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Mar 26, 2016

How Did the Apostles Feel on Holy Saturday?

Chris Mueller

There is not much in the way of scriptural account regarding Holy Saturday.


Good Friday, the day of Christ’s execution, is described in detail. In order to enter into the mystery of Christ’s death, try to put yourself in the place of the Apostles or of the women who accompanied Jesus. The Passion of the Lord is terrible, and the death of the Lord is devastating.  There is such a finality about Christ’s placement in the tomb.  As a reader, it is tempting to almost feel a relief that his suffering has come to an end, but anyone who has been witness to tragedy and loss knows that the event itself does not end the pain for those who are left behind. For those who loved Jesus, the tomb would not have ended the horror.  The shockwaves of Christ’s brutal execution would have continued to pummel them. This leads us to Holy Saturday.

Have you ever stopped to ponder what Holy Saturday must have been like for those who loved Jesus?  For modern Catholics it is easy for Holy Saturday to sort of be the in-between day.  But what must it have been like for Peter, James, John, and the rest of the Twelve.  Perhaps you have cried before.  We all have.  Fortunately, only some of us know what it is to cry so much that it becomes impossible to cry any more. I can imagine the Apostles must have spent Holy Saturday in a daze.  The soul can only hurt so deeply before it sets off a circuit breaker of sorts, and the pain becomes a numb ache. Holy Saturday must have been spent in the agony of ache.

Mary, Jesus’ Mother, too must have ached on Holy Saturday.  Mary, ever faithful and trusting in the Lord, would not have doubted that, ultimately, God would fulfill his promise.  That does not mean she would have been free from the pain of loss. She witnessed Jesus’ execution. She stood at the foot of the Cross. Did the the memories of his life flood past her eyes? Did her arms ache with the desire to hold her baby boy once again.

Peter, headstrong and forceful Peter. I can only imagine how his heart raged between anger and despair.  How often on Holy Saturday did he revisit his terrible denial? “How could I have ever said that, ‘I do not know the man!’.”  Did he think back to the sword he’d held in his hand and wonder if perhaps he could have done something more to save Jesus? Did he blame himself?  I do wonder if Peter, in his despair, asked God “Why? Why did you call me off of my boat only to leave me alone? Why send a messiah, only to kill him?”  Did Peter even question if he was Peter or if he had always just been Simon, the mediocre fisherman.

The Apostles did not know the wholes story.  The pain of Holy Saturday must have been almost unbearable.  And yet, despite it, God was not done. Despite how abandoned and forsaken the Twelve must have felt, despite how broken those who loved him must have been, God had not abandoned them. His will had not been defeated.  His plan was bigger than they had thought.

There are no easy answers to pain. There is no simple platitude that will heal the ache of a mother’s heart at the loss of a child. There is no pat on the back that will comfort a spouse who is losing his beloved to cancer.  Hurt and desolation, these things are real.  If you hurt, remember, those who loved the Lord hurt too. You may not be able to see hope. It is very possible they could not either.  But hope was there.

Let Holy Saturday be a comfort to those who suffer.  Let it be a reminder that, though we may feel abandoned or feel that our hearts will never stop hurting, there is always hope. God has not abandoned you. You are not alone. He is near. Though it feels like the darkness will never break, dawn is coming.  He is faithful.

You May Also Like…

The Day God Died: A Reflection on Good Friday and the Crucifixion

Never Forget: A Reflection on Holy Thursday and the Eucharist

Reasons to be Confident about the Historical Jesus


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  • Thank you–I was thinking about that, too! It must have been agony for them. I also wondered, to be honest, why Jesus was so hard on them for sleeping while He underwent His own agony in the Garden, because surely He must have known the sorrow that awaited them at His death. I need to think about this more. Do you have any thoughts or insights about that?

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