Holy Saturday

Matthew  27:57-66

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

“And on the seventh ay God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” -Genesis 2:2

The action of Holy Week screeches to halt at the cross and lies in stillness on Holy Saturday. In the wake of the violence and travail, there is silence as Christ’s body lay in a borrowed tomb. Six days he had labored in weariness, weeping for the holy city, stricken with anxiety of his impending suffering, sweating drops of blood, but on the seventh, he rested. His work was finished.

In six days God created the world and rested on the seventh, and now in six days he was remaking it anew, and on the seventh day his soul went down to Sheol to rest from his completed work that was finished on the cross. Sin had undone the work of creation by the divine Word that once was good, throwing again into chaos the peace that had been made from what was formless and void. But now sin and death are undone by the work of the Word in flesh, and there is peace once more by the blood of his cross (Colossians 1:20).

Even in death, Jesus remained Lord of the Sabbath, using it to give rest to his weary disciples. He had promised them so in Gethsemane; “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand” (Matthew 26:45). The ones who had anxiously waited through Jesus’ many trials before councils and governors, sleeplessly followed him up the hill of Golgotha, and looked on in anguish at his crucifixion now had the stillness of the Sabbath to rest from the despair they had borne. The grief-stricken women who had hastily covered Jesus in a linen shroud in the nearest available tomb on the day of Preparation could now find rest before returning to properly tend to his body.

An anxious and agitated rest it must have been, sorrowful over what they had seen and distressed of what it meant. Wasn’t he supposed to be the Messiah? Wasn’t there supposed to be a revolution? Were the last three years all for nothing? If only they remembered, if only they had understood what he had told them, that he knew he must suffer but that he would rise again on the third day.

Trust in the promises of our Lord, and rest. Rest from the fear and anxiety of global pandemic. Rest in the completed work of Jesus Christ and in the knowledge that sin has lost its power and death has lost its sting. Rest in believing that the silence of God does not mean the inactivity of God. Rest in the truth that this broken world is being made new. Rest in knowing that Resurrection is coming.


  1. How can you find rest in Christ who is your Sabbath? How does trusting in him relieve anxiety and fear?

2. Reflect on how the disciples must have felt. Put yourself in their shoes, imagining the things they’ve seen and experienced. How must they have felt on this day of waiting? Hold on to that feeling as you prepare to celebrate the joy of the Resurrection tomorrow morning.


O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Taylor Whitson, April 11, 2020

Other Readings

Job 14:1-14
“Man who is born of a woman
    is few of days and full of trouble.
He comes out like a flower and withers;
    he flees like a shadow and continues not.
And do you open your eyes on such a one
    and bring me into judgment with you?
Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?
    There is not one.
Since his days are determined,
    and the number of his months is with you,
    and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass,
look away from him and leave him alone,
    that he may enjoy, like a hired hand, his day.

“For there is hope for a tree,
    if it be cut down, that it will sprout again,
    and that its shoots will not cease.
Though its root grow old in the earth,
    and its stump die in the soil,
yet at the scent of water it will bud
    and put out branches like a young plant.
But a man dies and is laid low;
    man breathes his last, and where is he?
As waters fail from a lake
    and a river wastes away and dries up,
so a man lies down and rises not again;
    till the heavens are no more he will not awake
    or be roused out of his sleep.
Oh that you would hide me in Sheol,
    that you would conceal me until your wrath be past,
    that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me!
If a man dies, shall he live again?
    All the days of my service I would wait,
    till my renewal should come.

Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
    let me never be put to shame;
    in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me;
    rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
    a strong fortress to save me!

For you are my rock and my fortress;
    and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me;
you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
    for you are my refuge.

My times are in your hand;
    rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
Make your face shine on your servant;
    save me in your steadfast love!

1 Peter 4:1-8
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

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