top of page

Day 40—Holy Saturday, March 30

Mark 16:1-8

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

I imagine the scene.

Dawn not yet breaking over the day. A cold chill in the air. Darkness turning to grey at the edge of the horizon.

The women draw themselves from their sleeping mats, noticing the embers in the fire they banked the night before.

They don’t go about their normal routine: relighting the fire; prepping for the day.

This day is different.

Their lives have been shattered with loss. Jesus, their teacher and their hope, was arrested, charged, and crucified. Sacrificed to an angry mob.

What transpired days before: people brought forward, charged, and crucified by the state, was not rare. But this time the one who hung and suffered was their beloved teacher.

They wait faithfully through the Sabbath, Mark tells us, and then Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James and Salome go. They know what to do.

Seek God in faithfulness. Follow the ancient rituals.

They kept the Sabbath then set off before dawn with spices and oil and headed toward the tomb.

I imagine how they must have come to their sabbath prayers. Grieving. Disoriented. Being together with their community. Then, something new breaks into their ancient rhythm, this time set apart to honor their teacher.

A robed man awaits and speaks clearly to them.

He knew they would be coming, and so he sits, waiting for the arrival of these keepers of the faith.

Everything shifts in their world with his words. “He has been raised; he is not here.”

What words would describe your own response to a robed young man (Mark 16:5), or an angel (Matthew 28:2), or two angels (Luke 24:4; John 20:12) appearing to you at the graveside of your spiritual teacher? In the midst of political upheaval. Turmoil. Social unrest.

Herod led with terror and surveillance, which only increased in scale as his mental health declined and paranoia increased. Into this turmoil revolutionary movements developed, both religious and nationalist in tenor. Insurrections occurred. Jerusalem was particularly tumultuous during Pentecost and Passover, when many visitors descended upon the city.

It is in this setting that the women find themselves in Jerusalem, experience the loss of their revolutionary teacher, and, in the midst of all the political and religious turmoil, steady themselves with faithfulness to ritual custom and sabbath-keeping.

The wisdom of the women catches my attention. Their quiet fidelity to their faith. Their determination to move before the dawn breaks through the city to tend to the dead body of Jesus.

In my own experience it has been in the paying attention to my spiritual life, even and especially in the face of turmoil and hardship, that has brought forth the most growth and vitality in my spirit. Staying present. Acting faithfully, even when I didn’t want to or felt worn out. Staying connected, even if by a thread, to the Hope which carries me through. These are the moments that have propelled me forward. Transformed me. Changed me.

It is likely that Mark finished his gospel with this line: “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

I love the question for us that hangs in the silence at the close of Marks shorter Gospel. Like the ending of a movie that leaves the next chapter to the imagination of the audience, we are asked to imagine:

What happened next?

Which leads me to ask myself, am I living my life with the kind of faithfulness of these three women?

In the midst of my own losses and in the tumult of our politically charged globe, do I awake in the quiet dawn, pause before stoking and rekindling the fire, and turn my attention before the break of day to pour out my faithfulness in both prayer and love? Am I alert to the messengers God is sending into my life to direct me on the path God has in mind for me? Do I take time in silence to reflect and experience the fullness of the holy awe of my encounters with the Divine before tumbling into the next moment?

We know the women did speak, because Mark is telling the story. But they paused. Allowed their spirits to be transformed and taught, stretched and strengthened.

Perhaps he ends his Gospel here to remind us of the work we have to do as we walk humbly with our God this day and every day.

May we find in the silence of our daily practice the strength and stretching of the spirit, so that we might rise with justice and mercy to greet the realities of our time with hope. With love. With joy. So that we might be actors for love and justice, bearing witness and bringing mercy to a broken world.

-Jennifer Owen-O’Quill

For information in this essay I am indebted to Dr. Phillip Jenkins, Distinguished Professor of History and Director of the Program on Historical Studies of Religion at Baylor University. “A most violent year: Understanding the political year into which Jesus was born” Published Dec. 20, 2023 Religion and Ethics, Australian Broadcasting Corporation



bottom of page