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Holy Saturday, April 20, 2019
Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 27:57–61
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb. (NRSV)
The opponents of the Jesus movement at the time Matthew wrote his Gospel spread slanderous accusations: Jesus did not really die—he was resuscitated after fainting. The tomb was found empty because the disciples stole his body. The women prepared to anoint him went to the wrong place. Matthew’s description of the burial of Jesus served a significant purpose. It is testimony that Jesus really died. His death was not an illusion, as some agnostics later would argue. His resurrection was not a fraud.
Theologian Hans Urs von Balthazar wrote that the theological significance of the death of Jesus Christ is to show that God can endure and conquer abandonment and death. In the Incarnation, God came and experienced the lowest, loneliest, and most fearsome of human experiences: a painful suffering and death. God is revealed where least expected—on a cross and sealed in the grave. Because God is found there, we know that in our own lives, when we feel the anguish of God-forsakenness, broken by evil, as if we are in “hell,” God is nevertheless with us. There is no place we may find ourselves where God will not be (Psalm 139:7–8). There is no time God departs from us, even though we feel empty and uncertain.
Today, Holy Saturday, is a day of stillness and silence. We are surrounded by a cloud of not-knowing. Let us quietly wait with Jesus for deliverance from death. Let us remember his last words on the cross, words of abandonment and a cry of hope: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, Psalm 22:1).
Eternal God, quiet my heart this day so I may contemplate limitation and mortality. Thus prepare me to truly rejoice in life beyond sorrow and death tomorrow. Amen.
Written by Victoria G. Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission
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