HOLY WEEK: HOLY SATURDAY
They tried to keep Jesus safely dead then, and they try it still today. Again and again, when the newspapers or the radio stations want to talk about God, they ignore Jesus. We hear experts pro- claiming that science has disproved God — without realizing that the ‘god’ you could squeeze out of the picture by more and more scientific discoveries is not the God whom Christians worship. Our world is still full of the modern equivalents of high priests going to the governor to have a guard placed on the tomb — the sceptics appealing for help to the powerful. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.
Sometimes, though, we Christians need to observe a Holy Saturday moment. On Holy Saturday, there is nothing you can do except wait. The Christian faith suffers, apparently, great defeats. There are scandals and divisions, and the world looks on and loves it, like the crowds at the foot of the cross. When the Pope visited the United Kingdom in September 2010, he spent almost all his time talking about Jesus while the commentators in the media spent almost all their time talking about sex. And where the church, through its own fault, has caused scandal, a time of silence may be appropriate. But God will do what God will do, in God’s own time. The world can plot and plan, but all of that will count for nothing when the victory already won on the cross turns into the new sort of victory on the third day. In many parts of the western world today, the church is almost apologetic, afraid of being sneered at.
It looks as though the chief priests of our culture, the Pharisees in today’s media, and even the political leaders, have won. Give them their day to imagine that. It’s happened before and it will happen again. The Romans tried to stamp out the Christian faith once and for all at the end of the third century, but within a few years more than half the empire had converted and the new emperor gave in. Many people in England were sceptical about Christian faith after the religious turmoil of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but great revivals of various different sorts took place in the eighteenth and nineteenth. Who knows what will happen next, after the sneering and scheming of the sceptics of our day? Our part is to keep Holy Saturday in faith and hope, grieving over the ruin of the world that sent Jesus to his death, trusting in the promises of God that new life will come in his way and his time. And there is usually something to be done in the present, even when times are sad and hard.
It took considerable courage for Joseph of Arimathea to go to Pontius Pilate and ask for Jesus’ body. Peter and the others had run away to hide because they were afraid of being thought accomplices of Jesus. Joseph had no such qualms, even after Jesus’ death. Some of Jesus’ followers might well have thought that, if the Romans had crucified him, he can’t have been the Messiah, so he must have been a charlatan. They might willingly have let the Romans bury him in a common grave, as they usually did after a crucifixion (always supposing there was anything left to bury once dogs, birds and vermin had done their work). But Joseph didn’t see it that way. A clean linen cloth; the tomb he had prepared for himself; and the security of a great stone. It all had to be done in haste, with the sabbath approaching (that’s why the two Marys were watching, so they could go back on the first day of the new week to complete what should be done to the body). But what was done was done decently. Sometimes, as we work for and with Jesus, it may feel a bit like that. We aren’t sure why we’ve got to this place, why things aren’t going as we wanted or planned, and the life seems to have drained out of it all.
That’s a Holy Saturday moment. Do what has to be done, and wait for God to act in his own way and his own time.
TODAY Help us, gracious Lord, to wait for your victory, and in the mean- time to serve you in whatever way we can.