Saturday, April 15, 2017
So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
The Gospel of John, like the other gospels, offers no narrative description of what happened in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. This silence is necessary, for there was no activity to speak of. Jesus died on Good Friday, and was raised to life on Sunday. There was no event on Saturday; there was only death: the body of Jesus, in the tomb, already decaying.
A lack of words does not signal a lack of meaning. It is significant that Jesus did not move immediately from dying to rising, but instead experienced a durative being in the tomb, a being among the dead. To ask what happened is to ask the wrong question, for at its core, death is an end of happening. Jesus experienced this end, this cessation. Jesus was dead.
This being dead was necessary. Death is the definitive human experience. The Gospel is the story of the Triune God fully entering into the fleshly existence of humanity. God does not skirt the borders of humanity’s “journey into the far country,” but instead sojourns deeply into the heart of this wilderness, experiences suffering and shame, eventually dying an unjust death, and then rests in this death, in the tomb on Holy Saturday.
Ours is a Holy Saturday world. Death, decay, loss, evil, injustice. What is needed in this entombed world is not shiny optimism but abiding hope. We have this hope, not because the tomb was empty, but because the empty tomb was once full. Jesus was raised from the dead.
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.
(Holy Saturday, The Book of Common Prayer)