I find the concept of “Holy Saturday” interesting. I mean, what are we supposed to do on Saturday, especially after commemoration of the last supper on Holy Thursday, and the mournful solemnity of “Good” Friday? I’m not sure I would have called it “Holy Saturday,” but perhaps “Waiting Saturday,” you see, while there are many notions about what Jesus was doing on this “tween” day after the crucifixion and before the resurrection, there’s no question about what everyone else was doing: they were waiting. Pretty much everyone was waiting,
Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.~~Henry Van Dyke
Time really is too slow for those who wait. Ask anyone who’s waited for anything important, too slow, so very slow. And so imagine the condition that Jesus’s disciples were in; the shock, grief, exhaustion, and emotional upheaval of the previous 36 hours blanketed them. Did they eat? Did they sleep during that first day? Perhaps fitfully. Peter, sickened by the fact that he had denied even knowing Jesus, that fact made worse by fact that Jesus had predicted it. Other disciples had scattered throughout the city on that terrible day.
It is written that only three of his closest people–his mother, the disciple John, and Mary Magdalene–actually attended the crucifixion. For them, standing at the foot of the cross, close enough for Jesus to speak to them, the sights, sounds, and smells of death must have been overwhelming. How does a mother even have the will to remain upright as she watches her oldest son bleeding to death from the thousands of rents in his skin, shredded flesh obscuring his face. How does Mary Magdalene and John likewise stand there, except, perhaps, to support Mary lest her legs give way and she gives in to her grief and disbelief. And then all has been said and done: Jesus’s side has been pierced and he has gasped out his final, anguished question, “My god, my god, why have you forsaken me?” The soldiers or others tasked with taking down his body, pull him from the tree and bring his broken body to his mother.
And then the blur. After the tension and activity and intensity of the crucifixion process, the sudden stillness and quiet movements that must have accompanied the washing and anointing of the body, the wrapping it in linens, the placing it in the sepulcher must have felt surreal to those participating in it. Back then, the loved ones performed all of those final tasks for the deceased; in modern times, across our US culture, we turn these intimate tasks over to strangers. And when it was done, they took themselves off to wherever they were staying–after all, Jerusalem wasn’t their hometown–and collapsed.
Perhaps the next day–“Holy Saturday” (though I’m sure they didn’t call it that back then) they waited. At what point did they recall what Jesus had told them, when did they remember that he’d said he would rise again on the third day? And so they waited, each in their own place, lost in their own thoughts and memories. In the blur and haze of grief, they waited.
Time is too slow to those who wait. It must have been excruciatingly slow to those who slowly began to wonder if he was going to do what he said, if he was going to rise again on the third day. What did they do with the time? How did they spend those hours–12, 24, 36?
Today I had a friend ask a question on Facebook, “what do you remember about the day after death? do you remember anything?” Over the five hours since she first asked the question, over 20 people responded with their stories, me included. It gave me another opportunity to share the “day after death” stories I experienced after my parents’ deaths. I had already found myself reliving them anyway: who wouldn’t remember them as one contemplates the day after Jesus’s death and the impact of it on his family and friends.
I wrote a bit about my own experiences with the days after each of my parent’s deaths in previous Forty Days meditations. The days of waiting, the quiet conversations with family members, and the weeping in the dark when the daytime frenzy of attending to details has ended. Preparing for services, picking songs and readings, greetings guests. And then the blur. For we who wait after the deaths of our loved ones, there is no predicted resurrection. We know they will not come back in three days as if they went on long trip from which they would return. Perhaps for us, we simply wait for it to stop hurting quite so much.
The journey of these 40 days is nearing the end, but the end has not yet come. And so we wait.