Finally, a Silent Night: Reflections on Holy Saturday

April 13, 2024

Jesus, the light and hope of the world—his body lay still. His work was finished, his strains and pains past. It was the sabbath.

But he did not breathe softly in rest. He could not. The one who had filled others with living breath could not fill his own lungs. They were lifeless. Jesus was dead.

On the other side of the stone tomb, out in the fresh air of the living, fears ran rampant on this restless sabbath. The scheming enemies continued arranging their chess pieces, placing their knights, their rooks, their guards in front of the tomb. Not to keep anything from coming out, of course. Impossible! As utterly unfeasible as a large animal walking through the eye of a needle! No—they moved their pieces into place to quell their swell of fear that the dead man’s pawns might mount a heist and claim a miracle.

But the hostile leaders need not have feared any such ploy. Jesus’s disciples were too busy hiding in their own fearful confusion and despair. For they had seen their king knocked over.

Back within the stagnant sepulcher, all was still silent. The day ticked on and the good shepherd’s heart still no longer thrummed. The wise teacher’s brain still no longer hummed. Not a finger on the carpenter—that artisan of lives and destinies—not a finger twitched. No eyelid fluttered on the face of the One who had truly seen the Ignored, who had looked lovingly at the Unlovely without flinching. Still as a corpse. Still, a corpse.

Outside the sealed tomb, dusk fell. There was evening and there was night, the second day. The darkness ticked on and on. Some slept. Others cried. Enemies were blissfully ignorant and followers despairingly unaware that this old cosmos itself was teetering that Saturday night, precariously perched on the cusp of radical refreshment. Creation groaning. Creation longing. Creation straining for the sun to dawn on the third day.

In the heavens on that tottering Saturday, the one triune God was watching over everything. And he saw that it was good. His wrath toward us, loved and royal creatures who had arrogantly and selfishly drowned ourselves, others, and the world in our Satanic sins—his wrath toward us, which was so just and reasonable and the only truly good response—his wrath toward us was satisfied. Because of his holy Son’s self-sacrifice.

On that Holy Saturday, God’s deluge of honor and gifts was brimming, tipping at the rim, ready to wash clean with living water all followers of his Son. Followers from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. Followers from as far back as the fall and even until the end of the age. For the one who lay dead on that slab that Friday and Saturday night had borne our sin. Death, the earned wages of sin, had been paid for in full.

On this holy sabbath night so long ago, the tombstone was straining to the shattering point. Death itself stood on the cusp of being broken beyond recognition or repair. Killed by the killed One. Because Death would not be able to hold him—not one... more... day.

Imagine the Father’s thrill as he looked with peerless appreciation at his Son that holy Saturday night, ecstatic beyond all human imaging with what his beloved Son was about... to... do. It was a silent night, but the Son was about to dawn.

This devotional is part of our Holy Week series, and was written by Jonathan Worthington for Holy Saturday.