The Apostle Paul places a pause between Good Friday and Easter. He writes in 1 Corinthians:
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures (15:3-4).
With the words “and that he was buried,” Paul leaves some space, a little light, between the death and resurrection of Jesus. Alan E. Lewis writes: “Here resurrection is not permitted to verge upon the cross, instantaneously converting death into new life” (Between Cross & Resurrection-A Theology of Holy Saturday, pg. 37). We call this interval between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, this pause between death and new life, Holy Saturday. Many of us will gather for a Good Friday service and reunite for an Easter service. (The really dedicated among us will arise in darkness for a sunrise service.) We will pass through Holy Saturday without noticing it. We would do well to note its place in the sequence of these days, this in-between time.
We live our lives in the in-between time. Christ has died; our sins are forgiven. We are no longer slaves to sin and the powers of this world. This has been accomplished. Yet the fullness of resurrection for us and all creation awaits some future day. Paul writes in Romans:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:18-23).
Paul is describing the in-between time, Holy Saturday, after the thing has begun but before it is finished. How do we live in these days? When we get up on Sunday morning, the world will look very much the same as it did when we went to bed on Saturday night. War, poverty, infidelity, sin of all sorts, tornadoes and floods—they will all persist right through this holy weekend. If we look at our world, we could get the idea that the cross is the last word in the story. We could resign ourselves to the reality, in words of Frederick Buechner:
…that the world holds nothing sacred; that even the wisest and bravest and loveliest decay and die; that even the noblest ideas that men have had—ideas about love and freedom and justice—have always in the end been twisted out of shape by selfish men for selfish ends (The Magnificent Defeat, p.85).
It could look as if death has won, that the cross is the last word. This is the way it looks on Holy Saturday.
We know this is not true. We know what follows on the heels of Holy Saturday; we couldn’t forget it if we tried. Paul ends the passage in Romans 8 with these words:
For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one hope for what he also sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait for it (8:24-25)
We are people of hope. We live between Good Friday, what God has begun in Jesus Christ, and Easter Sunday, an image of what we and all creation shall become someday in Jesus Christ. For now we live in a perpetual Holy Saturday, that in-between time. We know Good Friday is not the last word, but we are still awaiting the final punctuation of God’s sentence of salvation. We wait in hope because we know the last thing is always the best thing with God. Easter has already taught us that.
May hope fill your hearts and drive your living,
As American Baptists of New York State, we will embrace God’s future and these core operational values: honesty, connectedness, and hope