Easter Sabbath In the Time of Pandemic

We don’t talk much about Easter Sabbath. The Gospels say very little. Easter Sabbath is “the day after” or “the day before.”

Easter Sabbath was a time of waiting. A time of no action. No drama. Nothing much to report so it gets edited out of the story.

But it is a mistake to think that nothing was happening. A great deal was going on, not least in the hearts and minds of the disciples.

They were waiting and wondering how long it would be before they could go outside and show their faces.

They were waiting and frightened, not knowing if the enemy was going to come knocking at their door.

They were waiting and ignorant. They did not know what was going on beyond their place of retreat.

They were waiting and wondering how their scattered fellows and friends were faring.

They were waiting and wondering how many more would be eliminated by the occupying scourge.

They were waiting and confined, just lying low, arguing perhaps and irritable, and hoping the whole thing would just eventually pass over.

They were waiting and wondering “How long?”

They were waiting and weeping over the shock of all that had happened.

They were waiting and disappointed that things had not gone according to plan.

They were waiting and seriously rethinking what their discipleship now meant.

They were waiting and desiring things which could not now happen.

In the face of an enemy no less hostile than the Romans, we also are waiting.

And we are not so different in our reactions from those first disciples.

When the waiting is over, can we go back to normal?

No. The new normal is resurrection. We shall burst with joy!

Michael Pearson is a retired ethicist living in the UK. He and his wife, Helen, lead a Sabbath School class at Newbold where this essay was first presented. It is reprinted here with permission. They also run the website Pearsons’ Perspectives, where this and similar articles can be found.

Photo by Natalia Figueredo on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10344

How well this expresses their waiting and ours. That Sabbath must have seemed endless in their disappointment and yet to have flown by in their dread. Perhaps after this we will have a fuller sense of what a resurrection life looks like. Thank you, Michael, for the insight and tenderness expressed here.


an-Standing Ovation041020

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Well said! Shelly Rambo, in her book Spirit and Trauma, articulates so well a theology for those that must wait in the shadows between death and life.

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This day is called Holy Saturday in the Book of Common Prayer. There is a short service with relevant scripture readings, and this prayer: " O God, creator of heaven and earth: grant that, as the crucified body of your dear son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await him with the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen." And nothing has been the same since.


laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath

It’s interesting how assumptions become traditions and traditions become history.

The Bible says that Jesus lay in the tomb on a high sabbath, (which could fall on any day of the week), but it doesn’t say that this particular day was a weekly sabbath as well. Adventist literature states that it was, but there appears to be no evidence of this…

An even better kept secret is that from Babylonian rule to Constantinian rule Saturday was the first day of the week. To give primacy to Sunday, Constantine dropped a day, just once, so that our Saturday is not in synch with the Sabbath Jesus kept. (I wish that we could face up to some of these problems, but it’s not going to happen.)


Thank you for your comment Harry. I would be interested to learn about the day change - can you or others recommend reading materials?

David Duncan’s The Calendar, chapter 4, reveals the source of the calendar week better than any other source I know. (Amazon, very inexpensive.)

In the OT, there was no such thing as a calendar week. The word translated as week merely referred to any seven consecutive days.

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Thanks for the recommendation. My voyage continues…


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