Harrowing Of Hell
March 30, 2024

And we Wait…

The Rev. Lisa Ozaeta

To watch the sermon click here.

We are here at Holy Saturday.

This is a night of waiting, of anticipation, of deep mystery. It is a night that invites us to to confront the silence and to immerse ourselves in the story of a world paused in the throes of loss and uncertainty. This is the night of the Holy Vigil, a threshold between what was and what is yet to be.

This week we have traveled with Jesus and his companions from the triumphant entry into Jerusalem with the people shouting Hosanna to Jesus being killed and laid in the tomb. Each night this week we have walked a part of the passion. On Thursday, we celebrated the Last Supper where Jesus broke bread with his closest friends and then travelled to the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed asking for another way and then we experienced the kiss of Judas and the betrayal of Jesus. Last night, we stood by as Jesus was crucified and died. His body was taken from the cross and laid in the tomb. The tomb was sealed.

The night fell. A new day has come and gone. Again, it is dark and silent. Twenty-four hours have passed since Jesus was removed from the cross. Tonight, we will listen in to the thoughts of three participants in this passion. We will start with the guard who is stationed at the tomb. Next we will listen to one of the disciples. Finally, we will hear the words of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

In this sacred darkness, we gather not as distant observers of history, but as present participants in the unfolding story of faith. Tonight’s vigil is a journey, one that beckons us to enter the narrative ourselves, to sit alongside those who first experienced the piercing silence of loss.


In doing so, we engage in a tradition that transcends time, one that allows us to touch the very heart of mystery. As we listen to the guard, the disciple, and Mary, we are invited to witness their innermost thoughts and feelings during the greatest pause of history.


Through their eyes, we confront the reality of waiting without the assurance of what tomorrow brings. This act of waiting, of holding vigil, is our spiritual inheritance, linking us to generations of believers who have also found themselves between despair and hope.


Tonight, as we delve into the depths of the Passion, we do so to deepen our own connection to the story, to each other, and to the enduring presence of love that persists even in the shadow of the tomb.

We start at the entrance to the tomb. The large stone slab is covering the entrance. Standing next to this rock is the guard who has been stationed at this gravesite. He leans against the cold slab and wonders, Why am I here? Why am I guarding a dead man? These thoughts trigger a deep reflection, leading him to contemplate the extraordinary events that brought him to this moment. We can hear him saying…

The world feels hushed, silenced in the wake of the last few days. I am a soldier, a guard, duty-bound to serve. Yet, my duty tonight is different. I am standing here at a grave… the final resting place of a man named Jesus. He was not a soldier, nor a king in the way we understand it, yet His name echoes in the whispers of the wind, His story woven into the very air that fills this night.

I keep thinking about this man. I didn’t know Him, yet I feel somehow connected. His words, His deeds, they ripple through the city, an undercurrent of something significant, something different.

His followers spoke of love, of peace, of a kingdom not of this world. They spoke of miracles and wonders, of a man who loved the unlovable, who touched the untouchable. And I, I am the guard at His tomb, a silent witness to the end of His earthly journey.

Could it be? Could this man who performed wonders, who spoke of a kingdom not of this world, be gone? I feel a strange sadness.

The tomb is sealed, the stone heavy against the entrance. It’s a symbol of finality, a barrier between the living and the departed.

There is a long night ahead. I will stand here and do my duty. I will guard this tomb. From what, I do not know. But, I will stand. I will wait.

 And now, I wait.

We leave this solider and go to find a follower of Jesus, one of the 12 – who is now just 1.

The disciples have scattered. They are each alone. In the dark. They are covered in a haze of unknowing.

For the last three years the disciple has been with Jesus and with the other 11 spending most of their time being pressed upon by crowds. The days were filled with laughter, awe at the teachings of Jesus that pricked the heart– the hope – so much joyful hope for the future.  But now the night is silent everything is quiet and Jesus is gone and the disciple is alone. And as he sits in the dark with his head held in his hands he just asks the question how did this happen? Why am I here?

We listen to his words…

How did this happen? How did it come to this? Only a few days ago, we were celebrating, hopeful, full of joy. Jesus was with us, teaching, healing, filling us with a sense of purpose and direction. We just entered the city to shouts of joy. It wasn’t supposed to end like this.

These last three years…the miracles, the teachings, the hope – it all now seems like a distant dream. Everywhere we went, people came to see Jesus. There was awe in people’s eyes as this listened to him teach. The air was electric. The mere presence of Jesus ignited hope for the future. It was going to be better. Something good was happening. Something good was going to happen.

But now, all that remains is silence, emptiness, and this horrible sense of loss. Even the owls have stopped their sounds and the crickets have stopped their song.

I just feel the pit of loneliness and an inescapable sense of abandonment. Where is everyone? I miss the other disciples. I miss Jesus. I long for the sound of Jesus’ voice, his wise words, his reassuring smile. I yearn for the sense of purpose and direction I had when Jesus was with us.

Was it all for nothing? Were the teachings, the miracles, the hope — just illusions?

Sitting here, alone in the darkness, I find no hope. There’s no spark of the faith that Jesus had instilled in me. I don’t know what the future holds, I guess I must go back to my old life, back to fishing. It seems the only way to survive. But now, I can only sit in this darkness… and wait.

Finally, we find Mary, the mother of Jesus.

She is deep in sorrow and reflection.

Standing under the darkened sky, Mary quietly reflects on the life of her son, Jesus. The memories flood her mind as she tries to piece together the fragments of a life that was extraordinary from the start. She thinks back to the moment the angel appeared before her, telling her she would bear a son. At that moment, everything changed.

We hear her reflection…

This baby. He was beautiful. After he was born, I would spend hours holding him and just stare into his eyes. I would ask…What do you know. What will you do?

I remember the first time Jesus walked. His tiny feet pressed into the soft earth, his small hands reached out for balance. The world seemed to hold its breath in that moment, as if the earth itself recognized the significance of his steps. The journey was beginning.

I loved being his mother. I watched as he grew from a bright-eyed child into a compassionate and wise young man. His words and actions always had a depth that was beyond his years, and people were naturally drawn to him.

His words held an authority that was both commanding and gentle. I was always amazed at his ability to captivate a crowd, to hold their attention with his parables and teachings. His lessons of love, compassion, and forgiveness touched hearts, changing lives in ways that were both subtle and profound. As his mother, I was filled with immense pride, but also a sense of awe. I knew that his teachings and miracles were not just acts of kindness but were transformative experiences that would echo through time.

As the night deepens, I cling to the memories of my son. The way his laughter filled a room, the way his eyes lit up when he spoke about something he was passionate about, the way he loved unconditionally. These memories are all I have left of him, and I hold onto them tightly, a lifeline in my sea of grief.

But now, my son is gone. The boy who had once filled my life with joy and wonder was taken from me, crucified, and laid to rest in another’s grave. The sorrow is unbearable, a gaping hole in my heart that nothing can fill. I feel as if I am drowning in my grief, the pain so deep that it threatens to consume me.

I recall the last time I saw him, his body broken and lifeless. It was a sight no mother should ever have to see. A part of me died with him that day, a part I know I will never get back.

The world feels colder now, emptier. I look around and everything seems muted, the colors less vibrant, the sounds less clear. The loss of my son has cast a shadow over everything. It feels like the world has stopped breathing. I feel like I could lose my breath as well. In the depth of my sorrow, in this darkness, I wait. For what, I don’t know. I wait for my breath to return. I wait for the sun to rise. I wait for hope. I cant imagine ever feeling whole again. But in this darkness, I wait.

As we sit together in the stillness of this sacred night, let us hold space for the silence that envelops us.

The same silence that once fell over the land as creation itself seemed to pause, awaiting a dawn yet unknown. The quiet that now blankets our sanctuary is not an absence, but a presence; a presence filled with all that is unsaid, all that is unfinished, all that is unhealed. In these moments, we are united with the disciples in their vigil, with Mary in her sorrow, with the guard in his duty, each one suspended in a silent epoch.

In the quiet, we too might feel the weight of our own uncertainties, our own unfinished stories. The quiet of the night holds all our unnamed fears, our unshed tears, our unspoken prayers. Yet here, together, in the hush, we are not alone.

For just as the disciple, the guard, the mother—so too are we engaged in this communal experience of anticipation, bound by a narrative that transcends time, by a story that belongs to us all.

So let us wait, not for the ending, but in the moment. For in this waiting, there is a recognition of life’s sacred pauses. There is honor in the act of holding vigil, in bearing witness to the darkness before the dawn. As we await the light, we affirm the journey we all must take through the night. And it is enough for now to simply be—to be here, together, in the expectant stillness of this holy night.

And we wait.