On Holy Saturday (the Saturday before Easter), we remember the period of time that Jesus lay in the tomb after His death on the cross and before His Resurrection. Some churches call it First Holy Saturday and have Easter Vigil services to commemorate this event.

It is the day of Holy Week that comes after Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday and the day before Easter Sunday!

In the Apostles Creed, it says that Jesus “descended into hell.” The death of Jesus was a true, physical death, not just a “mystical” or “spiritual” one. This truth is what is remembered on the Saturday before Easter.

Holy Saturday is a day of anticipation and waiting, reflective of the Lenten season as a whole. 

What happened on this day, and what are some Scripture verses that can help us remember it?

18 Bible Verses for the Saturday Before Easter

Peter speaks to the Israelites in the temple courts about the reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. – Acts 3:13-15

Jesus prepares the disciples for His death.

Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.”  – Matthew 26:45

Jesus cries out on the cross.

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and gave up His spirit. – Matthew 27:50

The soldiers believe in Jesus. 

Now as for the centurion and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the other things that were happening, they became extremely frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” – Matthew 27:54

Jesus’ body is taken down from the cross by Joseph of Arimathea.

And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a good and righteous man (he had not consented to their plan and action), a man from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who was waiting for the kingdom of God—this man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. – Luke 23:50-52

Jesus’ body is anointed by Nicodemus.

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. – John 19:38-42

We read of the burial of Jesus and the guard at the tomb.

As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, His disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that He has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.’“

“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. – Matthew 27:57-66

Mary and Mary Magdalene learn where Jesus was buried.

So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid. – Mark 15:46-47

Jesus died and descended into hell without experiencing decay.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits. – 1 Peter 3:18-19

David by foreseeing this spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did his body experience decay. This Jesus God raised up, and we are all witnesses of it. – Acts 2:31-32

What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions. – Ephesians 4:9

We read the truth of what Jesus accomplished when He was “crucified, dead and buried”.

But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does. 1 Peter 4:5-6

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to obtain an inheritance that is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. – 1 Peter 1:3-5

This longer passage from Hebrews 10 lays out how Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament law and died, once for all, to reconcile us to God.

Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, “You have not desired sacrifice and offering, but You have prepared a body for Me; You have not taken pleasure in whole burnt offerings and offerings for sin. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come (It is written of Me in the scroll of the book) to do Your will, O God.’”

After saying above, “Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and offerings for sin You have not desired, nor have You taken pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the Law), then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second. By this will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time.

Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies are made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering, He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. – Hebrews 10:5-14

The verses below are sometimes read as responsive readings during an Easter Vigil service. Often this service involves receiving new members into the church by baptism or confirmation. 

Jesus’ work on the cross is foreshadowed by the deliverance of the Israelites from the hands of Pharoah.

Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses. – Exodus 14:30-31

God creates a clean heart in us through Jesus’ death and forgiveness of sins.

Create a clean heart in me, O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me. Psalm 51:12 

Jesus’ resurrection gives new life in Christ.

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. – Romans 6:3-4

The women visit the tomb. 

And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here! See the place where they put Him. – Mark 16:2-6

I hope these verses are helpful for you if you want to read them on your own or with your family on the Saturday before Easter!

You may also like: 21 Easter Bible Verses about the Resurrection

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