It was finished. The charges filed, the trial ran its inevitable course, the judgement made, the sentence handed down and effected, the body laid in an empty tomb.
It hadn’t seemed like it would end this way. The announcement had come to a virgin named Mary that she would give birth to the Son of God. Her “Amen” changed the world. She gave birth to Jesus – Immanuel – God with us – in a lowly manger, her husband Joseph by her side. Shepherds tending their flocks heard the heavenly host proclaim the good news of greatest joy, that a Savior was born. Jesus’ public ministry was mighty in word and deed. Water turned into wine, the blind received sight, the lame walked, the lepers cleansed, the dead raised up, the poor heard good news, five loaves and two fish fed thousands. Three years of miracle after miracle after miracle, of teaching about love – loving God, loving yourself, loving your neighbor, loving your enemy, loving the widow, orphan, and alien among you. Extravagant, sacrificial, redemptive love.
The entry into Jerusalem was triumphant, even though it was on a colt and not a magnificent stallion. As Jesus rode into the city on that colt, the crowd rejoiced and praised God for all of the miracles seen and the mighty works witnessed. The King for whom they had been waiting was here and was going to finally reign.
Then Jesus hosted one last meal with his disciples, to leave his disciples with what was most important. “This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. Love one another as I have loved you. This is how everyone is going to know you belong to me, by how you love one another.”
It all changed so quickly. The praises of “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” turned to shouts of “Crucify him!” Instead of gentle, waving palm branches, there were whips. Instead of laud and honor, mockery and scorn. Instead of a crown of gold, Jesus was given a crown of thorns. Instead of leaving on a stallion or even a colt, Jesus walked out of Jerusalem beaten and bloodied, bearing a cross to Golgotha, where the punishment meant for the worst of criminals was carried out.
The crucifixion did not silence the mocking. “Save yourself, if you’re God’s Chosen One! Yet, from the mouth of the Crucified One, came only love. “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing. Today you will be with me in paradise. Woman, behold your son; son, behold your Mother. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? I thirst. It is finished.
“Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.” Jesus bowed his head and took his final breath. Joseph of Arimathea asked for Jesus’ body. He lovingly took it down from the cross, tenderly wrapped it, and gently laid it in a newly cut tomb. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee watched, and likely passing back by the site of the crucifixion – returned to prepare the spices and ointments for anointing Jesus’ body for burial. It was the Sabbath, and they rested.
This is where we are on this Saturday. Between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, between the cross and the empty tomb. Other than noting that it was the Sabbath and they rested, Scripture does not give us any details about what rest looked like for the Blessed Mother, the women who remained with Jesus, and his disciples. We can only speculate.
Perhaps they did what people do when grieving. They told stories. They laughed through their tears, and cried through their laughter. They recounted every mighty deed, every wondrous miracle. They sat in holy mystery, wondering what all of these events meant, and how to reconcile them with Jesus’ words that he would die and be raised.
In his superb book “Death On A Friday Afternoon,” Richard John Neuhaus writes that “Holy Saturday is the sound of perfect silence. Yesterday’s mockery, the good thief’s prayer, the cry of dereliction – all that is past now. Mary has dried her tears, and the whole creation is still, waiting for what will happen next.”
Perhaps that is enough for today, Holy Saturday, to be still. Neuhaus notes that though Scripture and tradition have offered speculation, perhaps it is best to be in silence ourselves on this Holy Saturday, and wait. And in the silence, Neuhaus says, “we hear the song of Easter that will always be there. . . To prodigal children lost in a distant land, to disciples who forsook him and fled, to a thief who believed or maybe took pity and pretended to believe, to those who did not that what they did, they did to God, to the whole bedraggled company of humankind he had abandoned heaven to join, he says: “Come. Everything is ready now. In your fears and your laughter, in your friendships and farewells, in your loves and loses, in what you have been ale to do and in what you know you will never get done, come, follow me. We are going home to the waiting Father.”
Today, before we head to the empty tomb to discover that He is risen, before the fire of the Easter Vigil, before the trumpet blast and “Jesus Christ is Risen Today,” before the chocolate bunnies and egg hunts, take a moment to be still. To be. To remember. To rest and abide in the grandest love there ever was and ever will be – the love that became flesh and lived among us, that reached out to the poor, the hungry, the sick, the hurting, the marginalized, the forgotten; the love that healed broken bodies and broken hearts, the sacrificial love that went to the Cross, where grace and love and forgiveness flowed down with blood shed for all.