Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. (John 19:38-42)
I don’t think most people know what to do the day after a funeral.
What, after all, are we supposed to do? We have shaken hands at the funeral home. We have closed the casket. We have stood at the cemetery. We have eaten the sandwiches and drunk the coffee. We have done what it is that we do. And then there we are – with the rest of our lives stretching before us, and it is the first real day of a new everything.
There are, of course, things to keep us busy. We can return the casserole dishes to the people who made us meals. We can drive the family to the airport. We can do paperwork. We can try not to think about what we did the day before. Not to think of bodies and caskets and cemeteries. Of burials and tombs and stones between us and our loved ones. We can try not to focus too much on the long road ahead – a road without the one we love beside us – and what that road will look like for every day to come.
I remember the day after my sister’s funeral. I remember crying every time I saw her picture. I remember not wanting to get out of bed. I remember how badly I wanted to talk to her about her funeral, and debrief all the details she had planned so thoughtfully. I remember the overwhelming heaviness of realizing I would never be able to talk to her again.
I wonder sometimes what it was like for Jesus’ disciples that Saturday, the day after Jesus’ was buried. Did they think about him hanging on the cross, and resting in the tomb? Did they lament the mistakes they made? Did they worry what they were going to do next? Did they feel frightened? Lonely? Scared? Lost?
Saturday is a hard place to be, after Good Friday.
Of course, we know something that the disciples didn’t, us people of Saturday. We already know what happened the Sunday after Good Friday. We know there is more to the story.
On this Easter Saturday, I wait for tomorrow. It is no longer Good Friday, and it is not yet Easter Sunday. The sermon is written. The chocolates are purchased. The church is ready – and I’m waiting. Because it is Saturday.
In many ways we all live in Saturday. We are waiting. We are people of the in between. We have been through the Good Fridays, and we look forward to Easter. But we still have to wait. We have to wait because it is still Saturday.
I recently read something a person wrote some years after the death of a loved one: “The terrible thing was not that [she] died – but that [she] stayed dead.”
To that I said: “Amen.”
That’s a Saturday truth. Saturday is hard. Saturday is exhausting. But, more than anything, Saturday can be long. For some of us, Saturday can last years and years. One of the things that overwhelms me most is to think of the rest of my life without my sister. I know that I will miss her when I wake up tomorrow and I will miss her 30 years from now when I am filing for my old age pension. There may be a long Saturday ahead of me.
But I also think of another favourite quote of mine, by Fredrich Buechner: “The resurrection means that the worst thing is never the last thing.”
And I say “Amen” even louder.
I’d love to go back and whisper to the disciples on that Easter Saturday “Remember what He said! Remember what He promised! Wait until you see what happens tomorrow!”
Maybe, instead, I’ll just keep whispering to myself.