1 Peter 4:1-8 – Holy Saturday

Empty Tomb

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. (CEV)

I haven’t been a confessing Christian my entire life.  I can relate to Peter’s exhortation.  I still remember what it feels like to live my life without any thought to God or spiritual matters.  The thing about partying and immorality is that it’s a life filled with constant movement.  Slowing down only makes one come face-to-face with what is truly inside the soul.  And if someone has an empty vacuous soul, or a damaged spirit, or a broken heart, then attempting to drink or work away the inner pain makes sense when there’s no regard for God.  The last thing I ever wanted to do was suffer, yet before my own spiritual awakening it seemed I could never outrun the hurt no matter how hard I tried, even with all the constant locomotion.

Today is Holy Saturday – a quiet place sandwiched between the ignominy of the cross and the celebration of resurrection – a day of solitude, silence, and stillness.  This is something of a lost day for many folks.  In fact, many Christians haven’t had a thought that Holy Saturday 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 a cheap grace which has been purchased with the counterfeit currency of velocity.

Today is meant for us to get out of our heads and wrap our hearts around the important reality that Jesus Christ was in the grave.  It was real suffering on Good Friday, and it is a real death on Holy Saturday.  There is no movement.  All is silent and still.  Jesus is in the solitude of a dark tomb.  There’s no getting around it.  If we want a Resurrection Day with all its celebration and glory, then we cannot circumvent Holy Saturday.

To put this in the spirit of the Apostle Peter: Are we ready to follow Jesus and suffer as he did?  Are we willing to stop our striving, manifested through constant movement, and embrace the Holy Saturday of solitude, silence, stillness with its contemplation and embrace of suffering?  Will you and I have sense enough to pray?  Will we practice a Christian counter-cultural shift and face the ridicule of friends so that we might take some much-needed time to be with Jesus in the tomb?  Or, are we so antsy and anxious that we just want to leap into Easter with no solidarity with our Lord in the grave?

You may think I’m being a bit too hard or harsh or cold…. That’s because Jesus is cold.  He has a bona fide 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 a new life apart from journeying with Jesus into the grave is a spiritual charlatan.  Only through death can there be life.

On this Holy Saturday, let’s intentionally slow down, do less, give ourselves a large chunk of unstructured time, and put aside routine matters.  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 mindful 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 hedonism and workaholism to feel happy and significant.

May you die well so that you might live well.

Precious Lord Jesus, today all is silent.  You died a horrific death and gave incredible mercy from your wounded heart.  Now you rest in the tomb as the soldiers keep vigil.  I also keep vigil, although in a very different way.  I know this day doesn’t last forever; there is tremendous glory coming.  Yet, for now I sit quietly mourning your death.  Assist me, God Almighty, to enter the sorrow and the silence of this Holy Saturday.  Today, help me to wait patiently and to sit with this constellation of emotions swirling around my heart.  As I keep this sacred vigil, fill me with hope – not only looking forward to the celebration of your Resurrection – yet also to anticipate the hope of my own share in the new life you offer, as you lay lifeless and still.  May your rest transform the brokenness of my own soul, my weaknesses, and my sin.  I express my trust, O my Father God, in your mighty power to do all things through Jesus Christ, my Lord, your beloved Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

And all is silent….

Holy Saturday

tomb of jesus

“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.

1 Peter 4:1-8

            Today is Holy Saturday.  As we journey with Jesus, we contemplate his being put to death and lying in the grave.  If there is one thing that I continually emphasize as a pastor is that Christianity is not only a set of beliefs to hold onto, but a powerful way of life to lean into.  The Christian’s life ought to be deeply influenced by the crucifixion of Christ, more than just believing it is an historic event.  The cross means that we now have the ability and responsibility to put to death everything that is counter to God’s will.
 
            The Apostle Peter made this connection explicit in his epistle to a hurting and suffering church.  “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.”  Peter moved effortlessly from Christ’s cross to our way of life.  And the height of that particular Christian way of living is through love: “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”
 
            The season of Lent and Holy Week will have accomplished its intended purpose if it results in the individual sinner putting to death his/her unloving and selfish passions and turning to the cross with its ultimate expression of love and godly commitment. 
 
            Bypassing the putting to death part of Christianity and anticipating the resurrection of Easter will only short-circuit the spiritual power that is available.  We cannot effectively live into the new life of Easter without first dying to ourselves and tapping into the power of the cross.  So, use this holy time before Sunday identifying the ways that are contrary to the Jesus life, and allow the proper time to lament of it so as to properly lean into the new way of unconditional love.
            Holy God, sometimes I care much more about the things of the flesh and of the world than I do the incredible spiritual realities that exist right in front of my face.  I grieve those things I have done, and the things I have left undone.  Yet, your mercy is eternal.  Allow the cross of Christ to infiltrate my soul so that I am ready to receive the new life of love you desire.  Amen.