Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Second Sabbath

I have written before (although I cannot seem to find it right now) about Jesus in the grave between Good Friday and Easter. I have wondered what He was doing with that time. I have theorized that although He was fully God, He embraced death as fully man and stayed in that grave those three days. 

What was He doing in there?

As I have thought about this again this year, because I tend to have the same thoughts when Easter rolls around, I think that for the first time, perhaps I know: He rested.

Time is a funny thing in the Bible. The writers don't calculate time the way that we do. We're told that Jesus spent three days in the grave, and that's because He spent part of Good Friday there, the very last few minutes of it. He spent part of Easter Sunday there, the very first few minutes of it. But He spent all of Solemn Saturday (a term of my own coinage) there. And that Saturday? That Solemn Saturday? It was also the Sabbath.

And so, He rested.

We know it was the Sabbath from our understanding of Jewish law. But even if we didn't know, the Bible plainly tells us. It's why Joseph of Arimathea was in such a hurry to get the body in the grave; he couldn't bury a man on the Sabbath. If He didn't entomb the Christ on Good Friday, the body would have to rot somewhere until Sunday. It's also why the women didn't go to the tomb until Sunday morning; they couldn't travel on the Sabbath. Two very deliberate reminders that that middle day, that Saturday, was a day of rest for everybody.

Including the Son of God.

By that point, He probably needed some rest. We read in the Gospels that every time He tried to sneak away for a few minutes to Himself, the crowds found Him anyway. They followed. They pressed in. They brought their sick, their infirm, their lame. They were hounding Him at every turn. After three years of very public ministry, rest was a welcome gift. 

But it's more than that. Rest meant something special to God. Rest for God comes after a series of good works, works at which He sits back and declares, "It is good." And it comes not so that He can take a short break from His work. No, for God, rest comes when His work is complete. Both of these things are true about the work of Christ by Solemn Saturday - it is good, and it is finished.

It is good because God has made a way for His people to come back to Him. He has manifest redemption before their very eyes. No longer must sin separate God and His Creation; the Christ has ransomed the world. God finally gets what He longs for - His people. And His people finally get what they so desperately need - their God. The two get to walk together again. He can reach out and take their hands; and they can reach back and take His. His nail-pierced hands. 

And it is finished. The earth has shaken, the curtain has torn, the dead have walked out of their graves. Think what you want about the Cross, but there's no denying it. Something happened. Something happened that has never happened before and will never happen again. No power of Hell, no scheme of man can ever un-shake the earth. It's over. Jesus wins. 

And so, He rests. That's what He's doing in the tomb on that one full day. He's resting, in the way that only God can rest. It's the second real Sabbath in the history of time, and it's His. 

Rest, my Lord. Rest well. 

It is good. And it is finished.

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