This is Holy Saturday. Jesus is dead.
We spend so much time talking about how Christ ‘died and rose again’ that we fail to meditate on his death. He died. His heart stopped beating, his brain flat-lined and his body started to decay.
And if we do engage with his death, we run the risk of engaging with his death grotesquely or forensically, like the disturbing mania a few years ago over the disgusting gore-fest that was Mel Gibson's ‘Passion of the Christ’.
But for the most part, Christ’s death remains for most Christians a theological footnote, an unpleasant necessity that assuages God’s justice and allows them to go to heaven.
But Holy Saturday is when we come face to face with a dead Jesus. On that day, Christians worship a corpse. There is no Sunday. Dead bodies don’t come back to life.
To speak of Easter Sunday on Holy Saturday is to not comprehend what happened on Good Friday. It is to understand Christ's death only on a philosophical or theological level. However, we must experience Christ's death from the place of the disciples who watched it happen. They did not go home that night saying, 'O well, no matter. He promised to rise.' No, they went away dead men, the most dead men ever, for they had lived with Christ for three years and experienced the Kingdom of God in a way no one ever had. And now it was over… Killed.
The Empire won. Corruption won. It was all a lie. There was no hope; and no hope of hope ever again.
We will never be able to feel as they felt. But we can take this day to meditate what it means to live without hope, to think about those who, in our world, are living with no hope:
the sex slave in a back room of an unmarked building in a back alley of a city whose name they don't know;
the refugee from an African war now living in a camp a thousand miles away from the spot where she was raped as her husband was shot in front of her and was raped by soldiers yesterday and wonders if they’ll be back today;
The detainee in Guantanamo Bay, denied any semblance of universally-recognised judicial rights, who even if found to be wrongfully detained, will never be released;
The woman in an abusive relationship ignored or called a liar because her husband holds a position of power and influence in their church;
the child handcuffed to a sewing machine who will be beaten if they don't meet their quota of designer handbags;
the family coping with disability whose vital lifelines are being cut by austerity packages;
the family of a young child killed by a drone strike which the US government will neither confirm or deny launching;
The Palestinian Christian farmer watching Israeli bulldozers tear up his olive trees to make way for a new Israeli settlement, funded in part by his Christian brothers and sisters in the US;
These are the ‘Holy Saturday people’, the worthless and the hopeless that live in a world where God is dead and will not come back to life.
There is no Easter Sunday without Holy Saturday. It is through the blackness of Holy Saturday that we must see the joy of the women at the tomb, the joy and courage of the disciples.
Easter is about life in the fullest sense. Not theological life or philosophical life, but the life of a man who was dead and then not dead anymore.
The ‘Holy Saturday people’ of this world are looking for ‘Easter people’. The essence of Christianity is not in doctrine or confessions, important as they are. The first Christians, the first ‘Easter people’, had a simple message: ‘Jesus was dead. Now he is alive. We’ve seen him.’
This is what we have to offer the ‘Holy Saturday people’. Nothing is impossible anymore. No system is so evil, so oppressive, so entrenched that we cannot overthrow it. If Jesus is not dead then nothing is impossible. We await no revolution; Easter was the revolution.
But that’s all for another day.
Today is Holy Saturday. Jesus is dead.
Today is Holy Saturday. Jesus is dead.