Holy Saturday 2016: Firstfruits

This is the final reflection for Holy Week of 2016. We reflect on a portion of the reading appointed for Holy Saturday. May God bless your Easter celebrations!

–By Elizabeth Ahlman

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard (Matthew 27:57-66 ESV).

Mondsee Cathedral main altar in Salzburg, Austria. (Photo by Elizabeth Ahlman).

Mondsee Cathedral main altar in Salzburg, Austria. (Photo by Elizabeth Ahlman).

On Holy Saturday, Jesus’ body lies in the tomb. He has taken on the last great enemy — death. He has given His body up to death on the cross, to that most ancient of man’s enemies. Sealed in and shrouded in darkness, it is like a seed that has been planted in the tomb of the earth. The kernel of something about to begin. We are waiting, waiting for the seed to take root and sprout and grow. We are waiting for the seed to send up shoots and blades and bear fruit.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death (1 Corinthians 15:20-26, ESV).

The seed that is Christ’s body rested on that Holy Saturday deep within the bowels of the earth. It rested and waited for the moment when it would bear much fruit. Christ’s resurrected body is the firstfruits of all those who have died in the Lord. Our own loved ones who are dead in the Lord are like seeds planted in the tomb of the earth. They, like their Savior, are kernels. They too, will rise in Christ. We also will face that last great enemy of death. And our bodies will be buried, covered over, resting and waiting. Our Jesus will not fail us. The enemy, death, has been crushed by Jesus’ death and resurrection. It has been placed under His feet. On that Last Day, the victory will be made manifest, as all the fruits of Jesus’ labor rise to everlasting life with Him and with the Father. And so we wait in hope for the kernel of something about to begin, the kernel of something already completed, and the fruits thereof — our very own resurrected bodies.

Let us pray. Almighty God, through Your Word and Spirit You most wonderfully created all things, and through the Word made flesh You brought new life to fallen humanity. Grant that in Your mercy we may be conformed to the image of Him who shares fully in our humanity, even Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen (Creation Collect from The Vigil of Easter, The Lutheran Service Book: Altar Book, p. 537).

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