Silent Saturday (Luke 23:50-66)

Journey with Jesus to the Cross (Silent Saturday, April 16)
Read Luke 23:50-56 

Two things strike me in today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke.

The Kingly Burial of Jesus
Typically, crucified criminals were left hanging until the buzzards had picked them clean. But Joseph of Arimathea would have none of that. (Besides, no one wanted the bodies to be hanging on the Sabbath.) Risking his reputation, he secured permission to bury Jesus himself. He then proceeded to give Jesus a burial fit for a king.

In the burial traditions of that day, the body was placed on a shelf in a tomb, and the wealthy were covered with 80 pounds or so of spices. This would alleviate the smell while the body decomposed. After a year or so, the bones of the body would be carefully collected and placed in an ossuary (a container for the bones) and placed in a shelf of the tomb.

With the help of some of Jesus' women disciples, Joseph buried Jesus in his own unused tomb. However, because the Sabbath was beginning (sunset on Friday evening), there was not time enough to complete the preparations. (They would finish on Sunday morning — or so they thought!)

Luke wants us to see two things as he describes Jesus’ burial. First, he wants us to observe that, though Jesus was condemned as a criminal, he was buried like a king. He was, after all, in Luke’s perspective, the true King of the Jews. 

Second, he wants us to see that the women had clearly seen where Jesus’ body was laid (55). There was no mistaking Jesus’ literal death, nor the location where he was buried. This was important evidence as events would unfold.

The Silent Saturday of Jesus
“On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment” (56).

Good Friday is the worst day in human history. Easter Sunday is the best day in human history. But what about Saturday? Saturday is the day in between. Shabbat, the day of rest. The day of waiting. The day of silence. Silent Saturday.

Do you ever feel stuck in Silent Saturday? Most of us have been there. It’s the day after bad news; the day before the good news. The day after what just happened, and the day before what happens next. 

It’s the day after the job ended. The day after the relationship fractured. The day after the diagnosis was given. The day after the notice came. The day after the dream died. 

Silent Saturday stinks. We hope that good news will come, but we don’t know when. Will it be tomorrow? Next month? Next year? There’s no way to tell. So we wait, hoping there will be a new job, a new career,  new vision, a new relationship – or restoration of the past, or a peaceful resolution, or something. But until then, we wait. We’re stuck in Silent Saturday.

The good news is two-fold. The first is this: Sunday’s a-comin’, to put it the way I first heard it from a gifted black preacher. It may seem light years away, but you can count on it: Sunday’s a-comin’. There will be a resolution, a restoration, a resurrection. Saturday’s not forever. Sunday is around the corner.

The resurrection reassures us that no wrong will be left unrighted, no hurt will be left unhealed, no tear will be lost, and death itself will be defeated. Someday, all will be well. In the midst of our Silent Saturdays, we draw encouragement that fact. It is bedrock, as solid as the stone which was moved on Easter morn.

The second note of encouragement is this: In the midst of our Silent Saturdays, Jesus waits with us. Jesus experienced Saturday himself. His resurrection was not immediate. He knows what it is to wait.

Why the gap between crucifixion and resurrection? Why wait until the third day?  We don’t know for sure. 

It may be that it was God’s plan for Jesus (the new Adam) to die on the sixth day (the day the first humans were created), rest on the seventh day (Shabbat), and rise to new life on the first day (the day of new creation). There’s a meaningful symbolism in that. But whatever the reason, Jesus spent a day in waiting. He can identify with us when we are stuck in Silent Saturday. 

No doubt, some of us feel trapped in Silent Saturday. We’ve been waiting far too long for Sunday to come. Be encouraged. As you wait, Jesus waits with you. And you can count on it. Today may be Saturday, but be of good cheer: Sunday’s a-comin’!