The Unexpected Victory of Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday used to be one of the saddest days of Holy Week for me. After all, from an earthly perspective there wasn’t a lot going on. Jesus was dead and his mutilated corpse was taken off the electric chair and put in the graveyard. Peter denied Jesus and returned to being a fisherman, but couldn’t even catch anything anymore. Despite all the impossible miracles he had seen, Thomas refused to believe in the rumors of resurrection. Judas was so overwhelmed with what he had done that he committed suicide. Some of the disciples were caught walking and talking about how they were surprised that Jesus was not the Messiah. The disciples were scattered and hid behind locked doors (well, the male disciples anyways, since the female disciples courageously stayed right out in the open and saw Jesus first).

From an earthly perspective, the miracle man and his movement were over and done with. The grave had the final word, just like it always did. This “supposed” Messiah couldn’t conquer Death, just like every other human.

Though ironically, Jesus happened to be doing away with Death that very moment. Sure, from the perspective of the realm of earth it seemed like nothing was going on, but from the perspective of the realm of the dead, there had literally never been more going on. The fuller picture of the Bible tells us that once Jesus descended into the realm of the dead, he went around proclaiming his victory—which was very bad news to some of the fallen angels who had been locked up in chains for some rather heinous sins. Then he took the keys of death from Satan who had gotten them long ago, which ensured that resurrection life would now be possible. And after three days of going about what business he had in the underworld, he did the impossible and walked out the front door. The cross had been a Trojan Horse all along—a bait and switch—and the principalities and powers of darkness had fallen for it. After all, Death can’t legally kill a sinless man, since the curse of death is a punishment for sin.

Just because it doesn’t look to you like God is doing anything, doesn’t mean he’s not. Indeed, he may be busier than ever, even though it may somehow look to you like he’s gone on an extended vacation. So take joy in this day, because in Jesus, even death itself gets somehow framed as victory. And if we follow Jesus, though we die, we die different—for he knows how to unlock the door for us just as he did for himself.

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