Sitting, Waiting, and Hoping in the Tomb of Jesus

How the anguished uncertainty of Holy Saturday gives shape to our faith.
Sitting, Waiting, and Hoping in the Tomb of Jesus
Image: Hans Holbein the Younger / Bridgeman
The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb (1521)

Christians defend certain days of the Holy Weekend. For instance, we’ll defend the idea that on Friday Jesus actually died on a cross to save the world from its sin. Then we’ll turn around and defend Easter Sunday as the day that Jesus actually rose from the grave, defeating the powers of evil running loose in the world.

But nobody defends Saturday. Nobody writes apologetics defending the belief that Jesus actually lay dead for one long, endless day two thousand years ago. What’s the defense for that? If you’ve got the power to rise from the grave, why would you wait one whole long day to do it? Why not just rise from the grave, like, just a little later Friday night?

Even if it seems puzzling, something profound happened in the lives of Jesus’ followers on Saturday.

Martin Luther said himself that Saturday was the day that God himself lay cold in the grave. Friday was death, Sunday was hope, but Saturday was that seemingly ignored middle day between them when God occupied a dirty grave in a little garden outside Jerusalem. Saturday is about waiting, about uncertainty, about not knowing what’ll happen. Saturday is ambiguity. It’s about, as one theologian put it, “muddling through” when the future isn’t clear.

When Understanding and Reason Lay Dead

So much of Christian faith is Saturday faith.

I call it “awkward Saturday”: that holy day to sit, wait, hope—unsure of what’s to come tomorrow. Saturday is the day that Jesus, and all understanding, lay dead.

A medieval theologian, Anselm, once described the kind of faith that comes with Saturday—fides quaerens intellectum: “faith seeking understanding.” By that, ...

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