Holy Saturday: Rest and Relief
Luke 23:50-56 and Isaiah 53
by Rev. Bill Haley
”It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.” (vs. 54-56)
No doubt for Jesus’ followers, this Saturday would have been an awful day, thinking of Jesus’ dead body lying in a stone-cold tomb. Sadness as a dominant emotion would have been natural for them, and sadness may be the feeling we think we should try to muster as we ourselves reflect on Jesus on this Holy Saturday.
On this side of the empty tomb, however, there is another feeling–relief for Jesus. While it is true that Jesus was actually dead, it is also true that for him death was resting. He had accomplished all that he had been sent to do and meant to do (John 17:4, 19:30), and now he could rest. After 33 years of a human existence with all challenges that go along with it - after 33 years of the unique challenges and sufferings of his vocation as the Messiah, and after a horrible torture and most painful execution - now Jesus could rest.
How fitting that what we call Holy Saturday would have been in fact the Sabbath day, the day of rest for the Jews. On this Sabbath day, Jesus, a Jew, also rested. His work had been accomplished.
Even this bears witness to the veracity of Jesus’ identity and the magnitude of his work. God worked and created the world six days and then rested on seventh. So Jesus worked to redeem the world, and when his work was finished, he too rested. God’s first work was creation, and God in Christ’s second work was redemption. Both finished with a day of rest, on the seventh day.
Today we reflect with great gratitude on the faithfulness of Jesus who fulfilled his vocation to be the savior of the world by going all the way to and through the cross.
Today, we ponder Jesus in the tomb, resting, with tender relief that his suffering is over.
Tomorrow will come, and with it great joy.
Rev. Bill Haley serves as the executive director of Coracle, a non-profit organization offering spiritual formation and kingdom action. He is also the associate rector at The Falls Church Anglican. You can learn more about his work with Coracle by clicking here.