The religious leaders – delighted that the troublemaker has been put to death
Pontius Pilate – probably already worried about the next problem in his turbulent province
The disciples – all in hiding
Joseph of Arimathea – a good man who has arranged for Jesus to be given decent burial
The women – they have prepared the spices to anoint Jesus’ body, but are now resting on the Sabbath, in accordance with Jewish law
Jesus – dead and buried
A rock-cut tomb in a garden outside Jerusalem
The Sabbath – Saturday, a holy day of rest for the Jewish people.
Key Bible verses:
Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the religious Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body.
Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes.
But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
Easter Saturday – or “Holy Saturday” as it’s often termed – is a break in the Easter story. It feels like a pause to reflect on what has happened – and to wonder what happens next. The disciples are in hiding; and everyone else is keeping the Sabbath. The Romans are still patrolling, but suddenly the hustle and bustle of the great city drops away into quietness.
Jesus is dead and buried.
The triumph of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and the crowds shouting “Hosanna!”, has passed. Those same crowds yesterday, on Good Friday, were shouting “Crucify!”, whipped up into a frenzy by the misguided religious leaders of their day.
The intimate meal with his friends, the Last Supper, also seems a long time ago (would you believe, though, that Maundy Thursday was only 2 days ago?!). The meaning of Jesus’ words “this is my body… do this and remember me” now seems indescribably bitter.
The horror of Good Friday is fresh in everyone’s minds, though. The informal trial by the Council, the political calculations by Pilate, the torture and agonising execution – that’s still a fresh wound.
But, in a reminder that not all the Council are cynics or hypocrites, one good man stands up, as evening falls on Friday. Joseph from Arimathea decides to offer up a tomb, so the body can be buried decently. He approaches the Romans, who are quite happy for Jesus to be buried – out of sight out of mind, soon to be forgotten. So he offers up a tomb – Matthew tells us it was actually his own, a big investment, that he gives up for the crucified man. He wraps him in a shroud and seals the tomb. Then he, too, goes to observe the Sabbath.
Like the disciples, or all the people in Jerusalem, we watch and we wait. What happens next? We can’t know for sure… but we can always hope, and pray, and wait.
Watch – Brentor Service of Light, 3rd April 2021
What happens next?
Jesus is dead and buried. His disciples have fled, the women are mourning, and come Sunday, the city of Jerusalem will carry on as if nothing has happened.
But the world is about to change…