Low in the grave He lay

I was feeling a little under the weather on Good Friday 2014, my husband was working late, so I decided to stay home rather than go downtown to a service. I wanted focus on Christ’s sacrifice, so logged on thinking I’d google “Good Friday” to see if there were any services that were live streaming. On the way there, I made a quick stop to check facebook and saw in my newsfeed that a friend had shared a Good Friday post by a prominent author that said, “The gravity of Good Friday should always be seen with the hope of Resurrection Sunday.” I found myself bristling a little at the admonition – one that I perceived captured much of modern-day Christendom’s propensity to acknowledge the sacrifice of Good Friday – but jump very quickly to the victorious celebration of Easter Sunday, not stopping long to reflect on the supreme price that our redemption cost. That was what I objected to with regard to the statement that author had made – so much so I felt compelled to write one of my own – one that embraced the gravity of things, without rushing us out of Friday and into Sunday prematurely:

“If we are not utterly and continually broken by what our sin demanded on Good Friday, then we will trivialize the hope of the Redemption that Sunday secured for us!”

It struck me that we rarely think about Saturday. I redirected my google search to “Holy Saturday” I didn’t grow up in a particularly liturgical church and I wasn’t even sure I’d ever heard the two words put together before, but if it was Holy week, there must be a Holy Saturday?!

Wikipedia makes reference to it as Black Saturday, Easter Eve or Saturday and Joyous Saturday. I wonder how much joy was being expressed that Saturday, over 2000 years ago when the body of Jesus lay in the tomb. Why are there no accounts in the Bible of what was going on that silent Saturday? Wouldn’t you like to have been a fly on the wall wherever the disciples were huddled together during and after Jesus’ crucifixion? Or maybe they had all scattered and were hiding out as some accounts say. Did they remember that He had told them that He would rise again the 3rd day? Did their sorrow over His death begin to give way to even a sliver of hope by that Saturday afternoon? What keeps us from being curious about what happened on that black Saturday?

When the topic of Good Friday is mentioned it seems, at least in the evangelical Christian circles I grew up in, someone’s always quick to say, “but Sunday’s Coming!” and it is, but what do we do with Saturday? Some churches have Good Friday services and many have huge Easter productions with brass and all the bells and whistles, but nothing for Saturday, unless maybe you’re Catholic, Orthodox or Lutheran. Why is it that we’d rather just watch some tv or baseball, nap, mulch the lawn, plant some flowers or color some Easter eggs and gloss right over Saturday and go straight to the main point of it – Sunday!?
Aren’t Friday and Saturday harder? We are still in the season of lent – Saturday ends the season. If Friday is about pain and death, where does that take us to on Saturday? Sack cloth and ashes? In some churches the chancel is stripped bare and left that way until Sunday. There are no masses, no sacraments, and no apologies. Other churches cover their altars with a black cloth/shroud and hold vigils on Saturday, awaiting the triumph over the grave that comes on Easter and look forward to the day our Hope will be fulfilled ultimately, when Christ returns. The Apostles’ Creed says, “[He] was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead.” We don’t know exactly how and what transpired from the time Jesus said, “It is Finished!” to the morning of that third day when the stone was rolled away and the grave-clothes were found, still in place (http://www.propheticrevelation.net/misc/the_folded_napkin.htm). Maybe we, as a modern society, are just uncomfortable thinking of what hell is, and that our sin is what put Him there. We don’t want to take a Saturday to ponder, pray, grieve, be broken over our sin, or think about how long it took for the Son of God to take upon Himself the sins of us all. We don’t want to take the darkness of that black Saturday as an opportunity to be vulnerable to the Holy Spirit – for Him to search us and know our inmost parts – dare to believe that we can hope to be forgiven – clean and new because of the blood of the Lamb!

The next day – Saturday – I was contemplating this silent Saturday, asking God why this stirred so much up in my heart. Early that evening when I was online, I found a link Becky Allender had posted. It was a blog post from one of her friends called “Sitting in Saturday” (http://godjusthearsamelody.wordpress.com/2014/04/19/day-40-sitting-in-saturday/) Nina Wichman shared her reflections and a beautiful painting in her blog. She recounted, that about 6 months ago, she’d been introduced to the concept of Saturday symbolically being the day that most of where life in a fallen world is lived, by her professor, Dr. Dan Allender. “We all experience pain and death of many different kinds in many different ways throughout our lives. If we are Christ-followers, we also trust in the reality of the joy of the resurrection that is ultimately to come upon Jesus’ return.” She talked of believing in the ultimate hope of heaven, and then said that Allender also brazenly stated, “We hate hope.” I remembered when I sat in classes at Grace Seminary over 25 years ago, Dr. Allender talked about hope and focused on Proverbs 13:12a “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” I remember being struck with those words and internally groaning, and just beginning to understand what it meant to hope – in God and wait for the hope that is set before us spoken of in Hebrews 6:18-19 – a hope that is meant to encourage and anchor our souls firmly and securely. Saturday is the day that we begin to lay hold of the confidence that we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, as Psalm 27 promises, and wait for the Lord, because He will rise the next day, so be strong and courageous!

I was away during the last week of March in the mountains of Asheville, NC for a weeklong retreat and School of Spiritual Direction taught by Dr. Larry Crabb – he headed up the counseling program along with Dr. Allender all those years ago at Grace Seminary. I hold them both in the highest regard as men who listen to the Spirit of God, and courageously speak the truth in love – and because of that, many lives, mine included, have been forever changed. I was elated that God had provided for me to go to the conference and hear Dr. Crabb’s heart and teaching after so many years! During one of the sessions, he talked about hope and longing, and quoted C.S. Lewis, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” And then the conversation came back around to that achingly hopeful phrase, “Sunday’s coming” and we were called, once again, to remember the cost of Good Friday while we sit and wait in the Saturday of this fallen world daily .. sometimes on the mountain top, with clear, bright skies and cups that overflow .. other times in the valley of the shadow of death, where we will fear no evil, because God is with us.

He was there before the beginning of time, and He was there on Good Friday. He is still with us today, as we live out the joys and the sorrows of being Saturday people who dare to hope and embrace all of life – the waiting, groaning, celebrating and longing that we are only able to endure by the power of the Holy Spirit, who gives us strength, and lives in us, reminding us – Sunday’s coming!!