Reflection: Holy Saturday

Welcome to our series of Lent and Easter reflections.

The Reverend Dr James Hawkey talks about the day of stillness, the reality of Jesus’ death and the significance of it today. This reflection inspired by Matthew 27: 57-66.

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Matthew 27: 57-66

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, ‘Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, 'After three days I will rise again.' Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, 'He has been raised from the dead', and the last deception would be worse than the first.’ Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.’ So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.


Today is a day of stillness. One ancient sermon text for Holy Saturday begins, ‘What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.’

On this day, Jesus lies in the tomb. There is a real death, and a real burial. That is part of the point and we need to sit with the reality for a moment. This is what sin does. But there is a long tradition that on this day, hell was harrowed, destroyed, plundered. God’s love for us and for our salvation goes this far: it goes beyond any boundaries which limit or separate. In fact, in this new creation of Easter, we see that the barriers between God and humanity, life and death, no longer exist. Today, the invisible silent work of Christ’s ministry somehow continues, as the reweaving of life and death takes place. ‘The underworld has trembled’, that sermon text tells us. It has trembled because death, through this death, shall die.


Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of the living God,
who on Holy Saturday lay in the tomb and so hallowed the grave to be a bed of hope for all who put their trust in thee:
grant us such sorrow for our sins, which were the cause of thy passion,
that when our bodies lie in the dust,
our souls may live for ever with thee.
Who livest and reignest,
world without end.