Most of us have had moments of intense grief at some point in life, or–if we have not–we will at some point. My dad was my hero, and when we learned that he had terminal cancer, I felt completely unable to function. Much of what my life had always been was being lost. In the days following his diagnosis, I lived with a constant sense of having been kicked in the stomach, and I remember for several days waking from sleep, each time hoping that it had all been a bad dream. It only took a moment for the dark reality to set in. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each tell the story of Jesus' burial, but none of them say anything about what the disciples were doing on Saturday. There are some obvious possible explanations: it was a Sabbath, so they couldn't do anything actively. Also, since Jesus had essentially been executed for treason ("If you let this man live, you are no friend of Caesar"..."Above his head they placed the written charge against him: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews"), the disciples must have been fearfully aware of the possibility that they would become the next targets. So, though we aren't told what they did, we can be reasonably sure that they hid, full of shock, fear, and grief.
Though my grief over my dad was intense, I'm sure it wasn't in the same category as what Jesus' friends experienced on the day after his crucifixion. In addition to the loss of their beloved leader, they also had to deal with the injustice involved, the devastation of their dreams and hopes about who they thought Jesus was (in their framework, a crucified Messiah was a contradiction in terms), the fear that they would be next, and perhaps most painful of all–the shame for having deserted him at his arrest.
If they slept at all, they surely awoke on Saturday hoping for an instant that it had all been a nightmare and that Jesus was still there next to them. After a moment, when the dark reality set in again, it is certain to have felt overpowering. Jesus' body lay dead and lifeless in a tomb.
The only detail the gospels give us about Saturday is one that reiterates the point:
The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. (Matthew 27:62-66)
A Prayer for the Day:
O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.*
*From The Book of Common Prayer
[This is part of 40 Days of Prayer: Daily Emails for Lent]