Saturday, April 7, 2012

That Saturday

This is an odd day in the Christian calendar.  Tomorrow is obviously the big day.  The past two days, Manudy Thursday and Good Friday, have very clear places in the Christian narrative, even if large swaths of American Christendom choose to blow them off.  The previous Sunday, Palm Sunday, can even be claimed to initiate a whole week that can, depending on how one reads or manipulates the Gospels, be assigned particular places in the progress from palms and hosannas to crucifixion and then resurrection.

But Saturday?  It sits there, quietly, resisting all attempts at narrative.  Presumably Seventh-Day Adventists are celebrating Easter today.  I would guess that some megachurches have been celebrating Easter since Friday night, and are probably throwing at least two Easter "Sunday" services today.  On the flip side, some churches in the liturgical tradition will observe an Easter vigil starting sometime late this evening, possibly well into the night, marking the overnight/early morning act of resurrection as well as the sleepy human body can manage.

All of the above being true, the point still holds that this particular day itself is a bit of a void.  What does one do?  Keep Good Friday's attitude of sober remembrance, or jump ahead to Easter's celebration?

It could be worse, though.  Imagine if you can what it must have been to be a Christ-follower on that Saturday.

(We presume based on Acts that the word "Christian" did not yet exist, so let's try to avoid that.)

We might actually guess, counter-intuitively, that those who were the serious Christ-followers may actually have not given up much.  The fishermen in the bunch gave up their business, Matthew probably couldn't go back to his tax-collector gig.  Most of the other disciples proper, well, we don't know what they were doing before the hit the road with Jesus.  It's entirely possible that one of the reasons it was appealing to follow this traveling rabbi was that there wasn't really much to keep them where they were.

It might just be that the ones who gave up the most to follow Jesus were the group of women identified at various times as being supporters or part of the group or somehow attached.  It could have been bad for a woman's reputation, so to speak.  Maybe even shameful.

Of course, that day it could have been regarded as shameful for any of the followers.  With your leader hanging on that cross for all Jerusalem to see, it was hard to escape the ultimate and awful end of your teacher, your hopes, your aspirations.  Everything you had believed about this Jesus, every one of his amazing deeds, his mind-blowing teaching, all of that...the Romans had stomped on it all most ruthlessly.  What did you have left?

It was a Sabbath, but how could you observe the Sabbath?  How could you show your face at all, to anyone?

Since the Gospels don't seem to suggest that the disciples were remembering all those things Jesus had said about rising again in three days, we can only guess that this despairing, hopeless, possibly shamed and humiliated mindset is where Jesus's followers were on that day.  Whether hiding in an upper room, or off wherever Thomas decided to wander off to, or doing who knows what, I don't know if we modern Christ-followers can possibly comprehend the depths to which the hearts and minds of these first followers had sunk in the hours since the crucifixion.  And so far as they knew, they would go to sleep, and they would wake up, and (if the authorities hadn't showed up to haul them off to prison or worse) would live through the exact same kind of day.  Some of the women apparently planned to go take care of the body, but what else?  What could one do tomorrow that was any different?

So we can only guess that these followers went to sleep that day, so to speak, expecting the day after the Sabbath to be just like this awful, dark, hopeless Sabbath.

It wasn't, thank God.

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