Defiance: An Alternative Holy Saturday Response
Most blogs, articles, and sermons I hear around this time of Holy Week revolve around usually one of two themes:
1. Easter is right around the corner y’all aren’t you excited that Jesus is almost resurrected!!!
2. It’s not Easter yet and Jesus is still dead and deal with that discomfort because it’s important and while you’re at it be consumed with grief and hopelessness just for a few days.
However, I would love to propose a third Good Friday/Holy Saturday response: defiance.
Last night, I walked the stations of the cross with Amos House Community and other friends around downtown Nashville. During these stations, we make stops at places downtown where Jesus is still being crucified with our homeless and imprisoned brothers and sisters: Church Street Park, Davidson County courthouse, Legislative Plaza, the Capitol, and others.
Last year when we walked these stations, it was pouring rain and truly felt like a funeral march. This year, the Earth was in bloom, the city was alive, and the breeze was refreshing. And I was feeling defiant as hell.
Yes, Jesus died and is still dead. The Resurrection is not a fact. But whether or not Jesus is resurrected, the people of faith still have a purpose. If our faith only relies on the emptiness of a tomb, I beg us to reconsider the possibilities.
An attitude of defiance does not mean we do not grasp Good Friday. I have seen Good Friday in the eyes of dying homeless friends in hospice. I have seen Good Friday in the tearful funerals of forgotten people who were hit by cars days before getting into housing. In these situations, bodies are not resurrected. Tombs are not empty- they are full to the brim. But I do not need an empty tomb to know or see resurrection. Rather, I have seen resurrection in the faces of women who have recovered their dignity from lives spent in poverty, abuse and prostitution against their will. I have seen resurrection in the faces of men on Tennessee’s death row, who, though they are “dead men walking,” are full of more life and purpose than most people I meet on the other side of the fence.
And every day, I read reports of Tennessee passing laws to criminalize pregnant women. California sterilizing female prisoners. Ukraine and Russia in constant tension. Endless deportations and an inactive congress. A death penalty system hungry for more souls and more destruction. Are there empty tombs here?
And so, I am defiant. As I walked the stations yesterday, I said “no” to all the pain the suffering I encountered. (To be honest, I just wasn’t having it.) Denying suffering is one thing, and defying suffering is all another.
In the face of a death-dealing system and in the face of tombs filled to the brim, I will carry on with the hope of the unseen resurrection in my heart. I don’t know it for a fact, and I don’t need to. Just for today, we can live our way into the resurrection, we can love our way into the resurrection, until it becomes the prevalent reality that no one can deny- empty tomb or not. We can defiantly love. We can defiantly practice resurrection.
Before we can be Easter people, we have to be Good Friday people. And there are many ways to meet Good Friday. I hope you embrace the suffering and defy it with the same breath.