Holy Saturday | Deborah Tepley

Hebrews 4:1-16

In today’s passage we read this wonderful description of the implications of Jesus’s incarnation, death and resurrection: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Last night we departed in silence from our Good Friday service. Jesus has been hung on a cross and laid in a tomb. Together we are re-enacting the great event of history when the Son of God was seemingly defeated by death. Today is Holy Saturday, a day of sober and solemn reflection. But unlike the disciples, who were caught off guard and utterly shocked by Jesus’s death, we know the true end of the story. We know that Jesus in fact came for this very reason: to die for our sins. We know that he will be raised to life and ascend into heaven. We know that Easter is coming! But it is not here yet. And while we know what happens next, we choose not to skip to the end prematurely. We choose to experience Holy Saturday.

We participate liturgically in Holy Saturday because we believe that this part of the story matters. While it would be easy to rush to Easter, Holy Saturday is a chance for us to enter into a fuller appreciation of the hope of Christ’s resurrection. Today we are powerfully reminded that we have a great high priest who can only atone for us and sympathize with us because he took on human flesh and died a real death. We are freely given a mercy and grace that was not cheap or easy – it cost him everything. And we receive comfort today, the fruit of the sufferings of Christ. For while we continue to experience sin, temptation, suffering, failure, disappointment, death, and grief in this life, we know that this is not the true end of our story. There is an empty tomb, and we are waiting for the renewal of all things.

A reminder that the Easter Vigil – an ancient tradition that dates back to the early church – will be held at the Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University at 7:00 pm tonight. Come celebrate the story of God’s saving work in history through music, dance, visual art, and liturgy. Doors open at 6:30 pm. You won’t want to miss it! 

Deborah Tepley is Executive Director at Church of the Advent. An Enneagram 3 with a 7’s fondness for celebration, she is very excited that Easter is almost here!