S.M. Lockridge’s sermon, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming” is among my most frequented orations in times of hopelessness. Several years ago, I was teaching a women’s Bible class on the life of Christ. As we studied the death of Christ, I played the presentation of the sermon for them. My precious friend, Ruth, shared with the class a message of the power of Saturday. A day which is bypassed in the narrative of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. I had given little thought to the Saturday. But as Christendom begins the Lenten season this Ash Wednesday, I can’t help but meditate upon the Saturday.
In Judeo-Christian traditions, the Sabbath, representative of the seventh day of Creation, was a gift from God. A day to stop, sabat. A weekly holy day to rest, to be reminded of the Creator, to remember the cooperative relationship of stewardship of the creation, as well as to meditate upon the covenant promises of God. Keeping of the Sabbath is a Jewish mitzvah, or commandment.
Matthew and Luke give account to the Sabbath after the Lord’s death on Friday—clarified in all the Gospel accounts as Preparation Day. Matthew shares how the chief Priests and Pharisees went before Pilate reminding him that Christ had claimed he would rise on the third day. Pilate responded by requiring Christ’s tomb be secured as best as they knew how to secure it. Luke simply states, “…they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.”
The Saturday Christ lay in the tomb was the true Sabbath: the Sabbath of all Sabbaths. Just as Genesis 2, shares: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.” On Friday, Jesus cried, “It is finished.” And on Saturday, he rested.
After the terror of the Friday, I can only imagine how that Saturday felt to the disciples. In the stillness of the holy day of rest, I can sympathize in their sorrow. I imagine the replaying of the atrocities they saw in the death of their Messiah. I feel their confusion as they recount the unexplained darkness covering the earth, the Earth trembling, the power of God, their God, fully displayed. But, the Messiah was dead. And dead people stay dead. And their hope was gone. Sitting in the Saturday waiting for an unknown. Their faith, their only comfort that the covenant promises would be fulfilled.
We sit, knowing about that Sunday morning, also waiting. Those of faith, assured in the victory of the Resurrection, await a new coming. But we don’t mourn like those who have no hope. We sit in our current Saturday with the benefit of knowing death has been defeated and if the Son of Man was resurrected, then we also. The waiting can be hard. And just like those sitting in their despair that ancient Saturday, we question.
The power of the Lenten season, a time for reflection on Jesus Christ—his suffering and his sacrifice, his life, death, burial, and resurrection through the observation of the spiritual disciplines of fasting, repentance, moderation, and self-denial, is we put ourselves in the Saturday. We are reminded of what it must feel like to have no hope. It is an exercise of walking through the forty days in the wilderness with Christ as he was tempted. It is a set aside time to meditate on our need for repentance. A time to refocus on the Savior by stripping the excesses that often burden and distract. By purposely sitting in the stillness of the Saturday, we are better able to appreciate that indeed, Sunday is coming.