I’m taking a short break from the Old Testament sacrifice focus. This Holy Week is so—holy. Where else should the heart and mind be but in contemplation of the significant events and story that took place? The events that thread together to make the crucifixion and resurrection story just can’t be relegated to the “musty, dusty, biblical, Classic Literature shelf” in my mind. How could that be? These events cried out their tremendous significance then—and they cry out to impact and transform the current day and age across generations, time, and space. If we cannot embrace that, for whatever reason, we have to at least engage the reality of it. To attempt to dismiss what happened as “long, long ago, involving people dead and buried” is a weak attempt at denial, if we’re gut-level honest.
That said, I left Good Friday alone yesterday. The entire Blogosphere lit up with countless entries, post after post after post, about Golgotha, Simon the Cyrene, the biblical and medical perspectives on Jesus’ pain and suffering, and the last words of Christ. There is no need to enter into that fray for me. I wanted to discover my own life and breath in the day. I hope you managed that for yourself. If not, there is no end to the meditations you could have within the blog universe, apparently.
But, Saturday. I’m tempted to sit with the silence that is Saturday. It’s quietly sandwiched between the agonizing, torturous pain of death and the magnificent celebration of the glory of life and resurrection. The silence of the Shabbat between death and resurrection.
What were Jesus’ followers doing on that day?
Sometimes we get a feel for it. We fill in some emotion between the lines in the Gospel accounts. Betrayal led to shame that, in its full measure, led to death. Denial must have led to shame-filled regret. A hurried burial must have left a bitterly sad temporary void until all that should be could be done. Confusion must have led to fear, disappointment, or apathy. How does one rest in a Shabbat when all this has happened? For the followers, it must have been a flood of hot tears and overwhelming sadness for their friend, son, brother, rabbi, and Lord.
I quietly muse they feared for their own lives next….
What was Jesus doing?
Some of the things I’ve heard and read suggest different things. The ideas include sleeping, resting, dead in the grave, folding the napkin, and the Apostle’s Creed uses the words “descended to the dead” or “into hell.” I agree with the Creed, but cannot say if that was Good Friday or Saturday. Here’s just a cursory glance at why.
On Friday, there is that conversation with the thief on the cross at the place called “The Skull.” In Luke 23:43 Jesus answered the thief’s request to remember him in his Kingdom with a promise:
And He said to him, “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.” (HCS)
What other “today” could that mean? Who could the “Me” be but the one speaking? What a beautiful promise to a man who desperately needed hope in painfully dire circumstances.
Revelation 1:18 confirms the descent. John wrote an account in prison on the Island of Patmos:
When I saw him, I fell down at his feet like a dead man. He placed his right hand upon me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last, the Living One. I was dead, but look!—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys to Death and Sh’ol. Revelation 1:17b, 18 CJB
Sh’ol is the Hebrew term we translate hell in English. Notice the passage doesn’t place the timing, but affirms the Apostle’s Creed.
And on Resurrection Day, we know Jesus spoke with Mary Magdalene:
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” John 20:17
How sweet that Mary was one of the first to see the Risen Christ. She was a woman who deeply and wholeheartedly loved Jesus and knew all about grace!
Thankfully, where I rest with this is a good place for me, though it may not do the same for you. It seems to fall in the realm of silence from Scripture. The silent Saturday (in anticipation of Sunday) makes more sense to me now than it did. And, really—I like that. I desperately need answers to life’s questions and hard life experience difficulties. More than that, I need to know there are things I don’t know, either not yet or not until I meet the Lord face to face. God must be bigger than I can figure. It’s important for me to search the Bible, but I can’t make up what isn’t specifically said. It’s a fine line. People would like to say something about Jesus’ itinerary between Friday and Sunday, but I won’t make stuff up.
Whether Jesus was shaking Sh’ol with his presence, I cannot say. I can only imagine what that must have been like!
I like that I don’t know.
And then came Sunday….
As always, I invite dialog about these things. Please share what you may have found.