Silence Saturday

It was a good Easter weekend. I went to my church’s Maundy Thursday (new to me!) and Good Friday services. I had the sweet privilege of worshipping with not just one, but two church families on Resurrection Sunday. Like Mary, I am treasuring all these things and pondering them in my heart.

One thing that lingers with me is Holy Saturday. I know, I’m as surprised as you are. There is almost nothing in any of the Gospel accounts about Holy Saturday. We don’t even have a fun name for it like we do for Maundy Thursday or Good Friday. Matthew 27 ends with the guard at the tomb, and Matthew 28 begins with “Now after the Sabbath…” Mark 15 ends with Joseph of Arimathea asking to bury the body of Jesus, and Mark 16 begins, “When the Sabbath was past …” John 19 ends much like Mark 15, and John 20 doesn’t even say anything about the Sabbath, just “Now on the first day of the week …”

Only Luke reminds us of the silence: “On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” (Luke 23:58)

What was that Sabbath like for the disciples, I wonder? The day after their Friend was killed, they … rested. They couldn’t escape to the comfort of a familiar routine, like going out on their fishing boats. They couldn’t distract themselves by tilling a garden or taking the trash out. The women couldn’t even go and finish preparing Jesus’ body for burial. All they could do was follow the command to rest and be still.

Jesus had told them what would happen but they didn’t have eyes to see it yet. Did they doubt that day? Their dreams of a Messiah to save Israel from her earthly rulers were dashed. Their expectations crushed. Their longings unfulfilled. Was their Holy Saturday full of weeping, full of wondering why God hadn’t shown up? Did they walk around in a stupor, refusing to believe that any of the events of the last several hours had taken place? Did they search the Scriptures for answers? Did they panic, wondering if the last three years had just been one long con?

I don’t know. None of the Gospel writers seemed to have thought that particular Sabbath was worth recording in detail. But it is easy for me to imagine what that Sabbath might have been like in their hearts … because in the Holy Saturdays of my life, when God has seemed silent, when hopes deferred have made my heart sick, when disappointments, fears, and griefs are far too present, I have doubted and panicked and searched and wept. Is it really a stretch to think the disciples’ Holy Saturday was so different?

There would be no answers that day. We know, of course, the answers — and Answer — would come later. The next day, even. We would see how God was up to immeasurably more than all the disciples could ask for or imagine, and that is good news to us, even in our present circumstances. We should rejoice in that! Oh, lets!

But this I call to mind

But let’s not breeze past Holy Saturday too quickly, either. We are no strangers to dashed dreams and rampant disappointments. That job we wanted but didn’t get. Another negative pregnancy test. A relationship left unrestored. A wayward child, an ailing parent, a broken heart. And to top it off, no matter the length or intensity of our prayers, God seems silent.

I’m reading Psalm 77 for my women’s Bible study at church this week; I think this psalmist would have understood Holy Saturday very well:

I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints.
(Psalm 77:1-3)

It reminds me of Lamentations 3:

[M]y soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, “My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the Lord.”
Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
(Lamentations 3:17-20)

So I read these and I’m relieved to know that God has made provision in His Word for grief. And I’m relieved to know He doesn’t leave us there. Not only because of the promise of Resurrection Sunday, but the surety of who He is, even when He seems silent. Both Psalm 77 and Lamentations 3 go on to echo the same assurances:

I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart.”
Then my spirit made a diligent search:
“Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”

(Psalm 77:6-9)

Rhetorical questions, all. Of course He hasn’t. Of course He hasn’t.

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.


For the Lord will not
cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not afflict from his heart
or grieve the children of men.
(Lamentations 3:21-26; 31-33)

These are not answers — not the ones we’re looking for, anyway. There are no guarantees here of jobs or pregnancies or healing or whatever it is we’re longing for. What these are, are promises and reminders of who God is. I love that both Psalm 77 and Lamentations 3 (and many more) zero in on God’s steadfast love that never ceases. His unwavering passion that never burns out. His consistent, steady, enduring compassion that can’t stop, won’t stop. 
What does that have to do with our Holy Saturday fears and longings and disappointments?
Silence Saturday
I submit a new name for that day between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday: Silence Saturday.  Silence Saturday isn’t about getting the answers we want. It’s about waiting, and resting, and being still … and about marveling at just who our God is. We don’t always get the gift of relief from our circumstances, but we always get the relief of knowing that the One who is FOR us is made of steadfast love.

I think it was a mercy of God that He even timed the crucifixion so precisely that it would occur right before the Sabbath, and so force the people who loved and missed Jesus to … rest. To be still. Maybe I’m wrong about the disciples. Maybe in the stillness, they found Psalm 77 and Lamentations 3 and all the other Scriptures that point to God’s faithfulness. Maybe in the silence, they were able to find peace.

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
(Lamentations 3:25-26)

On Silence Saturday of Holy Week, and on the Silence Saturdays of our hearts, let’s put our dreams, our thoughts, our fears, our griefs off to the side for a minute … and sit in silence and ponder who our God is. Let’s trust that it’s good to wait on Him. Let’s be confident that Sunday’s coming. That He is coming again to make all things new.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:3-5a)

Amen and amen. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. 

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