Among Holy Week celebrations and observances, Saturday of Holy Week is often overlooked or forgotten. There are no “special” events planned on Saturday—we move from the spectacle of Jesus crucifixion on Friday, right into the jubilee of Easter morning. For many of us Saturday is a day of hunting for eggs with the children or simply another day to get ready for Easter Sunday breakfast, Easter services and time with family.
But there is a treasure for us on Saturday if we are willing to receive it.
This treasure only comes in waiting and in silence. To appreciate Easter, we must begin to enter into the moment with the disciples and to ponder the fact of the death of the Son of God. This moment is captured well by the song “Buried in the Grave” by All Sons and Daughters:
There was a day we held our breath-All Sons and Daughters, “Buried in the Grave”
And felt the sting of bitter death
When all our hopes were buried in the grave
Our eyes awake, our hearts were torn
Between our faith and what we knew
Before our King was buried in the grave
And grace was in the tension
Of everything we’ve lost
Standing empty handed
Shattered by the cross
It would have been tempting to stay busy and to distract themselves from the pain. But we read in Luke 23:52-56:
This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.
On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.Luke 23:52-56
The Scripture says that after the Lord’s death they laid his body in a tomb and then his followers rested according to the commandment. They could have pushed through with all the various activities that one would expect at the time of death but they pause and observe the Sabbath. They take the time to be still and quiet. No doubt they spent much time that day in prayer and in reflection. Maybe for some there was a sense of anticipation as they recalled the Lord’s word that he would rise again on the third day. Again, All Sons and Daughters captures this in their beautiful song “Buried in the Grave”:
All we have, all we had-All Sons and Daughters, “Buried in the Grave”
Was a promise like a thread
Holding us, keeping us
Oh from fraying at the edge
All we knew, all we knew
Was You said You’d come again
You’d rise up from the dead
The Saturday of Holy Week is an opportunity for us to take time to do likewise—to pray and to reflect and to anticipate–with the goal of truly appreciating all that the resurrection of Jesus means for us.
(Below are a few thoughts about praying on Holy Saturday.)
The Vigil of Easter
Holy Saturday has two moods. The first is the keeping of vigil with its longing and waiting for the breaking of the new day. It is a day in which no candles or fire are kindled for the light of the world lies in the tomb. It is a day without music and singing, for sorrow chastens and sobers us for a time. Often our churches have their altars covered with black cloth. Proverbs 13:12 summarizes well the two-fold emotion of this night,
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”-Proverbs 13:12
The second theme is, therefore, the joyful anticipation of tomorrow. Though we sorrow in the moment, we remember Jesus’ promise that He will rise again in victory. It is traditional to keep vigil through the night of Holy Saturday reading through twelve Old Testament readings that foreshadow the deliverance found in Jesus Christ.
At sunrise on Resurrection morning, we rejoice to know that death could not hold Jesus Christ in its power. As darkness gives way to light, we receive the daily parable that it must ever be this way in the Kingdom.
“Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.”-Psalm 126:5
“Most assuredly I say to you, that you will weep and lament…and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy…now you have sorrow, but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you..”-John 16:20, 22
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”-Psalm 30:5
Our prayers on Holy Saturday, therefore, have these two moods throughout: sorrow and joyful expectation. Here is a suggested pattern for your prayer time: Begin with a season of mourning over your sin and over the reality of death and darkness in our world. Take some time to repent and be still before God in silence. Then pray for the sick, the dying, the orphan, the widow and for those who are lost.
Then move into the second mood of Holy Saturday, joyful expectation. In this season of prayer we lift prayers up to the Lord knowing that because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are heard (1 John 5:14) and can receive the grace and help that we need (Heb. 4:14-16). Pray for the unreached people of the world, your local churches, your leaders, and for your family and children. Pray in the confidence that God loves you and that you one of His beloved children (1 John 3:1). Pray with confidence, knowing that death has been defeated and that God is working all things together for your good and the good of all who love him (Romans 8:28).
(Below are a few categories for spending time in prayer on Holy Saturday.)
Prayer Categories for Holy Saturday (and Scriptures references)
FIRST MOOD: SORROW
-The sick and the dying (2 Cor. 1:8-11; Heb. 4:16; James 5:15-16)
-Spend time repenting of your sins and of your nation’s sins (Psalm 51; Isaiah 60:5; James 4:9; 5:16; 1 John 1:9).
-Our neighbors and the lost in our area (Matthew 9:35-37).
-For the poor and downtrodden, the orphans and the widows (Psalms 68:5; Matt. 5:1-11; 12:19-21; James 1:27).
SECOND MOOD: JOYFUL EXPECTATION
-Give thanks for all that God has done! (Psalm 100; Philippians 4:6-8).
-Our nation’s leaders (Psalms 2:10-11; Rom. 13:1; 1 Tim. 2:1-2)
-Local leaders and servants—police, fire, rescue. Hospitals, nurses, chaplains, teachers, and elected officials.
-The unreached peoples of the world (Utilize Global Prayer Guides that were handed out in church at the start of the New Year)
-Local churches (Luke 11:2; Rom. 15:5-6; Eph. 4:13; 6:18-20; Col. 1:9-10)
-Our pastor and elders and deacons (1 Kings 3:9; Psalms 145:14-15; Prov. 3:5-7; 1 Cor. 15:58; Col. 1:9-10; 2 Tim. 4:7)
-Our children and grandchildren (Deut. 6:4-9; Matt. 22:37; John 10:27-28; 1 Cor. 10:31; Heb. 12:5-6).
My life is one of contradictions. I’m a southern boy living in northern New England; a boring guy married to super-fun girl; a conservative pastor in a progressive Christian denomination; a changed man in need of change; a sinner loved by a holy and perfect God.