The Bible has God-designed gaps in it. These literary holes are designed to trip us up so that we pause, look, ponder. Something is missing. Something we expected to be there. What is it? And what does its absence imply?
One such gap is in the creation story: there seems to be a missing verse.
As we read through Genesis 1, six times we encounter the phrase, “and there was evening and there was morning, the ______ day.” That blank is filled in with “first…second…third” and so forth, all the way to verse 31, where we get to “the sixth day.”
The unwritten verse is this: “And there was evening and there was morning, the seventh day.” Given the six previous occurrences of this phrase, we naturally expect it to recur on the final day of creation. But it does not. It’s left unwritten. Why? And what does this imply?
It suggests that this first Sabbath day is awaiting its true completion. The seventh day, the day God rested from all his work of creation, has a gap that needs to be filled.
When and how would this happen? Welcome to Holy Saturday.
Jesus was arrested on Thursday evening and crucified on Friday. After Christ’s death, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body (Luke 23:52). “Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning” (23:53-54).
The Galilean women who were disciples of Jesus, “saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment” (Luke 23:55-56).
On the Sabbath, they rested. They, the women. But not these women alone. Jesus, too, rested on the Sabbath, according to the commandment. He rested in the tomb.
Jesus filled the gap in the creation account.
On the first Friday of creation, the sixth day, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). Then the Lord rested the following day, the seventh day.
On the Good Friday of re-creation, the Friday we dare to call “Good,” Jesus as God saw everything that he had done—he saw his miracles; he saw all his teaching; he saw his fidelity; he saw how he had “borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isa. 53:4)—and, behold, it was very good. So he cried out, “Tetelestai,” “It is finished,” and breathed his last.
Our dead God, our slain Creator, who for the joy before him had endured the cross and labored in love for our peace, entered his Sabbath rest, swaddled in mortality.
In so doing, Jesus filled the gap in the creation account. Now he could pull out the scroll of Genesis and write, “And there was evening and there was morning, the seventh day.” The first Sabbath, which for ages had awaited its true completion, was finally and fully finished on Holy Saturday. The Son of God, having recreated the world and ushered in a new humanity, took his rest.
Laughing at Death
Do not sprint past Holy Saturday in your endeavor to rush through Easter’s door.
Stop. Wait. Reflect.
For twenty-four hours, every year, we let seep into our minds and hearts the shocking fact of the death and burial of God. He plunged so deeply into our human condition, embraced so wholly our mortal flesh and blood, that our Lord was crushed and crucified and coffined.
A man named Joseph was there when he was born, a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes. And another man named Joseph was there when he was dead, an adult wrapped in a linen cloth.
He went above and beyond for us. Conceived and born. Hungered and thirsted. Tempted and tried. And, as if all that were not enough, he was even dead and buried. He was “all in” for humanity. Not even the cemetery was off-limits for the Savior who came to get us back to his Father.
Jesus can rest in that tomb with a victorious grin on his lifeless face. He knows that his job of atonement is over. Not the slightest sin of the tiniest transgression of the most minuscule iniquity remains in need of sacrificial blood. He has done his job very well. No sin of any person, of any time, survived the cross. It was all there, on him, and him alone.
Apart from the cross, outside that man, sin did not exist. He became sin. And in him, sin became forgiven.
Now the Creator punches his mortal timeclock.
A new creation winks and yawns and stretches on the horizon.
The kingdom has been established, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
Tomorrow Jesus will laugh his way out of the tomb, spit in the face of death, and kick the devil in the throat as he dances to the clapping glee of angelic masses. But today he just rests. It is the final Sabbath of God.
Jesus has dehorned, defanged, and debarked the grave.
Therefore, when we ourselves are buried, or we bury our loved ones, we escort them into a Sabbath rest. They sleep the sleep of death. For this reason, we call our Christian burial sites “cemeteries,” which comes from the Greek word koimeteria. This does not mean “place of the dead” or “graveyard” but cemetery or koimeteria means “sleeping place.”
We bury our dead with the belief that God is not finished with them. We put their bodies in a place where they can rest and await the alarm clock of the trumpet blast on the day of resurrection.
For those in Jesus Christ, the grave is the portal to paradise with Jesus, and the bed for our bodies, as we await resurrection. Jesus has dehorned, defanged, and debarked the grave. It cannot hurt, bite, or even bark at us.
Like a menial servant, all the grave can do is bow at our feet and do our bidding.
All because of Jesus. All because of Holy Saturday. For on this day, Christ filled the gap in the creation story and has filled us with a hope that stretches from now until forever and ever, Amen.