Since Harry and I have been exploring the meaning and benefits of the Sabbath over the past several months, I find myself drawn to the significance of Jesus’ Sabbath rest in the tomb.
Just as God created the heavens and the earth and then rested because it was good and complete… God’s love for creation and humanity were made complete when Jesus died on the cross… nothing more could ever be added to God’s final expression t of love to us through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. It was complete. Once again, the Son of God rested, hidden in the tomb, waiting for the dawn of a new day.
Jesus, in his resurrection glory, would usher in a new creation, a new way of loving a new way of being whole.
There is a holy rhythm that has been playing since the beginning of creation. It is a rhythm that moves all things. It is the rhythm that all of history has moved to since the beginning of time. It is the rhythm that surrounds and undergirds this resurrection day. The writer of Ecclesiastes chapter 1 verse 1 talks about it in this way: “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the sun… a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain… and the writer goes on to say … He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of people; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… and the holy rhythm of the resurrection began. Everything that God set into place pulsated with a divine rhythm. There was birth, and growth, and harvest and rest. And the Bible says that after the sixth day, God ceased from his work and called it good. And on the seventh day, God created the Sabbath and called it Holy… and God rested on the seventh day. But that was not the end of the rhythm… God continue with his work on the first day of the new week.
This holy rhythm of birth, growth, harvest and rest permeates the very DNA of all that exists: in the new life of spring, the harvest of the fall and the rest in the winter where all of creation seems to lie dormant, waiting for the stirring of new life, of resurrection, of rebirth. We see it in the DNA of living things like the caterpillar that is born, that grows and labors and then rests in its cocoon to become a butterfly. God has surrounded us with many signs and invitations to join into this Holy Rhythm that has been at work since the beginning of time. The Israelites followed this very rhythm in the wilderness… they gathered manna every day, except for the seventh. They were allowed to gather extra on the sixth day, but on the seventh they were to enter into the rhythm of Sabbath rest, resting in knowing that God had provided… that it would be enough.
Over the past several months, I have enjoyed rereading Marva Dawn’s book “Keeping the Sabbath Holy.” I found this great story about the Oregon trail:
The Oregon Trail was one of the main overland migration routes on the North American continent, leading from locations on the Missouri River to the Oregon Territory. To complete the journey in one traveling season most travelers left in April to May–as soon as grass was growing enough to support their teams and the trails dried out. To meet the constant needs for water, grass and fuel for campfires the trail followed various rivers and streams across the continent. In addition the network of trails required a minimum of road work to be made passable for wagons. They traveled in wagons, pack trains, on horseback, on foot, by raft and by boat to establish new farms, lives and businesses in the Oregon Territory. The four to six month journey spanned over half the continent as the wagon trail proceeded about 2,000 miles … The story goes that there were was a wagon train of devout Christians on its way from St Lois to Oregon. They observed this holy rhythm that we have been talking about and stopped each week to rest, worship, enjoy God and observe the Sabbath. In time, as they got closer and closer to winter, some of the wagons began to get afraid and they wanted to quit their resting and observing the Sabbath because they felt it was slowing them down. This became such a heated debate among the people that the train of wagons had to part ways. Half of the wagons went ahead without observing the Sabbath and the other half honored the holy rhythm of the Sabbath. Guess who got there first?
The wagon that observed the Sabbath… they found that they experienced less disease, less fatigue, they could travel harder and longer and the days that followed. Can you imagine what it would have been like for them to arrive first?
Should it surprise us, really? Jesus, who called himself the Lord of the Sabbath, said that the Sabbath was created for us, for our good… Would it surprise you that Jesus completed his ministry here on earth, the work that all of creation had been groaning for since the beginning of time on the eve of the Sabbath? That on the eve of the Sabbath, Jesus cried out, “It is finished” when he died for the redemption and restoration of the entire world. That God saw that it was finally complete and God rested. Jesus, rested in the tomb, a Sabbath rest, to rise on this glorious day we call Easter? To rise into the first born of the new creation…“He has also set eternity in the hearts of people; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
May we enter into this rich rhythm of rest today and ponder the fullness of Christ’s words on the cross, “It is finished”. Remember that all of creation has been made complete through Jesus’ love for us demonstrated on the cross. Let us rest knowing that God is calling forth new life in each of us this Easter season.