holy sabbath

Several weeks ago, my pastor was musing about how we typically bypass the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, and how he was feeling like there was something there we needed to pay attention to before the celebration. It has continually been resonating in my soul. What does it look like to sit in the space with the people who followed Jesus after the crucifixion and before Jesus was resurrected?

You’ve seen the posts…’it is Good Friday, but Easter is coming!’ Not that those posts are intentionally skipping a part of the story, but maybe we do need to give time and space to the pain, grief, and lament, that as humans, we don’t like to feel on a visceral level.

I wonder if you might sit down, grab a cup of coffee or tea, and imagine with me for a moment. Just imagine, no theological reasoning…just human imagining from retellings of a story that has changed the world. We have all felt grief and loss on some level, and God willing we have never witnessed torture.

Come to the foot of the cross.

Feel all the things.

Pain of torture.

Sense the Spirit.

Honor the grief.

Voice the lament.

Teacher, son, brother, friend…Messiah.

Jesus speaks so many confusing things and we have tried so hard to understand, but we keep getting caught up in our religious habits and human nature. I wanted to be at his right hand. He wants to be at his right hand. She just wants to touch the hem of his robe. Jesus knows things that he should not have any knowledge of in this world.

He is not what we expected. He is more. He invites others into a life that looks different. Otherworldly.

He enrages the religious leaders, and at first it was exciting, then it got scary. They think they use him as a pawn in their games. He says we cannot carry swords, but I’ve hidden one under my robe. My teacher must be protected. What would happen to those he has healed, loved, and heard his words if he dies? Who will teach us?

Then he was taken. He never fought back. He didn’t even lose his temper. It was an eerie calm. It was the same in front of Pilate and Herod. As though he knew this was as it needed to be. Is this what he had been trying to tell us?

The crowd could have demanded the release of Jesus. They chose a murderer instead. Why do they have so much hatred for our Rabbi? Our Lord? It was as if spittle of venom was spraying vehemently from their mouths. How can they treat Jesus with so much loathing? He preaches love. How can they have so much hate for love?

Jesus is almost unrecognizable from the torture they are inflicting on him. So much blood. In the moments I couldn’t look, all I see is a trail of bloody footprints and a thin line marking the dirt where the cross was being dragged. This is agonizing. I’m torn between wanting to look away and knowing I must bear witness. This story will be retold. We are the witnesses.

Each hit of the hammer against the nail makes me jump and my hands start shaking.

The agony of his pain. The thorns of the ridiculous crown have left tiny beads of blood trailing down his face. He doesn’t deserve the death of a criminal, yet he tells the criminal he will see him in paradise. How is that possible?

The injustice of it all creates so much anger in my soul. Jesus never treated anyone with hate or contempt, but he is receiving of all of it.

And when all the crowd that came to see the crucifixion saw what had happened, they went home in deep sorrow. But Jesus’ friends, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance watching. [Luke 23:48-49 NLT]

I cannot get any closer. What if someone sees me? I’m ashamed, what if someone finds out I followed the Rabbi? Had been following him the whole time. I’ve been seen with him everywhere.

Will they recognize me?

Will they come for me?

Will I be tortured and crucified?

As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law.” [Luke 23:55-56 NLT]

We are terrified that they will do something to our Lord’s body. We can do nothing. It is Sabbath and there are rules we cannot disobey. We are prisoners to their laws. I feel like a caged animal, and helpless at the same time.

Will they further torment his lifeless body while we are held captive to the laws of the Sabbath?

I look around the room. We cannot even look at each other. There are no words to say. We cannot even pray. What would we say? I can hear the anguish in the grief of my brothers. Outbursts of lament come, and I am overwhelmed by the grief. Water keeps leaking from my eyes. We are stuck in a black abyss that we cannot escape. Jesus said he would send a comforter. I feel no comfort. I feel only the dark, deep pain of loss. As if I am swimming beneath the boat and cannot break the surface. I cannot tell if I am even swimming in the right direction to find the surface. I am drowning in grief. Even breathing hurts my chest. My head is pounding an annoying pulse of pain. The emptiness is suffocating.

I keep hearing the echo of hammer against nail.

We saw the moment breath left his body.

We saw it all.

Someone tries to break the silence, “Should we…” the sentence cannot even be finished. We do not know the next step. The words of Jesus keep swirling around our heads, trying to find an answer.

There is a strong determination in the women. They are holding onto something that seems like hope. They have prepared everything they need to go to the tomb and honor our Lord. I cannot hope. Hope is gone.

Jesus is gone.

We lived life with him every moment of every day for three years.

Our leader.

Our teacher.

Our friend.

Our Messiah.


I feel fear, but I know that Jesus would repeat what he told us when we woke him up on the boat, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!”

It is so hard to have faith right now. The grief of loss is overwhelming. The fear of what comes next is tangible.

How many people know where we are at right now? Will they lead them to us here? Will we die the same death?

Maybe we all go into hiding as soon as Sabbath is over. Maybe it is the only way to ensure the story lives on. The story must be told, because if it isn’t…I cannot even imagine. The death of Jesus cannot be in vain.

Today I sat with the disciples, women and all the people that believed the things Jesus said. I rested in that place with them. Their tears, fear, silence, and absence of our leader is overwhelming on this Holy Sabbath.

The silence of this Sabbath is deafening.

“Here my soul has found its place.” [At the Foot of the Cross by Phil Wickham]


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