Yesterday was the day that changed all days, for the resurrection of Jesus is the hinge point of history. The empty tomb upended the vice grip of sin and death, and its ultimate claim on our lives.
And so, yesterday, we celebrated. Where Friday was a day of sorrow, grief, & darkness at the cross, Sunday showed that the power of God could not — can not — be stopped. As John Ortberg has put it: “No one could have started a movement based on Jesus on Saturday before Easter; no one could have stopped a movement based on Jesus on Easter Sunday.”
But what about Saturday? What about that day in-between the days? What must it have been like to have been one of Jesus’ followers? Clearly, Jesus wasn’t who he thought they was, and he obviously didn’t take them where they thought he would. He was dead. So, they had to feel sorrow, for sure. But also fear (Rome usually didn’t let you off the hook if you followed someone Rome deemed insurrectionary), uncertainty (what now?), doubt (but he seemed so clearly to be the One we awaited). Is it possible they were even questioning their very faith, and whether God was still God? On that Silent Saturday, I think all questions were fair game; all doubts were top-of-mind.
But as I was reading Walter Wangerin’s 40-day Lenten devotional based on the Gospel of Mark, he pointed out something I had never really considered. The day after Jesus died was Saturday, the Sabbath. Beginning at sundown on Good Friday, with Jesus barely dead & buried, the disciples faced a Sabbath unlike any other. Tired and defeated, nonetheless, it was still the Sabbath — the holiest day of the week.
So, they had a choice to make. Honor the ritual centered around that day? Or chuck it all? Remember God on that day of rest, or dismiss with the tradition because, well, why? Who knew what God was up to? Who knew what to pray for anymore, or what to expect? In other words, go on with the life of faith, or let it slide — at least for one day?
No doubt, you have faced your own Silent Saturday. The day your marriage ends. The day the storm rolls through. The season you feel empty and abandoned. The moment you walk out of the doctor’s office wondering what you’re going to do next. The day you lose someone you love. The day — any day — you wonder: How am I going to go on?
Live long enough, and you will face your version of a Silent Saturday. Likely many of them. It’s then that I believe we have 2 key choices:
- Let go
- Hold on
Letting go makes the most sense; letting go of God, or tradition, or church, or others, or hope. When God or church or people disappoint you, it might make the most sense to give up. I mean, when things fall apart, why stick with something that obviously doesn’t work?
C.S. Lewis describes two men who need to cross a dangerous bridge. Both believe in God, and both attempt to cross. The first man is convinced that the bridge will hold. The other says, “Whether it breaks or holds, whether I die here or somewhere else, I am equally in God’s good hands.” The bridge breaks and both die. The first man’s faith is disappointed; the second’s is not.
Putting our faith in God doesn’t mean we won’t be disappointed, or even devastated. But putting our faith in God is not the same thing as putting our faith in the bridges we have to cross. Some bridges are uncertain, even deadly. And the disciple of Jesus is not immune from their collapse. But like the second man in Lewis’s story, when our faith is in God, we continue to trust him — even in the most difficult times of our lives.
So, back to Silent Saturday. The followers of Jesus had a decision to make: would they honor God and remember the Sabbath, even though the one they believed to be the Messiah had been dishonored, and his God had seemed to forget them? Or would they hold on to faith, even when the bridge they had been walking on completely collapsed?
What about you? When you face your Silent Saturdays, will you let go? Or will you trust, and hold on to God? This doesn’t mean we don’t have anger, or doubt, or fear, or rage. But holding on means we bring all that to God.
Holding on looks like reading the Bible even though it may feel dry & meaningless.
Holding on looks like praying, even it’s mostly tears, lament, and questions.
Holding on looks like gathering with other believers for worship, even when you can’t sing the words yourself.
Holding on looks like giving space to faithful friends to hold onto God with you, when you can’t do that yourself.
Silent Saturday, of course, is the middle day of the 3 days that changed history. In the Bible, there are a number of key moments that happen in 3 days:
- Joseph tells the cupbearer & the baker that their fate will be realized in 3 days (Genesis 40)
- Darkness covers Egypt for 3 days (Exodus 10.22)
- The Israelites have different periods where they wait for 3 days for what’s next (Exodus 15.22, Number 10.33, Joshua 1.11)
- As do Ezra & Nehemiah as they rebuild Jerusalem (Ezra 8.15, 32; 10.9; Nehemiah 2.11)
- There’s a 3 day fast in Esther 4
- Saul is blind for 3 days after encountering Jesus on the Road to Damascus (Acts 9.9)
- And of course, there’s Jonah in the belly of the fish for 3 days, which Jesus uses as a foreshadowing for his fate in Mt 12.40
Maybe there’s something to that. Maybe 3 days is a reminder that things don’t happen the way we want them to happen. There’s Day 1 (when things happen), Day 3 (when they get resolved) — but there’s always Day 2 (the waiting, the uncertainty, the doubt, the grief, the great unknown). And in our Silent Saturdays, in every Day 2, we have a choice: Trust God? Or let go?
Or maybe it’s actually more accurate to say that, when Day 2 hits, and for however long it lasts, you really only have 1 choice: to hold on. For the truth is: as long as Day 2 lasts, you’re going to hold on to something. The question is just: What are you going to hold on to — grief and pain and doubt only, or God in the midst of all of that?
Day 2 is simply a stark reminder that we really have one choice when Silent Saturday hits: to hold onto our uncertainty — or God, in the midst of the uncertainty.