The Great Sabbath

Passion Week Ponderings: Saturday.

In some traditions, this day is called Holy Saturday. That is the most common name for this day, but other traditions have called it The Great Sabbath, Black Saturday, and Easter Eve. I like the Great Sabbath the best. It is the day that Christ’s body lay in the tomb. The disciples and followers could do nothing on this day because it was the Jewish Sabbath, so they may have gathered and quietly pondered the meaning of all the events of the week. Especially Christ’s death the day before. They didn’t expect that, and they certainly wouldn’t be expecting what would happen tomorrow.

I would also love to propose a new name for the day as Uncertain Saturday. Those who followed Jesus would have been massively confused. He spoke of a coming Kingdom. And now their teacher was gone. All expectation of the future were up in the air. Their hopes crushed, they must have sat in stunned silence…wondering “What now?” Uncertainty must have been the prevailing emotion.

Who knows how they reconvened. Matthew 26:56 recounts during Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane that “all the disciples deserted him and fled.” A few were perhaps brave enough to come and witness the crucifixion.

The Gospels speak of several women who followed Jesus were there watching. But then on Resurrection Sunday an angel appeared at the tomb of Jesus and told Mary Magdalene and another Mary to go tell the disciples (Matthew 28:1-8). They must have known exactly where to go…to spot all the disciples had reconvened.

The disciples must have had their wits about them enough to figure out gathering at a rallying point. They could have fled and never re-assembled. They could have let the uncertainty wreak greater havoc. But even amidst their uncertainly and grief they believed it better to be in community and mourn together than apart.

A lesson for us is to be found in these unspoken events. In our own storms, uncertainty, and upheaval we can tend to isolate ourselves. In our shame after we make some great mistake we can think we should run away. But don’t. It is better to be in community working through the emotions than to be alone. In pain reach out for your brothers and sisters. We need each other.

During a week I felt acutely homeless, isolated, and alone, I captured these palms standing together. We need reminders to be in community when we feel like running away.

So it was a pensive day for the followers of Jesus. An uncertain and painful Sabbath. But they chose to reassemble and walk through the uncertainty together. Perhaps you can make it a pensive day for yourself, considering the great thing achieved by Christ’s death on the cross for you and me. Try to gather with friends and family too…to ponder these great things together. Life is always better in community.

I have several other posts about the Holy Week before Easter. I’d love if you took some time reading those as well.

Fig Monday – An example of endurance
Confrontation Tuesday – Not letting adversity be your downfall
Spy Wednesday – Taking shelter from storms of life
Maundy Thursday – Redefining greatness
Good Friday – Re-considering Good

Photo by Mick Haupt, “Homeless Sunset”, San Clemente, California. 2005, shot on slide film.


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