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by Joshua Bocanegra

The Crucifix of San Domenico, Arezzo c. 1268-1271
(Overall and detail images)
Distemper, with gold leaf on wood
336 x 267 cm
San Domenico, Arezzo, Italy


White tongue of incense, touch my vernal dark.
With your thesaurus of mock orange and bleeding heart
curved above gravestones and the sleeping bells,
stir the tombs of my body’s chapel:
my quired heart, my soul’s cave, its opened door.
This red lintel where our vigilant candles lip the hour.
Ghost with blossom’s radiance this moment’s stone:
branch your lustrous force in me; defy our ending’s sacring bone.

- Lisa Russ Spaar

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

- John 19:30


What was it like for those who followed Jesus, the day after he was crucified? I imagine every time John closed his eyes, he could see the lifeless body dangling from the cross. I don’t think Mary slept that night, remembering the shudder of her son’s body as he said, “It is finished.” They must have walked around dazed, out of touch. Peter sitting down and staring into nothing as the hours pass.

When I think of what the disciples were feeling that dark Saturday, it reminds me of the Shulamite’s pain when her beloved was nowhere to be found.

On my bed by night,
I sought him whom my soul loves;
I sought him but found him not.
I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares;
I will seek him whom my soul loves.
I sought him, but found him not.

“Have you seen him whom my soul loves?” (Song. 3:1-3)

How quickly events had turned. At the beginning of the week, the people danced before Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem like David danced before the Ark of the Covenant. And now? Jesus was dead.

They had been full of exuberance as they led the way into the city, with shouts of “Hosanna!” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” His words had filled them with joy.

I opened to my beloved,
But my beloved had turned and gone.
My soul failed me when he spoke.
I sought him, but found him not;
I called him, but he gave me no answer. (Song. 5:6)

Did they feel betrayed? Betrayed by Jesus? Betrayed by God?

The darkness of Holy Saturday is something every Christian experiences. It’s the days and months and years that go by and we ask, “My God! Why have you forsaken me?” And all we feel is that God is dead. And he was. The day after the crucifixion, when no one had risen up to help Jesus, when the Father abandoned him, when the arrogance of the Temple and the might of Rome had proven once again they called the shots, we knew God was dead.

But something was happening underneath the darkness the disciples couldn’t perceive. Not even the powers, earthly or spiritual, knew what God was working in the death of Jesus. As he lay in the darkness, he was absorbing into himself. As he lay in the grave, he was sapping the power of Death and transforming into something no eye had seen and no ear had heard. He had given hints all along the way. The greatest would be the least. He had come to give his life as a ransom. The greatest of friends would lay down their life for the other.

We know, on this side, that the Resurrection is only a day away, but on this Holy Saturday, let’s be still with Jesus as he sleeps in the grave. Let us honor him for taking on our death. Let us remember and be still with our own darkness, experiencing it, embracing it, remembering he is buried in it with us now. And in sharing it with us, he will conquer it.

Where are you, Jesus? I am in pain. I am confused. I am lost. All I know is darkness. Yet, I will be still. I will remember you promised resurrection. Even if it seems like the most impossible thing, I will trust you as you trusted your Father in the hour of darkness. Into your hands, I commit my spirit.

This reflection was originally published on April 20, 2019 as part of Biola University’s 2019 Lent Project.

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Joshua Bocanegra is a writer and visionary from Kansas City. He and his wife, Katrina, serve as leaders in a local chapter of Living Waters, an inner healing program focused on helping the sexually and relationally broken find peace and wholeness in Jesus Christ. Joshua is driven by the question, "What is the Church?" and the way Christians are to be in the communities they inhabit. The Sermon on the Mount is his starting place for all cultural intersection, and he seeks to encourage believers to embrace the other-centered lifestyle taught there.