Holy Saturday, April 20
The Burial of Jesus
“Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.”
Jesus is dead. On this Holy Saturday, we sit in silence staring at the reality that faced his ardent followers. The teacher, master, messiah was dead, and their hearts were heavy in grief. “What had happened?” “We don’t understand?” “Was this all for nothing?” As their Sabbath morning dawned, hope was all but dead as well.
But as I read today’s somber scripture, I also see three powerful actions: Joseph of Arimathea, a “secret disciple,” turned expectant hope into direct action of belief; distressed women followed their friend even into the tomb; and all observed the Sabbath and rested. I imagine Joseph’s pangs of guilt knowing his pleas, ignored by the Council, would not be ignored this time by Pilate. I feel the reality of the women’s painful grief as they walked; the same palpable grief that caused Jesus to weep when learning Lazarus was dead. I exhale deeply feeling the inexplicable exhaustion – any few minutes, or seconds, of peace to close my eyes and sleep. Grief is real on this Saturday.
Yes, we sit today and rest. As I have experienced my own deep, personal grief and shared with congregants’ grief over the years, one common thread holds our stories together – rest! It is essential to our physical well-being, and maybe even more so, for our emotional and spiritual health and survival.
Today we remember the death of our master teacher, Jesus. We want to turn the page on this pain; we want to see the sun again; we want to live again – but not quite yet. It is our day of spiritual preparation to join with Joseph of Arimathea waiting expectantly for the Kingdom of God. We journey with the women back to their homes for funeral arrangements. And we pause with all creation and the Holy Creator to rest. Tomorrow will be a big day.
Prayer: “What language shall I borrow to thank thee, dearest Friend, for this, thy dying sorrow, thy pity without end? O make me thine forever; and should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to thee.” (Attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux)