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Holy Saturday: Now, We Wait

03.12.2024

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In all of Holy Week, Saturday may be the day about which the least is written but from which we can draw some of the greatest encouragement and hope.

On this day, everything pauses after a week of dramatic and suspenseful events—from Jesus’ triumphal entry on Palm Sunday to His clearing of the temple on Monday to His initiation of communion on Maundy Thursday to His arrest, trial, and crucifixion on Good Friday. 

But on Saturday, we wait. 

As readers, it’s as though the first half of the drama has come to a close—a literally earth-shaking close at that (Matthew 27:51)—and we’re sitting in a dark theater during intermission feeling shock, confusion, and angst over how this story will end and how it could possibly be made right. Did we get all the foreshadowing wrong? Will good still triumph in the end? Why did God let all of this happen?

Often, our circumstances in life feel like a bleak intermission after tragedy. A relationship ends. An application is denied. A pregnancy is lost. An opportunity is withheld. A diagnosis is made. A life is ended. But these circumstances are just that—an intermission in the full story of God’s good purposes in which we must grapple with grief, but we have not yet seen how God will take even what the enemy meant for evil and use it for good (Genesis 50:20). 

In the darkest circumstances, when all feels lost, evil seems to have won, and nothing makes sense, we can trust that God is working as we wait, and our faith can hold both sorrow and hope. 

On the Friday of Holy Week, as sundown approached (the start of Saturday according to the Jewish calendar), Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for Jesus’ body. He wrapped it in a clean linen cloth before placing it in his own tomb and rolling a large stone over the entrance (Matthew 27:57-60). This is where Jesus’ body remained through all of Holy Saturday—the only day in history on which the body of the Son of God has or will lie dead in a tomb. 

Where was everyone else?

The disciples who scattered when Jesus was arrested were likely now gathered in hiding together, trying to process a swirl of heavy emotions (John 20:19). They may have felt shock over their Lord’s death, confusion over all they believed, grief over the loss of their friend, anger over their fellow disciple Judas’ betrayal, uncertainty in how to proceed, and fear over the possibility that they could be arrested too. 

From these disciples, we remember how dark it would be to face any “Saturday” without faith in Jesus’ promise that the last enemy to be destroyed will be death (1 Corinthians 15:26), that all authority on heaven and earth has been given to Him (Matthew 18:18), that the enemy has no claim on Him (John 14:30), and that He is always working all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). 

Even as we wait in the intermission of our own “Saturday,” we cling to the hope—not that God will work out our circumstances on earth exactly as we want—but that all His promises are trustworthy and true, secured by their yes and amen in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). 

The religious leaders, who remembered Jesus’ claim to rise on the third day, asked Pilate for permission to make the tomb secure, lest Jesus’ disciples steal His body and deceive people into thinking He had risen. Pilate told them to “go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” (Matthew 27:65)

Apparently, their know-how was not sufficient for the task. They certainly didn’t need to worry about the disciples stealing Jesus’ body—those disciples, nearly all of whom were eventually killed for their faith in Jesus, would not have been willing to suffer to death over a body-stealing hoax that they knew made their faith a sham. The religious leaders were preoccupied with trying to keep people from coming into the tomb and overlooked their greater threat: they couldn’t stop Jesus from coming out. 

They tried to keep people from coming for Jesus, but nothing could keep Jesus from coming for His people. 

These religious leaders remind us that no work of evil, earthly scheme, or human cunning can hold back God’s will and work in our lives. Even if the enemy seems to have control in the darkness of Saturday, the God of peace will soon crush that same enemy under our feet (Romans 16:20). 

The women from Galilee watched to see where Jesus’ body was placed on Friday, then returned home to prepare spices and ointments for His anointing, a work they did not finish until the start of the Sabbath, on which the Jewish law commanded them to rest (Luke 23:55). Their obedience to that command aligned God’s perfect timing for their role in His story. It meant they had to wait to visit Jesus’ tomb until Sunday morning, when they would be the first to learn that He had risen. 

From the women, we remember that in our obedience, even when that obedience requires waiting, God is working—orchestrating people, circumstances, and timelines in ways we cannot fathom, just as He orchestrated all of the Old Testament to be fulfilled in Jesus. On the Sabbath day, God commanded His people to rest in Exodus, and Jesus Himself rested in the tomb. He spent three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, just as Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of a fish (Matthew 12:40). 

He fulfilled every prophecy, such as Isaiah’s declaration that He would be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities; upon Him would be the chastisement that brought us peace, and by His wounds, we would be healed (Isaiah 53:5, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). 

How bleak this world would be (and how hopeless our lives would be) if we didn’t have the hope that even in the midst of our “Saturdays”—those periods of grief, confusion, and loss in which we don’t yet see how a specific story will end—we know how the grand story will ultimately end. God can do all things and always has a plan, and no purposes of His can be thwarted (Job 42:2). 

One day, His dwelling place will be among us, and He will dwell with us. We will be His people, and God Himself will be with us and will be our God. He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain because the old order of things will pass away. He will make everything new (Revelation 21:3-5). 

Until that day, we wait with hope. Today may be Saturday, marked by a deafening silence between the crucifixion and Easter morning. 

But Sunday is coming. And in this, we hope. 

 

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Article Topics

Scripture References

  • Matthew 27:51
  • Genesis 50:20
  • Matthew 27:57-60
  • John 20:19
  • 1 Corinthians 15:26
  • Matthew 18:18
  • John 14:30
  • Romans 8:28
  • 2 Corinthians 1:20
  • Luke 23:55
  • Matthew 12:40
  • Isaiah 54:5
  • 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
  • Job 42:2
  • Revelation 21:3-5
  • Matthew 27:65
Kaitlin Febles Kaitlin Febles was a door holder at Passion City Church for ten years before moving to Nashville, Tennessee. She is on staff at the Chick-fil-A Inc. Support Center and enjoys writing on the side for ministries like The Gospel Coalition and Desiring God. She graduated from the University of Georgia and Dallas Theological Seminary (through the Passion Institute) and is a guest speaker in CORE classes like Scripture Narrative and The Church. She and her husband, Brennen, enjoy reading, running, traveling, serving with their church, and spending time with the people they love most.