A devotion for the Saturday of Holy Week
The Day of Preparation
by Rev. Richard Leaver
Director of Mission and Pastoral Care, United Methodist Communities at Collingswood
It was the day of Preparation of the Passover (Sabbath); it was about noon. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
Holy Week began with Jesus’ triumphal entry on Palm Sunday. The parade-like atmosphere became a pseudo enthronement of Jesus when disciples laid down cloaks and palm branches on the road before Jesus as they processed to the temple. He was being celebrated as the coming king, bringing peace and glory (Lk. 19:38b) to the Holy City, Jerusalem.
A few days later the Last Supper took place which was the Passover Seder. Here Jesus washed his disciples’ feet in a demonstration of one who came to serve rather than to be served, setting them an example of true servanthood. He also used this opportunity to inaugurate the Sacrament of Holy Communion in remembrance of him.
Later that evening he was betrayed and arrested, tried by a Sanhedrin kangaroo court, and turned over to Pilot. Pilot had Jesus whipped, and the soldiers mocked him. The crowd called for his crucifixion even though Pilot found no fault in him. Fearing a riot, Pilot gave in to them, and so Jesus was murdered on a cross on the day called Good Friday.
Soon he would arise on Easter Sunday, the most holy day of the Christian year. It is a grand celebration of the resurrection, and the reason we exist as the Church. His death and resurrection validated everything he said and did, and it assures us of eternal life.
But then comes Saturday. Saturday seems so anticlimactic. Nothing happened so Saturday is called Low Saturday. Some Christians recognize it as Holy Saturday, the seventh day of Holy Week. In a sense this is the day on which Jesus “rested” from his work of ushering in salvation. As he died, Christ called out, “It is finished!” the atonement had been acheived.
In the text above, John refers to Saturday as the “day of Preparation.” This was the day before the Sabbath. It was spent in “preparation” for this special Sabbath—the Sabbath of the Passover week. The Jews were scrupulous about allowing no work such shopping or preparing meals. All that had to be done the day before. So the Jew prepared for Sabbath on Saturday. Recall the Jewish day runs from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am. So we see why it was necessary for Jesus’ two friends had to finish the burial the sun went down (John 19: 38-42).
Consequently as God rested on the day God finished the work of creation week, so Christ rested on the day after he finished his work of redemption for the world. In a spiritual sense, Christ had recreated the world.
A questioned is begged then: “For what do you prepare on Low Saturday?” Are you prepared to receive the risen Christ into your life? Are you prepared to take up your cross and follow him? Are you prepared to serve him by humbly serving the world in some way in his name? If you are a pastor, are you prepared to go to the cross for your people and the Gospel?
You have one day to reflect on all the events of Holy Week and what it means for you and what you mean to God. Low Saturday may be the most important day of your life.