing, I leapfrog Holy Saturday and rush the resurrection. I race, disconcerted, to make meaning and find beauty where there simply is none. Yet.” (Greig, p. 217).
Yes, Resurrection Sunday is coming and it is absolutely glorious. It’s the best gift we have ever been given. And as Jesus said over 2,000 years ago, it is finished. He conquered death and pain and disease and sorrow. And it it really is finished, and yet at the same time some of us find ourselves still in a waiting process today.
And that is okay. Because in the darkness is where we often find the water. In the darkness is where we often find the root. In the darkness is often where we discover hope.
I love how Brian Simmons puts it, “Now the point of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is that God is in the process of clearing this world of all heartbreak. And the opening of the closed tomb of Jesus is the first step in a campaign to throw open 7 billion doors of hope for people who will trust him.”
God is so dedicated to the process of clearing the heartbreak in your life. He is so devoted to you encountering and experiencing his love. He is so committed to bringing you into a place of hope.
If Holy Saturday seems to hit a bit deeper for you too this year, I invite you to heat up a cup of tea, open a new page in a journal, and write to God today. Let whatever comes come. If you find yourself crying, know that’s okay because the water from your tears will bring you to the nourishment of the root. And then wait a few minutes in silence, just like Jesus’ friends did, and invite God to speak into your Saturday. He may show you a picture or he may speak to you through Scripture or he may invite you to call a friend. He speaks in thousands of ways so be on the lookout today.
And tomorrow, we celebrate. But today, we wrestle and rest and wait.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” -Romans 15:13
(*Seed growth process courtesy of https://garden.org/onlinecourse/PartI5.htm)