“after these things” – a meditation for Holy Saturday

Joseph of Arimathea and NicodemusAs John the evangelist tells it, “After these things” – the arrest, trial, condemnation, crucifixion, and death of Jesus – Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus rendered homage; Joseph providing the tomb and Nicodemus, spices to anoint Jesus’ body for burial.

In Christian tradition, Good Friday focuses on Jesus’ suffering and dying. Easter Day, his resurrection. Holy Saturday, the “in-between day,” his being dead; which (as I remain alive, thus, not yet having the experience of being dead, and when I will be dead, not knowing whether I will be conscious of the experience) leaves me to contemplate the sorrow of the living.

For Joseph and Nicodemus, as far as they knew, the darkness of their grief at the forever-there-after-death of their friend would last as long as they lived. Still, I behold in them the light of something else that would endure. Their love. For their final act of devotion to Jesus truly was the threshold, the beginning of the rest of their lives…

Joseph, in fear, was a secret disciple; following Jesus along the confined and hidden corridors of his heart. In asking Pilate, the Roman governor, for the body of Jesus, Joseph “blew his cover,” exposing himself as a believer. He was a secret disciple until his public profession of devotion to Jesus crucified his secret. No longer could, would he be undercover…

Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a revered observer of God’s Law, “first came to Jesus by night” (John 3); “night,” a metaphor for skeptical curiosity and outright unbelief. In his encounter with Jesus, Nicodemus came to believe; his loyalty shown in his defense of Jesus before his fellow Pharisees (John 7.50) and, at Jesus’ death, in the costly outpouring of a hundredweight of embalming spices.

I believe that Joseph and Nicodemus, somehow, somewhere along the way had made a commitment to follow Jesus; in their sorrow, lovingly dedicating themselves always to revere his memory.

What they could not know was that the first Easter Day, that would transform their sacred sorrow into holy hope and their discipleship of true and loving, though mere blessed memory into the power of their living reality, was soon to dawn.

2 thoughts on ““after these things” – a meditation for Holy Saturday

  1. My favorite part of this blog post (in addition to the characters themselves) is part of the sentence “transform their sacred sorrow into holy hope”. What a powerful phrase!! You know I want to borrow it right?? We all have blessed memories but rarely does living reality result. I’m thrilled for Nicodemus and Joseph that on Easter Day living reality did result. I too believe that they had made a commitment to Jesus and were rewarded. I believe that it’s such a tribute to live for another who is no longer here to revere our loved one’s memory. Sometimes it changes people’s entire behavior as they consider how their loved one would want them to behave in their absence. I look forward to holy hope (or should I say Holy Hope) and to Easter Day! Thanks Paul!


  2. I confess, Loretta, that I, too, like that turn of phrase! And, yes, revering a deceased loved one in blessed memory is one thing; transformation to living reality is another. I believe you’ve captured how that can happen in a world where death is final; that is, the transformation that can occur in one’s life when remembering a loved one calls for reflection that translates into changed behavior. Amen to that!


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