Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. John 19:41-41
What better day to end this series on the Sabbath than Holy Saturday? This morning I began revising this post from last month, and I recalled that my wife and I used to sing a song titled, “The Little Boy From the Carpenter Shop” that went in depth on the subject. (I posted a link below if you want to listen) I loved that singing that song, but now I wonder how accurate its interpretation was of what Jesus was doing between his death on the Cross and Resurrection Sunday. In fact, I wonder how anyone knows exactly what occurred after Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus rolled the stone over the door to the tomb? What if on the day that serves as the hinge between the Old Testament and New – what if Jesus simply rested? What if when Jesus said, “It is finished!” and gave His spirit into his father’s hands He had one day without sorrow, suffering or demands of any kind? What if after three and a half years of ministry, in which it was said that he had nowhere to lay his head and scarcely time to eat, that Jesus just rested in His Father’s ability to do all that needed to be done for the day?
What if Jesus rested because it was the Sabbath? What if on the same day on which the creation of heaven and earth was completed, Jesus just paused to see everything that was good in the new creation now begun? What if there are times in our own lives when there is nothing more holy that we can do than nothing? What if on this Holy Saturday we quietly reflected and rested in the completed work of Jesus Christ? The Apostle James told us that we could see His faith by his works; however, it is equally true that there are times our faith is by shown by what we choose not to do. Just as by faith we die with Christ and are raised by Christ, there are also times when by faith He calls us to rest in Him and with all our hearts trust God to do the rest!
And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath..” Mark 2:27 ESV
This story about Jesus and the disciples walking through the fields is recorded in three of the four gospels and though you may have never heard a message preached from these verses, Matthew, Mark and Luke each considered it among the highlights of Jesus’ teaching. Our ignorance of the treasure that God intended Sabbath to be is one of the great losses of the church today. God’s Sabbath came not only before the law, but also before sin. Sabbath was built into the matrix of our world. God’s Sabbath was His denouement: – the final act of HIs play, by which the strands of His plot were drawn together, and everything was resolved. Without understanding Sabbath, we cannot fully understand God’s story. When the Pharisees criticized the disciples’ behavior on the seventh day, Jesus made it clear that the purpose of the Sabbath was for it to be a day of blessing for man. God had not created man so the Sabbath could be observed, but He had created Sabbath as a day for man.
We once visited a village in Switzerland and on my Sunday morning walk, I passed by found a beautiful stone church. As I paused to rest, a man drove up, unlocked the door and went in to ring the bells. How lovely they sounded as they pealed over the valley. After he had finished his duties, he locked the doors and drove away. Is that what we have become? Do we just go about our day, ring the bells but no one comes? Do we remember vaguely that it is God’s Day, but barely pause long enough to catch our breath? Till the end of time Sabbath will remain a blessing and is built into who we are as men and women. Sabbath rest, worship and prayer are the breath, life and foundation from which we go out to do everything else, and when we keep God’s Sabbath, we keep its blessing for us, our families and everyone who hears the ringing of the bell!
On this Easter week you might be wondering why I am choosing to share a series on the Sabbath. That is a question I have asked myself as well, but then, what better week than this to consider rest. This week of all the year is like a spiritual Sabbath when we turn from the activities of the world and focus on Jesus and all He has done. Today let’s take a look at the Sabbath as a special day of healing.
And a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Matthew 12:10
In our search to understand the Sabbath let’s begin by seeing how Jesus acted on the day of rest. One thing we find over and over in the gospels is that He seemed to take special delight in choosing the Sabbath day for healing the sick, which upset the Pharisees. In answer to their accusation that He was breaking the law, Jesus explained,
“It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” Matthew 12:12.
In other words, our day of rest is not simply a ceasing of all activity. Jesus was no less active on the Sabbath than on any other day. The Sabbath rest can be a day of miraculous restoration. At the finish of creation, God’s assessment of His work was,
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good…” Genesis 1:31
But today when we look out around the world, even the rosiest of the rosiest views is that not all is good any longer. In fact, there is incredible pain, suffering, sin and loss. Jesus came into our dark world to give us the breath of life again. He came to the weary and heavy laden to give a new Sabbath rest for our souls. The Sabbath is there at all times and in all places as God’s special day of healing, hope and restoration. It is a day set aside not simply to get rest while we watch TV, but to switch our focus to a service that gives life and rest to others. Jesus accomplished more as He rested by the well and slept in the boat than the disciples did while buying food or pulling hard at the oars. God has given us the Sabbath day of rest as a gift, and He waits to see how we will choose to use His gift in the lives of those around us. Day one the question was, “Have you received God’s gift of the Sabbath? Day two let’s ask, “To whom have we given it away?”