Why We Need Easter Saturday

This Sunday, Christians across the world are preparing to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Friday, too, will have been a solemn day, with services commemorating the crucifixion. Even “Maundy Thursday” is becoming more and more well known. But for this year, I think Saturday might offer something unique that we need.

Called Easter Even in the older English tradition, the Saturday before Easter remembers that time when Jesus’ body lay in the grave. The readings begin after He has died. They focus on Christ’s burial and the waiting and anticipation on the part of His disciples and followers. People are sad. They are confused. Like us.

The selections from the New Testament epistles connect Christ’s death to two important spiritual realities: our baptisms, that visible sign of our spiritual death and resurrection, and the Sabbath, especially the eternal Sabbath which still remains for us. In a time of constant battle, ever conscious of the reality of evil and of enemies, God provides rest.

Our world is not one of rest. Full of noise and rage, we move from shock to shock, from scandal to scandal, from tragedy to farce. Yesterday’s Tiktok sideshow becomes today’s Whitehouse Deputy Assistant Secretary. While still reeling from the pain of the murder of children in Nashville, our attention is yanked back to Trump.

Even worse, too many of us believe that we must “keep up” with this “news.” Its noise is always in our ears. Even our churches become “outlets” or “platforms” for more of the same. Every space becomes a forum. Many are spectacle. We need a break.

God has ordained a weekly break, each Lord’s Day. As the New Covenant mode of the 4th Commandment, we are called to “do no manner of work” but rather turn our attention wholly unto the Lord’s own work. But in another sense, our entire lives are called to rest. This is one of the truths of baptism. We are “planted together in the likeness of His death” and are likewise called “to reckon… [our]selves dead indeed to sin” (Rom. 6:5, 11). We have died to the world. In a real sense, as the waves of the world crash down around us, we believers take refuge in Christ’s tomb.

And we wait.

This waiting is like a sort of prison. But we do not suffer this waiting without hope. Our waiting is a rest that looks forward in expectation. The Book of Common Prayer calls this “the gate of death” through which we “pass to our joyful resurrection.” So as we who are baptized into Christ’s death wait for His return, we also begin to live. We live differently, not like the world, but like Christ. We “cease from our works,” but we ‘labor” in a new way. We labor to enter into rest (Heb. 4:10-1).

We are baptized into death, and this death is a rest from the world. But this death is also a passageway to a new world, and so this rest gives us a new kind of labor. We now strive, but not as the world. We strive for eternal rest.

The 23rd Psalm is also relevant here. This life is a sort of extended valley. We walk in the presence of enemies. And yet we are called to not be afraid. In the shadow of death. God calls us to a table, to be anointed, and to feast with Him. As much as we may wish to leap into action, we must first be served by Him. We must allow Him to do the work for us.

Easter Saturday reminds us that this began in Christ’s own baptism, which was truly His death. He bore the rage of the world and the wrath of God when He bore our sins upon the Cross. And He took them down, into the depths of Hell. And He remained there from Friday afternoon, through Saturday, until that Sunday morning. Friday was furious. Sunday would be joyful. This is our salvation.

But Saturday was still.

We long for the resurrection which delivers us out of the darkness of this world. And we will and must fight the battle of sin which we see on Good Friday. We will fight. And we will celebrate victory. But don’t skip the time in between.

May this Easter Saturday assist us to remember our death to the world. And may we look forward to the glorious resurrection to come. But may we also wait and rest in peace.

Steven Wedgeworth is the rector of Christ Church Anglican in South Bend, Indiana. He has written for Desiring God Ministries, the Gospel Coalition, the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and Mere Orthodoxy, and served as a founding board member of the Davenant Institute.

*Image Credit: “The Two Marys Watch the Tomb” by James Tissot, 1894


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