That Easter Saturday Experience

Easter is not just the most important season of the year for the Christian, it’s also the busiest – ask any church leader. So, in the space of a single week, a church can have a Palm Sunday service, a communion or Lord’s supper on the Thursday, a Good Friday service and then, with a mere day’s pause for breath, an Easter Sunday celebration. This week-long intensity of activity echoes the enormous emphasis the Gospels place on the events that occurred in Jerusalem that first Easter week.

In this week, buried almost out of sight between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, comes the day that although some church traditions prefer to refer to as ‘Holy Saturday’ is now almost universally called Easter Saturday. The Saturday of Easter is a day that is easily overlooked. For one thing there is very little mention of it in the Bible; after all, as the Jewish Sabbath it was a day of rest. Yet there is more than this behind its neglect. It is surely that, compared to the sorrowful darkness of Good Friday and the joyful brilliance of Easter Sunday, this Saturday is quite simply a ‘grey day’; indeed, it is the ultimate in grey days.

Think about how it must have felt to Jesus’ followers. It would have been a day marked by dejection. Those who had come with Jesus to Jerusalem had brought with them enormous hopes and expectations; Good Friday took every hope they had and utterly destroyed them. Any lingering belief that Jesus would suddenly turn the tables on his opponents and, at the last minute, reveal himself to be the majestic king of glory was bitterly and cruelly extinguished in the worst possible way.

It would have been a day marked by frustration. For Jesus’ followers, Good Friday was not simply a savage blow to the heart but also one to the mind. Amid their sorrows the saddest of questions would have sounded: ‘Now what?’ If yesterday had been a tragic disaster, tomorrow was no better. With all their hopes in ruins they must have been utterly bewildered.

It was, too, a day marked by oppression. The only incident the Bible recounts on the Saturday is a significant one. Matthew 27:62–66 tells us that the religious leaders arranged with Pilate, the Roman go