Not much is said in Scripture regarding the day after Jesus’ death/the day before His resurrection. Matthew is the only one of the four gospels that tells us something about this day.
"The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.' So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.’ ‘Take a guard,’ Pilate answered. ‘Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.’ So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.” (Matt 27:62-66)
There are many theological speculations concerning what Jesus did on this day...mainly because Scripture does not tell us. Now, you may be asking, what do you mean, "what Jesus did on this day"? Wasn't he dead? Well yes...and no.
If you are a Christian, you must become accustom to paradox. Throughout Scripture, we are told not to fear and to fear the Lord. We are told to be bold and to be humble. And then there's Jesus...another paradox. Jesus was 100% man and 100% Divine. So, the 100% God-man was dead, but the 100% God-Divine was very much still alive. And I do not believe that Jesus, the Divine, just sat in the tomb twiddling his thumbs, waiting for Sunday.
Here is what we do know about this day:
- Jesus, the man, is dead and his body lay in the grave.
- His disciples are hiding out behind locked doors and windows in fear for their lives. This day is the Sabbath, a day of worship. And not just any Sabbath, but the Sabbath of Passover, a "special Sabbath." And yet the disciples are hiding away, full of fear and grief, instead of participating in celebratory worship.
- The women, identified as Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James in Mark 16:1, but most likely others as well, are waiting for Sunday so they can go buy spices and ointments to prepare Jesus' body. In the rush of the events of Friday, they believed Jesus' body was not properly prepared for burial. Once the Sabbath is over, the women could purchase the oils for (delayed) embalming of the corpse.
- Per the Matthew passage above, guards are placed at the tomb to deter Jesus' disciples from stealing his body and claiming he rose from the dead.
One temptation on this day is to jump right to Easter and the resurrection - to celebrate our Risen Savior. But this day before Easter Sunday is critically important to our spiritual growth. It is a day of waiting. As Christians, we need to better learn how to wait. Although it may seem like God is silent, he is actively at work behind the scenes. Don't you think Jesus could have raised from the dead on Saturday? Or within a couple hours after his crucifixion? Yes, of course he could have. But he waited...and he made his disciples wait...and sometimes, he makes us wait. Oftentimes, the waiting period is a time to see if we truly trust in God and his Sovereignty. This day is a also a day of grieving. Early Christians, and some still today, call this day the "Paschal Vigil." It is a day to mourn the loss of a loved one and to keep vigil at their graveside. We must allow ourselves to grieve the death of Jesus, but to do so with hope and anticipation of what is to come. Do not pass this day by.
Jesus has been crucified. His body lay in a tomb. The Lamb has been slain. Hope seems to be lost. But we remember something Jesus said about raising from the dead in three days...?...
And so we wait...
Art: Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb, Vicente Manansala