Selah :: Sitting in the Tension of Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is the in-between. It’s the tension stuck in the middle of a gruesome, shocking death by hanging on a cross and the joyful, amazing, miracle of the rock being rolled away in front of the tomb and a resurrected Jesus walking out the front door. Holy Saturday is the day in which nothing is recorded in scripture. The day when the world stopped and all people had were questions – hard questions – about life, death, purpose, calling, repentance and what next?

There is a Hebrew word used frequently in the Psalms. The word is “selah”. In English it simply means “to pause or to wait”Selah, often times was a demarcator in Hebrew worship music indicating a break and a pause in music. Selah, pause, waiting, is what I want to use to describe today – Saturday – or the day after Good Friday and the day before Easter, Resurrection Sunday – Holy Saturday.

We westerner’s are bad at pausing and waiting.

We don’t know how to do it.

We want immediate gratification.

In our society, we don’t have to wait – so why should we?

All we need to do is swipe our little plastic card and get it now. Log onto and get next day shipping. Go to our local anything and get whatever product, good or frivolous item we want. Waiting is not in our nature; waiting is the antithesis to being an American.

Yet, that is exactly where we are left today – the day in-between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. NT Wright describes the tension this way: “Jesus’ disciples knew what they had been hoping for, and it was all gone… Holy Saturday is the moment when everything stops and waits.”


From the moment Jesus let out “It is finished” to the moment the women discover the tomb is empty, we are in a moment of selah

Too often we Christians jump ahead from Good Friday to Resurrection Sunday. We skip the process. We skip the tension. We decide the tension is not for us. We are really great at doing this mourning, grieving, emo thing (look at our 21st century cultue – it is hip to mope) and really good at celebrating life and happiness. But this middle ground, the hard point of not knowing where to be or what to do – we suck at – royally.

Why do we skip ahead? Why not practice what is uncomfortable? Because we know how the story ends. We know Sunday is coming and praise Jesus, Sunday is glorious. But I wonder if we are missing something by doing the electric slide past Holy Saturday. What if we were to participate in a moment of selah? Would Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday effect us differently?

Doubt is something so many of us who were born and raised in the church were told was not cool. It was not wise and maybe a sin – but where does the Bible actually say that? Unbelief – yes. Doubt? Nope. Thomas doubted. Abraham doubted. It’s what we do with our doubt which matters. Jacob wrestled with God and was changed forever. Why don’t we wrestle with God and let Him change us forever? Give God our doubts and let Him move in us. Let Him turn our doubts into growth.

On Good Friday, Jesus hung on the cross, taking our place, dying for our sins and ending his 3 years of earthly ministry precisely the way he intended to do it when He resisted Satan during the 40 days in the wilderness. Jesus refused to take shortcuts to usher in His Kingdom. On Resurrection Sunday, Jesus showed us He alone has power over death; He truly was fully God and perfect man, thus His death alone could satiate God’s payment for our sin, pulling us into His story and Kingdom.


Yet, what do we do with Saturday? What did His followers do on Saturday? What did the Roman Centurion who uttered the words “Certainly this man was innocent!” (Luke 23:47) do and feel like? Where was Peter, the denier, on Saturday? What was Pilate, the people pleaser, thinking? What were the the Jewish leaders like? How did Joseph from Arimathea and Nicodemus feel? What was Thomas, the doubter, doing? What was Mary, His mother, saying? What was John, the one whom Jesus loved, up to?

I don’t know what they did, but I can probably guarantee everyone was watching.

Not one of these people knew how the story was going to end. We do. Jesus followed through on His promise – Sunday would come – we see that fully now. They did not.

These are the thoughts I wonder as I selah.

As I selah, I realize, the gap between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday is representative of the now and not yet. It’s a mirror into how we live here on earth. NT Wright says “Holy Saturday is therefore the sabbath rest after the completion of the work of redemption.” Yet, we all know that not everything has been fully redeemed yet.

See, the Kingdom is here but yet, it is not. Jesus has come and He is coming again. We live in the theological, Church history time of selah. And, how we live in this time matters because the world is watching. How we live out the message of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday until Jesus comes back matters – not just for the Church, but for the world around us.

We live in a different kind of Saturday. We look forward to a different kind of resurrection. We hope for restoration. We want to bring as many others into this story of redemption, hope and restoration as possible. 

As disciples of Jesus we have a tendency to skip ahead to the end of the earthly story,  like we do from Good Friday to Resurrection Sunday. We have our ticket to heaven, we know it will be a better place, so we try and fast forward ourselves to heaven, instead of sitting in the now, in selah, and pulling others into the story.

Let us live out the Kingdom. Let us live in this time of selah, while using what waits ahead for us as a motivation to live well in this time.



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