Posted on April 5, 2015
Saturday: A Not-So-Silent Sabbath
This is the seventh post of an eight-day devotional designed to lead you to praise Christ each day of the week preceding Easter. Thanks for joining in!
Saturday of Holy Week has been called by some “Silent Saturday,” referring to Jesus’ body lying silent in the grave. For the Jews, Saturday was the Sabbath—and not just any Sabbath, Passover Sabbath—a special day of worship. The gleeful Jewish leaders relaxed on that Sabbath, under the mistaken impression they’d won, that Jesus was gone forever and all was well.
Late on Friday afternoon, Jesus had uttered the words “It is finished” and gave up His spirit. Joseph of Arimathea—wealthy and influential—went to Pilate seeking permission to take possession of Jesus’ body. Pilate was amazed to hear Jesus had already died, so he sent for confirmation from the centurion in charge of the day’s executions. Satisfied, Pilate granted Joseph’s plea.
Joseph took Jesus’ body down from the cross, made a few hurried preparations—pressed for time since the Sabbath was mere hours away—and laid Jesus to rest in a tomb he’d intended for himself. (Soon, it would become evident that Jesus’ burial in a borrowed tomb was appropriate; He wouldn’t need it for long!)
By the time the Passover’s Sabbath began, the body of Jesus was wrapped in grave cloths layered with burial spices and sealed in a rock-hewn tomb with a large, heavy stone across its entrance. In addition, a Roman guard was present to guard the tomb, stationed there at the request of the Pharisees and chief priests (Mt. 27:62-66).
Jesus’ disciples and followers spent that sad Sabbath behind locked doors in Jerusalem. They were stunned at the events of the past 48 hours, shocked to think He was dead and buried. Over and over they must have asked themselves, “What now?”
Meanwhile, we have clues that Jesus’ Sabbath was anything but silent. Though His body rested in a garden grave, His Spirit was busy depositing the conquered sins of mankind in the depths of hell, announcing His triumph to the souls bound there (1 Pet. 3:18-22), then preparing to shake off death like an ill-fitting garment.
Jesus had once told His disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (Jn. 14:6) Satan may have spent that Sabbath thinking he’d had the last word, but The Life could not be held by death. Silent Saturday was about to become Victorious Sunday!
The mood of the hymn Christ Arose perfectly depicts the swing from Saturday’s despair to Sunday’s delight. Sing these words to Him with your voice and your heart.
Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior!
Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!
Vainly they watch His bed, Jesus my Savior!
Vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!
Death cannot keep his prey, Jesus my Savior!
He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave He arose
with a mighty triumph o’er His foes;
He arose a victor from the dark domain,
and He lives forever with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!
© Diane McLoud 2015
Christ Arose! by Robert Lowry, public domain.