On Shabbat, parts of Jerusalem seem to stand still. For religious Jews, taking a day to rest is the essence of obedience. (William Haun photo)
Then came Saturday.
There had been a furious rush to put the body of Jesus in a tomb late on Friday afternoon. The gospel writers repeatedly stress that it was the “Day of Preparation,” and anyone who’s ever been around an Orthodox Jewish community understands the meaning.
Families that are serious about taking 24 hours off have a lot of work to do if it’s going to happen.
You want hot coffee on Saturday morning? Prepare it Friday and keep it warm all night.
You want to read by lamp light at some point during the day? You’ll need to turn the light on – and leave it on – or figure out how to have a Kosher timer do the job for you. Flipping a light switch is “work,” and thereby not allowed.
You want to spend Shabbat with family or at a resort? Get there before the sun goes down, and have everything ready for 24 hours of rest. That’s going to take some forethought. That’s going to take some work!
What about food? You want breakfast or lunch on Saturday? Can’t prepare it then. That’s why you’ll prepare it on Friday, the day of preparation.
It’s been like that for centuries. It was that way the weekend Jesus was crucified.
Jesus and the disciples, along with the rest of the nation, celebrated Passover on Thursday night. Actually, once the sun set, the Jewish world called that evening “Friday.” Jesus was arrested that night, hurriedly tried in a sham court and sentenced to death before most of the community was even awake.
Because of the approaching sunset and arrival of Shabbat, Pilate allowed that the three men on crosses would have their legs broken. In the most twisted of reasoning, this would hasten their deaths and thereby preserve the sanctity of the Sabbath. Jesus, however, was already dead. A spear in the side confirmed it. Nicodemus and Joseph hurriedly prepared the body for burial and laid Jesus in Joseph’s tomb, still under construction at the time.
The stone was rolled in front of the entrance, darkness overcame the city, and Jerusalem rested.
You know some of the people who refused to travel or perform any forbidden task that Saturday.
Simon Peter was one. Andrew another. James and John and every other disciple except Judas, who was dead.
Mary Magdalene observed the Sabbath. Mary the mother of Jesus, likewise.
Even Jesus was perfectly still.