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Holy Saturday, 2016

March 26, 2016

…then all the disciples abandoned him, and fled.
Matthew 26:56

Light dawns on Holy Saturday, but the Sabbath rest has already long begun.  The day before, the sky went dark far before the sunset, as Light himself was extinguished from this world.

The disciples, in whatever upper rooms or small homes they find themselves, are bound by the traditions of Sabbath rest:  they cannot work or prepare food; cannot travel or buy or sell or kindle a fire.  Sabbath, shabbat, demands that they cease, and sit, and pray.

Perhaps they remember another Sabbath …  one where a crippled man, laying beside the miracle pool for thirty eight years, suddenly rises on two strong and healthy legs, and picks up his own mat and walks, runs, leaps for the first time in memory.   And on another Sabbath, a withered hand — they see it themselves! — now whole and restored, a mirror of the other hand.  And another:  clouded eyes, blinded since birth, now clear and shining with sight.

A Man did these wonders – defied the Pharisees and brought healing and new life, even on the day of rest.  And he had chosen them to follow him, to be his disciples.

And now he lay in a grave, pierced by Roman nails, finally defeated by the Chief Priests who had long been seeking his death.

And so this particular shabbat surely means no rest for these men, but worry, and fear, and unanswerable questions.  Just two days before, they were sharing bread and wine with him.  Should they now flee the city, also?

The women, too, observe the Sabbath, likely still reeling from the day before, when they watched their Lord breathe his last, agonizing breaths. They remember the Rabbi who had taught them, accepted them, received and honored their service among the followers … a Man like no other they had known, now brutally murdered before their eyes.  Tradition lies heavy on them:  it is the Sabbath, yet their hands and hearts long to work, to prepare the burial spices, the traditional anointing … to do something, anything, one last act of honor and reverence for their Teacher.  But it is shabbat.  And so they wait, and sit, and pray.

It is no small comfort to me that our God knows and understands the very human experience of Holy Saturday; that on this day we honor and commemorate the fact that at times in our lives we must simply do nothing, and wait.  It is like those brutal days after a loved one passes away:  we are wrecked with sorrow, yet finding ourselves at some moments dried out of tears; in shock, yet hands shaking for something, anything, to do, to keep busy with; uneasy, yet sitting still for hours on end, numb.

He knows.  He walks in this moment with us, even though we feel so sharply his absence. He has conquered death and the grave, yet ordained that we sit in this moment and wait.

Wait, for the Lord is working.  Wait, wait, and trust in Him, the Man you saw heal, the One who makes all things whole and restored … for a new day will dawn tomorrow, an impossibly bright and glorious resurrection, one that we cannot in this dark moment even fathom.

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