“Christ suffered here on earth. Now you must be ready to suffer as he did, because suffering shows that you have stopped sinning. It means you have turned from your own desires and want to obey God for the rest of your life. You have already lived long enough like people who don’t know God. You were immoral and followed your evil desires. You went around drinking and partying and carrying on. In fact, you even worshiped disgusting idols. Now your former friends wonder why you have stopped running around with them, and they curse you for it. But they will have to answer to God, who judges the living and the dead. The good news has even been preached to the dead, so that after they have been judged for what they have done in this life, their spirits will live with God. Everything will soon come to an end. So be serious and be sensible enough to pray. Most important of all, you must sincerely love each other, because love wipes away many sins.” (1 Peter 4:1-8, Contemporary English Version)
I haven’t been Christian my entire life. I can relate to Peter’s exhortation. I know what it feels like to carry on without any thought to God, Jesus, or anything other than myself. The thing about partying and immorality is that it’s a life filled with constant movement. Slowing down only makes you come face-to-face with what is truly inside your soul. And if you have an empty vacuous soul, or a damaged spirit, or a broken heart, then drinking or working away your inner pain makes sense when you have no regard for God. The last thing I ever wanted to do was suffer, yet in my pre-Christian state it seemed I could never outrun the hurt no matter how hard I tried, even with all the constant locomotion.
It is Holy Saturday – the quiet place sandwiched between the ignominy of the cross and the celebration of resurrection – the day of solitude, silence, and stillness. Today isn’t a particularly popular day. People don’t rave about Holy Saturday, in fact, many Christians haven’t had a thought that this day could have any significance. Yet, this very day has its place in the scheme of the Christian life.
There cannot be resurrection and new life without a death and dying to self. There must be suffering before there can be glory. Whenever Christians quickly jump to triumphal language about victory and speak little to nothing about suffering, then we are left with nothing but cheap grace which has been purchased with the counterfeit currency of velocity.
Today is a day to get our heads and our hearts wrapped around the important reality that our Lord Jesus Christ was in the grave. It was real suffering on Good Friday, and today it is a real death. There is no movement. All is silent and still. Jesus is in the solitude of a dark tomb. There is no getting around it. If we want a Resurrection Day with all its celebration and glory, then we cannot circumvent Holy Saturday.
To put it in the Apostle Peter’s words: Are you ready to follow Jesus and suffer as he did? Are you willing to stop your ridiculous striving, manifested through your crazy calendar of constant movement and embrace the Holy Saturday of solitude, silence, stillness with its contemplation and embrace of suffering? Will you have sense enough to pray? Will you practice a Christian counter-cultural shift and face the ridicule of your friends so that you can take some much-needed time to be with your Lord Jesus in the tomb? Or, are you so antsy and anxious that you just want to leap into Easter with no solidarity with your Lord in the grave?
Perhaps you think I’m being a bit too hard or harsh or cold…. It’s because Jesus is cold. He has a bonified cold dead body. It’s no fake death. There’s no “swoon theory” here, as if Christ only passed-out and did a weird divine fainting spell. Nope. He’s dead. And if you and I want to live with Jesus, we must die with Jesus.
Anyone who tries to promise you a new life apart from journeying with Jesus into the grave is a spiritual charlatan. Only through death can there be life.
Today, on this Holy Saturday, purposely slow down, do less, give yourself a large chunk of unstructured time, and put a lot of space between things you must do on this day. Fill the time with unfettered access to God in Christ. Slowly read the Gospel accounts of Christ’s death and burial. Read the book of 1 Peter. Allow prayers to arise from the careful and thoughtful reading of Scripture. Feel the solidarity with Jesus, journey with him along the way from life to death… so that there might be a truly glorious resurrection filled with abundant life and flourishing – a life that doesn’t need constant partying, working, and schedule-filling to feel significant and happy.
May you die well so that you might live well.