You can always tell if a Christian feast is important, not by how we all agree with what to call it, but by how we disagree. Some feasts are so full of meaning that one name is not enough to describe what happened. or in the case of this day, one name is not enough to describe the complexity of what did not happen.
Today is Holy Saturday. Also known as the Great Sabbath, Great and Holy Saturday, Holy and Great Saturday, Easter Eve and Black Saturday. But it is not all doom and gloom, it is also known as Saturday of the Glory, The Saturday of Light, Joyous Saturday and in Portugal and Brazil, Hallelujah Saturday. Even Easter Saturday as a name for the Saturday in the Easter weekend is OK, although that name used to be reserved for the Saturday after Easter Sunday. I do not use this name not because I believe it is wrong, but to avoid confusion.
What would a world without God look like? For most people in the UK, it would make no change at all, they live their lives without any thought.
But this day is the commemoration of the day God was dead. But in doing nothing God was judging the world.
The creed says that God will come in glory to judge the living and the dead, but the term is apocalyptic, that strange symbolic form of words that describes pictures of things that are now as well as what is yet to come. In interpreting apocalyptic writing we need to look at these word pictures symbolically, whilst leaving the door open that it might be literal. But could Jesus judging the living and the dead at the end of the age be passive?
The harrowing of Hell is one of these symbolic ideas, a way of describing what the Bible says about Christ “descended into the lower parts of the earth” (Ephesians 4:9) and that “good tidings were proclaimed to the dead” (1 Peter 4:6) but told in a story form. This idea is first seen in Old English and Middle English. I mean we can’t have Jesus doing nothing, can’t we?
Steve, a former curate at Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield, once gave a sermon on judgement, explaining that God often judges people by being passive in the Bible. In Genesis 3, after Ave and Adam have eaten fruit from the tree of knowledge, God basically says to the rebellious pair, have it your way. God even helps them by making them suitable clothing. Again, when the Israelites ask Samuel to give them a king, like the other countries, God says two things. That the people have rejected him and that it is OK for Samuel to give them a king. The narrative is clear here, by giving the people a king God is judging them.
The whole passion story is about Jesus being passive. After a whole story where Jesus is actively preaching and actively healing we can see Jesus as some sort of action man, although we have to temporarily forget that being an exile in Egypt hiding from Herod is passive and that the times Jesus goes away to be quiet he is passive to his Father also. Then it suddenly flips, and Jesus becomes passive in his arrest and at trials under the Sanhedrin, Herod (a different Herod) and Pontius Pilate. This passivity includes the resurrection, the Bible does not say, Jesus rose, it says Jesus was raised, or God raised him up.
In our individualistic society, it is hard to accept that Jesus is being strong by being passive and letting people do what they want to him. Individualism hates passivity.
So on Black Saturday, when Jesus is in dead in a tomb, the day God is dead ask yourself, am I being judged by God doing nothing? Could I be helping God’s kingdom by being passive?