It Is Finished…

Epitaphios, from the Stavronikita Monastery, Mt Athos (16th Century)

This week we have journeyed across the spectrum of human emotion from the joyous song of “Hosanna!” to the command from Jesus to love one another, and ultimately to the crowd crying out “Crucify him!” We find that the emotional progression of Holy Week mirrors the depths of our own hearts; we are confronted with the reality that we too easily and too often vacillate between Hosanna and Crucify him!

The biblical story depicted in the liturgical calendar moves past the murderous crowd and beyond the crucifixion of the Son of God. The next scene in the story takes place on the day after Jesus’ death. The original Holy Saturday.

Holy Saturday invites us into a time of intentional rest. 

This is not the first time creation has waited in rest. After God created all things, He rested on the seventh day, setting it apart as Sabbath. Similarly, in John’s Gospel, we learn that the day after the crucifixion was the seventh day. Sabbath, again. Rest after creation was finished; rest after the crucifixion. The rest of Holy Saturday is different, though; it lacks the joy of the Genesis Sabbath rest. 

It is a painful silence, an aching rest. 

At this point in the biblical account, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus have already taken Jesus’ body, wrapped it in linen, and placed it in the unused tomb. The women have prepared their spices and perfumes for the body but they are waiting to treat the body until after Sabbath when they can work once more. Jesus’ body lies in the tomb and his followers are faced with an existential grief – a longing lament over the loss of their friend, rabbi, and leader. And no answer is provided as a balm for their pain.

On this Holy Saturday, Jesus’ last words echo in our hearts and minds: It is finished. These words should point us, once again, back to the story of creation.

The Passion echoes Genesis and creation because the Passion was God’s plan from before the foundations of the world. In Genesis we find the story of creation, and in the Gospels we encounter the story of new creation. God rested because “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing.” Jesus rests in the tomb after saying, “It is finished” because his work was complete. God’s rest came after his proclamation that it was “very good”; God was glorified in Christ crucified…it was very good.

It is so easy for us to rush from Good Friday to Easter Sunday without pausing for breath or reflection. We should, however, be convicted by the reality that Sabbath being situated between Friday and Sunday represents a hard stop, an intentional rest, a painful silence for the whole of the cosmos. Christ’s work was finished. Full stop. And we are invited to rest in that completion. 

Before we move on to the joyous celebration of Easter Sunday when we ponder anew the Resurrection and new creation, allow yourself to let the fullness of Christ’s complete work on the cross wash over it. 

It is finished…and God saw that it was very good.

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