Summary: Holy Saturday is a day of mourning and lament. We would do well in modern Christianity to learn how to authentically pour our pain out to God like the Psalmist.
Dare to Hang On One More Day
Jn 19:30; Ps 22 Holy Saturday: April 19, 2003
I have no doubt that the Sabbath which began the day Jesus was crucified was the worst Sabbath the disciples had ever known.
It was supposed to be a day of worship and celebration. And the Passover Sabbath was especially so – focusing on the goodness and deliverance of God and on His faithfulness to His people when they were slaves in Egypt. But how could Jesus’ disciples celebrate? How could they praise God for His goodness and faithfulness, when they had just witnessed the death of the one in whom they had put their trust – the one they believed was the Messiah?
The Christian church has known this day as “Holy Saturday,” though we in the protestant tradition don’t generally recognize it as a significant part of the Easter story. It is a day about death. About hopelessness. About despair. And those aren’t themes we generally like to talk about!
I wonder why that is. They are as much a part of life today as they have been in the past. They are as much a part of our experience as they were Jesus’ disciples. And if we take the incidence of medical diagnosis of depression seriously, perhaps it is even more a part of our culture now than it has been in the past. So why don’t we talk about it?
Scripture does. The Bible talks a lot about those themes – about death and hopelessness and despair. We even find them on the lips of Jesus on the cross. How many of us would have the courage to verbalize a feeling of being forsaken by God? Many of you have felt that at one time or another – have felt that God was nowhere to be found – have been convinced that He has abandoned you – have wanted to yell “My God, why have you forsaken me!!” But we don’t, generally speaking. Why not?
I think the main reason is that we lack the courage to live authentic lives. We are afraid to feel. We are afraid to look at the reality of life, in all of its occasional harshness and cruelty. We would rather clog our existence with trivial distractions, fill every waking moment with noise, keep busy and distracted and exhausted in the vain hope that if we just ignore the reality of the pain in our lives it will somehow vanish. We go to great lengths to hide, to deny, to pretend, to choose to ignore the issues that are destroying us. And that choice to ignore handicaps our ability to confront, to change, and to live through the midst of the difficulty.
Jesus didn’t. As He hung on the cross, He allowed His agony of soul to be expressed. He said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” You might respond, “Yes, but that was Jesus. He really was forsaken – God really did abandon Him – it wasn’t just a feeling.” And you would be correct – the reality is that as Jesus hung on the cross He knew the experience of the Father turning His back and walking away. Abandoning the Son. He truly was forsaken.
But you also need to know that those words of Jesus were not original – He wasn’t the first one to call out in anguish. Those words on Jesus lips are from Psalm 22:1. Before Jesus, the psalmist expressed the exact same sentiment – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The Psalmist poured out the anguish of his soul, expressed the reality of what he felt. And the Israelites regularly used these Psalms as they worshipped – they found their own voice and expressed in worship their lament. In fact, about one-third of the Psalms are Psalms of Lament – cries of the soul in the face of the harsh reality of life.