Today is Holy Saturday, the least remembered day of the great Triduum, the "Three Days" which are the heart of Christian faith.
Yesterday was Good Friday, the day Jesus died. Children in my congregation often ask why we call it "good" and I say, "because it is good for us that Jesus died." He voluntary took on death for us and for the whole creation in order to triumph over death.
If you believe, as historic Christianity affirms, that Christ was fully divine and fully human, then the One who sacrifices his life, is one with God and one with us.
So this great act of love is what unites us with God. It removes the division created by our willful distancing from our Creator; and it removes the hatred that keeps us from being the people we were created to be. This active turning away from God is what the church calls sin.
Jesus Christ, being God in the flesh, did not distance himself from his true Self; instead he showed us what God created us to be. But in our rebellion against the goodness of God, we killed God when we saw God face-to-face.
That first Saturday must have been nightmarish for those who had followed Jesus in hope during the three years of his ministry. Much as he had revealed what was going to happen, they were unable to accept it.
This is not too unlike those who have a friend or relative dying with terminal cancer, but still find the finality of the death shocking. I suppose what was most shocking to the disciples was that they had already witnessed the miraculous power of their Lord Jesus. He had healed people, raised them from death, and stilled storms. They understood him to be the Messiah who would conquer with power, not relinquish power.
Jesus demonstrated the real power of love by giving up his life, instead of preserving it. This is what the Church calls the "foolishness of the cross, which is wiser than human wisdom" (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).
Holy Saturday is the day we remember that Christ "descended into hell." If you are familiar with the Apostles' Creed, a statement of faith written in the second to eighth centuries, you will recognized that phrase. Jesus willingly accepted bodily death, in order to redeem all who are the most distant from God, and to end the separation that death causes between God and humanity.
The ancient church did a better job than we do of remembering the solemnity of this day. From 3 p.m. on Good Friday, the hour of Christ's death, to sunrise on Easter morning, we too could be more quiet, more prayerful, more reverent toward what happened on that day.
Perhaps if we spent more time reflecting on this supreme act of love on Friday and Saturday, then we would resound with a more joyful Easter morning, surprised in amazement with the women who came to the tomb to hear that Christ is risen!
Only when we face the torment of death on Good Friday and the anguish of loneliness on Holy Saturday, do we realize how blessed we are that death no longer has the final word. There is life after death because of Christ. We can now laugh with the Apostle Paul and mock death, "Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting? Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:55,57).
The Rev. Elizabeth M. Deibert, is pastor of Peace Presbyterian Church, 10902 Technology Terrace, Lakewood Ranch. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 941-753-7778.