The crucifixion of Christ occurred on Friday (at least most folks think so). He hung on the cross for six extremely agonizing hours, from 9 AM until 3PM. His body was relatively quickly taken down because the Sabbath was approaching. The Jewish Sabbath ran from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.
We often don't think about anything happening on Saturday. We tend to skip straight from the events of the crucifixion to the events of the resurrection. But what did happen on that Saturday? Scripture does not tell us much, but we can get a picture.
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.
When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.
Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
In Matthew's account, we gain a picture of what the adversaries of Christ attempt to do to prevent his victory. They clearly do not believe he will be resurrected. Instead, they fear some sort of deceitful plan on the part of the disciples. Therefore, they gain Pilate's permission to secure the tomb. We know that didn't work. Interestingly, the legalistic Jewish leaders do not appear to have been faithfully observing the Sabbath rest.
In the gospel of Mark, we read that three women waited until after the Sabbath was over (this would have been after sundown on Saturday), and then purchased spices in order to anoint the body of Jesus on Sunday morning. On their part, we see obedience and service.
Luke tells us that these women prepared some spices and then rested on the Sabbath. As in Mark's account, these ladies were focused on service and obedience.
These three short sections of scripture offer us an interesting contrast between those who hated Jesus and those who loved him. The religious leaders were not only conspiring against Christ, but they also appear to have been disobedient to the law, specifically the keeping of the Sabbath. These ladies, on the other hand, were both obediently following the law and preparing to serve Jesus by placing spices around his body. I have no idea how they planned to get into the tomb beyond the rock, but that is another issue. The key is that they were obedient servants of Christ.
(For more on what happened that Saturday, click here.)