The day after the crucifixion and the day before the resurrection, Jesus was dead. He was cut off from the land of the living. Death doesn’t mean that we cease to exist, but it does mean that we are, in some way, separated, either from God or man, or both. Communion is broken, spiritually, physically or both. “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). The physical death of Jesus left Him and His disciple separated.
Most of us know what it means for death to separate us from a loved one. We grieve their loss (actually, our loss), and we long to see, hear, touch and smell their presence; we want to commune with them. So, on the day after the beaten, limp and lifeless body of Jesus was removed from the cross and placed in the tomb, all hopes were dashed and the force of fear set in. Not only was the presumptive king dead, the disciples’ own lives were also in peril. This Sabbath had no rest at all.
The Roman political juggernaut used crucifixion as means of utter humiliation; placing on public display any who would challenge their power. It would be hard to imagine a defeat any greater or more thorough. On this Saturday we contemplate a cold, dead Jesus in the grave, just like all of us will be some day; the abrupt end to communion. Joy is utterly engulfed by grief. The ultimate, great enemy has gained the advantage. This same enemy relentlessly pursues us all.
We can spend a lifetime pretending and distracting ourselves, but we too will have a “day after,” when we step out of this life and into the grave. All that we relied upon in this world will suddenly be gone. Communion will end. We should think about this on Holy Saturday. Is this the last chapter of a meaningless book? The disciples of Jesus had to wonder. Is our death the last chapter of our meaningless book, or is there more? Some sober thought is called for. To contemplate Jesus’ body in that tomb, is to look our own death in the face. This Saturday is a dark day. If the story ends today, then all we have left is to trudge on until we’re each added to the body count. But perhaps this isn’t the end of the story. We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see what come next…
1 I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up,
And have not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried out to You,
And You healed me.
3 O Lord, You brought my soul up from the grave;
You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.
4 Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His,
And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.
5 For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.
6 Now in my prosperity I said,
“I shall never be moved.”
7 Lord, by Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong;
You hid Your face, and I was troubled.
8 I cried out to You, O Lord;
And to the Lord I made supplication:
9 “What profit is there in my blood,
When I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise You?
Will it declare Your truth?
10 Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me;
Lord, be my helper!”
11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.