Holy Weekend: Experiencing Resurrection (Part Two)

In Part One, we introduced the Great Triduum (Three Days) and concluded in the darkness of Good Friday:

The Good Friday service ends with increasing darkness, as if we were moving further into the cave of Jesus’s burial. Finally, a final candle is snuffed out. There is no final hymn, no benediction, no soaring anthem. Christ has left the building. Ministers at the exits may take a blunt nail and press into the palms of the congregants, reenacting Christ’s pierced skin in their place. It is finished.

We often don’t pause here. We rush to the Good News. But the great Story doesn’t rush; God is never in a hurry. Especially on Holy Weekend, we must slow down. We have to linger. We must remain, even if only for a moment, in the darkness, before we return to the light.

Holy Saturday

On Saturday of Holy Week, the final of the Great Triduum, there are no gatherings. There is no singing, there are no candles lit, there are no Scriptures read. Christ is in the tomb.

Holy Saturday is a day of nothingness. We must take this day seriously. We can’t rush to the Good News of Sunday without letting the Bad news of Friday linger for a full day on Saturday. Imagine the disciples’ agony: Their friend was gone; the dream was over; cold, brutal reality was left to deal with.

Unfortunately, the experience of this day is all too real to us. We are often “stuck in the mood of ambiguity and powerlessness of Holy Saturday.”[1] Think about it: We know that Jesus has died for our sins, that he was crucified and buried in dramatic reality. And while we know that resurrection of Jesus has happened, we don’t see new life springing forth in eternal beauty.

Have you felt this?

We know Jesus is the Son of God, that he reigns in power, that we are one with him. Yet our day-to-day experience is instead one of powerlessness, pain, and lonely suffering. Life between Friday and Sunday is an “almost” sort of life.[2] Somewhere along the way, the joy, peace, and wonder of life with God has been replaced by skepticism, brokenness, and sheer weariness. 

What do we do with this? I believe we have to embrace these feelings, push deeper into them, and then with equal fervor, press all the way into the pain until Easter Sunday rises in the morning.

Resurrection Sunday

Whereas Christmas has become the most significant Christian holiday in the Western Church, the birth of Jesus means nothing without his death and resurrection. A great life that ends in the grave is no Savior.

Easter Sunday celebrates the majesty of the resurrection: He was dead and buried, but…

But on the third day, he rose in victory over Satan, sin, and death! The resurrection of our Lord is the proof of God’s love for us, the foundation of our faith and life, and the highlight of the Christian year.

In my own life, I feel a familiarity with the darkness of Good Friday and Holy Saturday, but struggle to fully embrace with joy the risen Lord of Easter Sunday. Perhaps in wanting to preserve the “lows” of the Great Triduum, though, we can hesitate to fully leap into the glorious Light of the resurrection.

When he rises, we rise—since we are in him. When he begins a new and eternal life, we begin a new and eternal life. “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you” (Romans 8:11).

The resurrection is the fulfillment of all of God’s promises (see Acts 13) and the fulfillment of our deepest longings. It’s really true: In the end, there is still life, there is still love. Everything sad will come untrue!

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As Christians, we can live in the power and joy and peace of the resurrection. By pressing deeper into the events of Holy Weekend—even the darkness of Good Friday and the silence of Holy Saturday—we discover the power of the resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Jesus raised and ascended, with work to do still on earth, is our joy and hope and calling. Because Jesus lives today, we live. And we live with the same Holy Spirit that filled him, giving us the same sort of life and power for community and ministry. In the resurrection, Jesus invites us into relationship with the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Nothing is ever the same again!

In Jesus’s own words in the upper room: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

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[1] Andrew Purves, The Resurrection of Ministry: Serving in the Hope of the Risen Lord, 11-12.

[2] Purves, 16.