‘He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.’ (Isaiah 53:8b-12)
Easter Saturday is a bleak day, raising many questions and providing few answers.
Jesus’ death and burial was a crushing defeat. The one who had proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom of God, now lay in a tomb; his beautiful feet pierced by nails (cf. Isaiah 52:7).
Yet Isaiah says something peculiar about this Messiah’s death: that he would share a grave with the wicked and the rich (v9).
Normally an ordinary citizen would be unable to afford a proper burial. They would be buried in the ground; only the wealthy could afford tombs. Yet through the generosity of Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus – executed as a shameful criminal – was given the honourable burial of a wealthy man (John 19:38-42).
In so doing, Jesus’ death unites all sectors of society and demonstrates something of the all-inclusive plan of God.
Yet, what good could this gesture do? After all, God still lies in the grave…
But Isaiah reminds us that Good Friday and Easter Saturday were as much the will of God as Easter Sunday. And rather than God’s will being defeated in the grave, it will prosper in his pierced hand (v10).
Against all odds, he will see offspring (v10). This childless wandering preacher will give life to children after him. And not just one or two, but ‘many’ (v11) people will find life through him.
Though his name became a thing of mockery and scorn, he will be given a portion among the great (v12); a name above all names.
Despite dwelling in the darkness of death, he will see the light of life (v11).
And so in the despair of Easter Saturday, there is a small glimmer of hope. Despite appearances, God’s plan is still on track.
Saturday looks bleak. But Sunday is coming…
Questions for Reflection
- The events of Easter Saturday show that even when it feels like hope is lost, God may still be at work. How can this encourage and strengthen you when you face difficult times?
- Jesus’ burial identifies him with the poor, wicked and rich, demonstrating that nobody lies outside the bounds of his mercy. Who is there in your world who could do with hearing the good news of Jesus, and how can you demonstrate his love and acceptance to them this week?
Thank you that even in the bleakness of Easter Saturday, we can know the hope that is coming on Easter Sunday. Even in your death and burial, God’s plan was being worked out and His promises fulfilled.
I choose to draw strength from that today, knowing that you are able to bring life and joy out of any painful circumstance, and I look forward to celebrating your resurrection tomorrow
If you find yourself with extra time today, why not read this reflection on Psalm 88.
Do join us tomorrow to celebrate Easter Sunday: South (10.00), Central (11.00), West End (16.30) and East (18.00)