Dark Saturday: Anguish and Anticipation

Teaching about trauma makes me think about what that day after Christ’s death was like for His followers and family. The emotions of grief, anger, and fear must have been overwhelming. Perhaps they wondered if they too were in danger. Suddenly, the call to “take up your cross and follow Me” was not just metaphorical. They were not safe.

Then there is the confusion, as all the expectation of a Messiah’s victory were shattered. Had they misunderstood or been deceived? On that Sabbath, I imagine a sense of helplessness, being unable to do anything, even unable to mourn or find closure by preparing the body of their Lord. Perhaps they felt helpless, trapped, or just numb in disbelief. Was it all a bad dream?

Hopes Dashed

Surely that Saturday, that Sabbath, was the worst day of their lives, with no Teacher to turn to with their questions, no miracles to counter their fears and doubts. Did they try to comfort one another? Or withdraw to their own cocoons?  I imagine a wide range of reactions and means of coping.

Up until that final moment on the cross I can see there being some anticipation for a replay of Abraham and Isaac: at the last possible moment God could’ve intervened, validating the sacrifice without taking the life, and displaying His power to a wide audience.

“He saved others, let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.” (Luke 23:35)

Onlookers were waiting, hoping, but it didn’t happen. Jesus gave up His spirit.

And all the crowds who came together for this spectacle, when they observed what had happened, began to return, beating their breasts. (Luke 23:48)

John must have embraced Jesus’ mother. (Was she wailing?) The followers who hadn’t run too far watched with horror. Jesus had abandoned the ones He loved… or so it felt.


On this day of remembrance, what I would call Dark Saturday, it’s tempting for us to quickly turn the page, reach the final resolution that we know lies ahead. But I see value in lingering, listening, understanding that feeling of dread among Jesus’ followers, and maybe grasping for a tiny thread of anticipation. Did any remember Jesus’ prediction of resurrection?

More likely the typical emotional reactions to a traumatic experience drowned out the cognitive reasoning that it might not be over.

The Story Is Not Over

But it is not over yet. God doesn’t end the story as the loser. God doesn’t end our stories in defeat. Maybe you’ve been in that dark valley; maybe you are there now. The climax is still around the corner. Hold on to the promise. Victory is yet to come.

1 comment

    • Wendi Nixon on April 7, 2021 at 5:16 am
    • Reply

    It has always amazed me that the disciples did not remember Jesus describing his resurrection, but speaks well of how one can be so focused on an expected result that all other possibilities fade. I certainly have had the same experience and have come to understand how much higher God’s thoughts and plans are above my own. I have not thought of the disciples going to the cross to see Jesus delivered from it as Isaac was delivered from sacrifice. I have heard Isaac described as a foreshadow of Christ and as part of their heritage, that must have occurred to them. It was even verbalized to Jesus as he was taunted, to come down off of the cross. And the trauma. Watching one you love so dearly be so horribly tortured and killed must have created the confused thinking and short-term memory loss, the fight, flight or freeze, the disbelief and numbing that is evident in scripture. Even the resurrection was greeted with initial disbelief. Thank you for a different perspective of that dark Saturday.

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