Holy Week: Holy Saturday & the Great Vigil of Easter

Read: Matthew 27:62-66

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.
The Resurrection
28 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.

Jewish Leaders Place Guards at the Tomb

Approximately 800 tombs dating to the NT period have been found in and around Jerusalem. Some are quite elaborate, bearing witness to the ingenuity, creativity, and wealth of their owners. A typical tomb of this type was hewn into a natural cliff or rock face exposed by quarrying. The tomb would be fronted by an open courtyard with an adjacent monument of hewn stone erected to preserve the memory of those interred. These monuments could be over 50 feet (15 m) high and highly decorated, with architectural elements borrowed from the Greeks, Nabateans, Romans, and Egyptians.

The tomb itself was entered through a door in a facade sometimes made to resemble the entrance of a temple or palace, complete with pillars, an entablature, and a pediment. Inside, a vestibule led to one or more rooms containing burial chambers. The ceilings of these rooms could be decorated in the style of palaces. The burial berths themselves were typically long, narrow openings hewn into the rock into which the body was laid endwise; otherwise they were horizontal benches crowned by an arch on which the body was laid lengthwise. All tombs of this type had spaces for multiple burials, some for dozens of bodies.

A plug stone sealed the main entrance to the tomb chamber. Usually this stone was square or rectangular; occasionally it was round, shaped like a large, thick disc. After a body had been interred one year (and the flesh had decayed), the bones of the deceased could be placed into a limestone box called an ossuary. Very few tombs include an inscription identifying the inhabitants of the tomb, although individual ossuaries sometimes do.
*Historical Information from the ESV Online Study Bible

A Reflection from Fr. Sean

Holy Saturday is a day of silence and anticipation. We have walked through the betrayal, suffering and death of Our Lord Jesus. We have been united to him in his suffering. Saint Paul writes to the Roman Church, 

"For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God." (Romans 6:6-10)

Now we turn to the resurrection. On Holy Saturday hope has not disappeared, though Jesus has. We spent the day in great participation. Here at the church volunteers from Lakewood Anglican and Gethsemane Lutheran join together in the preparation of the sanctuary. From the starkness of Good Friday will come the lavishness of the Great Feast of Easter. We (as part of all creation) will "welcome" the proper Lord Jesus Christ back as victorious. And in him we are victors too! No matter what suffering we are going through we know that even death itself cannot win now. Jesus has trampled death by death and we who are part of his body are in his care forever!

Join us tonight at 9:00 for the Great Vigil and tomorrow Morning at 11:15 for a joyful celebration of the Resurrection!

Let us Pray
O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

O God, you made this most holy night to shine with the glory of the Lord’s resurrection: Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in sincerity and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.