On the Other Side of Saturday: A Holy Week Meditation

“… Nevertheless (and that is a good resurrection word), the strong love of God always has the final word. Nothing can hold it back from working out its purposes. Not only does the Holy One experience our suffering as though it were his own, he is also relentlessly seeking to bring light and life where there seems to be only darkness and death. When this happens for us, even in a small way, we experience a “little Easter.”… Just about any time we are surprised with new possibilities for life and healing in the midst of brokenness and decay, there is a “little Easter” that gives us a glimpse of the resurrection power of God’s love made manifest in the crucified and risen Jesus.” 

This year during Holy Week, we wanted to share these words from South African pastor Trevor Hudson. A few Rooted writers will share some “little Easters” of their own. We hope these “glimpses of the resurrection power of God’s love” will enlighten the eyes of your faith as you look toward the Cross and to the empty tomb.

Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed.

I’m a youth minister experiencing burnout during the pandemic.

Barna has reported that since the start of COVID-19, as many 38% of pastors are experiencing spiritual exhaustion to the point of questioning their ministry calling—and younger ministry leaders appear to be the most affected. Still, knowing Im not alone doesnt make this weary and frayed-at-the-edges season any less painful. To the contrary, acknowledging my desperate need for a break has felt like defeat, a death of sorts.

When I asked my church for a sabbatical this winter, our leadership graciously said yes. The time away has been a gift, but it has also come with many feelings of failure. I miss my students and their families. I miss our church family. I can’t help but feeling at times that I’ve let people down, left things unfinished.

Whether you’re a youth minister or a parent, I’m guessing you’ve experienced these feelings, too. Maybe they’ve come as you took time away for a vacation, or because you too are feeling burned out with nothing left to give.

Perhaps like me you have tended to measure your worth by what you can accomplish in a day, a month, a year. Even as I preach the gospel of rest and acceptance to myself, those ugly performance idols keep rearing up, beckoning me to worship achievement above Jesus. Stopping to acknowledge that I am not okay right now is one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done.

For the first time in a dozen years, there are no Easter lessons or homilies to prepare, no hectic lead-up to Holy Week. Instead, Ive been quietly contemplating the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, that liminal space between death and resurrection life.

What were the disciples thinking on that Sabbath day as they mourned what looked like the end of Jesus’ ministry? Despite their rabbi’s teaching that he would die and rise again (Matt. 16:21, Mark 8:31, Lk. 9:22), a Saturday that found Jesus in the grave must have felt like failure.

Jesus, we know, bowed to no idols of performance or people-pleasing, but only to his Fathers will. Still I wonder—did he grieve over this pause in his ministry as he set his face toward Jerusalem? As his heart ached over his pending separation from God the Father, did it hurt over his friends’ experience of defeat, too?

Imagining our Savior mourning the earthly ministry he loved has helped me to take heart. Because at the other side of Saturday’s excruciating pause was the hope and renewal of the Resurrection. Not only would Jesus see and teach his disciples again, but he has been exalted to the Father’s right hand to lead all his followers for eternity. What looked like the failure of his earthly mission was a Sabbath giving way to the fullness of God’s larger story.

And so it is for those of us who are in Christ. In the cruciform life, what looks like failure isn’t always. What feels like death is often the beginnings of new life. And what we experience so very much like shame is turned to glory at the foot of the cross, where Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried in our place. There he reversed the shame of sin and triumphed over our enemies (Col. 2:14-15).

This is what Jesus taught the disciples when he told them about his death, saying “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:24-25).

So if you are burned out or taking a break, feeling fatigued or like a failure, remember the tomb of Saturday—that pause between death and life. You are not alone. Our Lord Jesus has experienced what looked like ministry defeat, too, and yet he has triumphed in life!

Union with Christ means that our own small deaths also give way to resurrection with him. Our great God sees you in your need for deep rest and renewal, and he has promised it in himself.

On Saturday, Easter Sunday is coming.

Please see also our featured podcast: “Little Easters” with Robert Row.

Chelsea is Editor of Youth Ministry Content and the Director of Publishing for Rooted. She previously served as a youth pastor in New England churches for 13 years and participates on the advisory council at the La Vida Center for Outdoor Education and Leadership at Gordon College. Chelsea and her husband, Steve, live north of Boston and are parents to Wells and Emmett. She holds an M.Div from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where she is currently pursuing a Master of Theology (Th.M.) in Old Testament Studies. Chelsea is passionate about teaching teenagers biblical theology and helping them learn to study Scripture for themselves.

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