The silence of Saturday
We don’t like silence. Yet, the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is filled with silence.
Holy Week is busy and noisy for Jesus.
On Palm Sunday, Jesus enters Jerusalem along a parade route, amid shouts of “Hosanna! Hosanna, in the highest!”
On Monday, Jesus cleanses the temple courtyard of all the lowing cattle, bleating sheep, cooing pigeons, and yelling merchants.
On Tuesday, Jesus does a lot of teaching in the temple courtyard. There are tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover. Jesus uses this opportunity to teach the masses about the coming Day of Judgment.
Nothing is recorded in Scripture about the events of Wednesday.
On Thursday, Jesus has a very active day. He and His disciples gather in the Upper Room to celebrate the Passover Meal. There, Jesus washes His disciples’ feet, institutes the Lord’s Supper, ad prays to His heavenly Father.
Very late Thursday evening to very early Friday morning, the events move for Jesus. He is loudly arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, and then hauled to a trial before the High Priest and the Sanhedrin, where they shout and accuse Jesus. Outside the trial, Peter is emphatically denying His relationship with Jesus while a roster crows. Jesus is then dragged before the Roma governor, laughed at by King Herod, and questioned again by Pontius Pilate.
On Friday morning, Pilate wants to release Jesus, but the Jews shout, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” There is another noisy parade, this time leaving Jerusalem as Jesus is lead to Golgotha’s hill for His crucifixion.
On the hill, there is the piercing sounds of nails piercing Jesus’ hands and feet. There is the emphatic mocking by the Jewish religious leaders, the criminals, and the Roman soldiers. Jesus’ death is marked by His loud cry of “It is finished!” and an earthquake that shakes the countryside.
Sunday through Friday were filled with so much shouting, teaching, praying, mocking, and other sounds. But now, Jesus is dead. Joseph and Nicodemus remove Jesus’ body from the cross and place it into Joseph’s tomb. There, Jesus lays dead.
The women are softly crying. The disciples are murmuring to each other while they are in hiding. The soldiers are stoically standing guard over Jesus’ tomb.
And, Jesus is silent inside the tomb.
The Word of Life is dead. He, who breathed life into Adam, is without the breath of life. He, who is the Word of God, is silent. He, who is the Lord of the Sabbath, closed His eyes in Sabbath rest in the tomb.
Italian Baroque master, Annibale Caarracci, captures this very well in his painting of The Corpse of Christ. In the painting, Christ is seen from His feet. He is lying in a contorted position, as if Joseph and Nicodemus have just laid the corpse there. They have removed the crown of thorns from Jesus’ head. They have used plyers to remove the spikes from Jesus’ hands and feet.
There is a grim silence to the painting.
This silence will give way to the sounds of Easter dawn. The guard tomb will be filled with sounds. There will be the scraping as the angel rolls the stone away from the entrance of the tomb. The thuds as the guards hit the ground after they faint. And, the gasps of the women as they see the tomb open and empty. The women will hear the voices of the angels telling them, “He is not here. He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go tell His disciples.”
This week in our churches, we have heard the children singing, “Hosanna!”, the pastor speaking Jesus’ words, “This is my body; This is my blood”, and the slamming shut of a Bible to symbolize the slamming shut of Jesus’ grave. On Easter Sunday, we will hear the Alleluias in church once again, followed by shouts of “He is risen! He is risen, indeed!”
But, in between all of that, listen to the silence of Saturday. It is a silence that confirms that the Lord of Life gave up that life so that we may have eternal life in Him.
That He who breathed life into Adam stopped breathing for three days in the grave, so that the last breath we take on earth will be followed by and filled with our first breath of Paradise.
That He who is the Word of Life was silent in the tomb, so that we who believe in that Word will never be silent in eternity. Instead, we will be singing eternal resurrection Alleluias to our crucified, dead, and alive forevermore Savior.
That He who is the Lord of the Sabbath rested on that Passover Sabbath, so that we might find eternal rest in Him.
Listen to the silence of Saturday.