The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember what that imposter said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers: go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone. —Matthew 27:62-66
These are the only words the Gospels give us about Holy Saturday, that day in-between Jesus’ death and his Resurrection. There is no description about the disciples and their experience in-between grief and surprise. There is no sign that they believed what Jesus said, and truly believed that something greater was to come. They spend the day in hiding. In fact, the writer of Matthew seems to think that the imperial powers of the world put more weight on Jesus’ prophecies than his own disciples. It is the political and religious powers that spend this in-between day in frantic, fear-driven anxiety about what may happen the next day, and do all they can to prevent it from happening. So they post soldiers, figures of war and violence, outside of the tomb of the Prince of Peace.
My time so far in Israel and Palestine feels a little bit like Holy Saturday. I have seen the death and destruction of God’s people. I have seen the Wall that seeks to cut off and separate, scattering would-be voices of hope into hiding. I have seen soldiers posted at the door, put there by forces who do not want the Good News of new life to get out.
Holy Saturday can be a difficult and hopeless place to be. I certainly look at the current political situation in the land where Jesus walked and cannot fathom how it will get better. I do not know how God’s vision for a world reconciled will come to fruition. I feel the grief and anger I imagine the disciples must have felt, and I feel a little let down that God’s vision is not coming together in the ways and times I think it should.
Yet, in my time here I have also seen the empty tomb. I know that the soldiers placed there 2,000 years ago were not able to stop the Risen One. I have seen Christ’s church as it proclaims the reality of Risen Life, even if that reality is not yet tangible to our human senses. So I put my faith that the soldiers here will not stop the Good News. I put my hope in a God who brings us out of hiding and separation, who rolls away stones and breaks down walls. And I remember that those witnesses of the Resurrection did not keep quiet for long, and I cannot keep quiet now.
M.Div. Class of 2016
Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary