The crucifixion teaches us that there is often a wait between the worst and the best. This is a time to rest in faith for all that God does is very good.
And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment. (Luke 23:56)
How the followers of Jesus must have struggled to rest in faith on that Sabbath day between His death and resurrection. It was no accident, however, that everything relating to that fateful event played out exactly according to God’s wishes. Of course, the religious leaders would not have wanted to prolong His arrest and trial. This is why He was tried and sentenced in the early hours of the morning. Their haste was so that it could be finished before the Sabbath. A time focused on God without distractions would give people time to think. The hysteria impetus of the mob they had whipped to a frenzy would dissipate. They needed His death to happen before people had the time to consider and retract their support. Because Jesus was innocent, they needed the mob weight to push their agenda.
The significance of rest in faith.
To understand the significance of the Sabbath in the cross, we look at original creation. The seventh day was when God rested. But the other important aspect is that God did something before He rested. He looked at all His creation and saw that it was very good. So God was able to rest because it was very good. It lacked nothing, was perfectly complete, and He was able to rest in faith that He had done a very good thing. This is part of the principle behind the Sabbath as a time to cease work and focus on what God has done and who He is. It’s a time find the ‘very good’ and refocus for the week ahead. The very nature a day of rest in spiritual terms is to rest in faith that all He has done, is doing, and will do is very good.
Despite Jesus telling His followers that He would rise again, today’s verse indicated that the women, like the men, hadn’t absorbed this. If we look further we’ll see the disciples did not initially believe the women’s report. These women gathered what they needed to embalm his body. The assumption was that He would still be in the tomb on the day after the Sabbath. It’s difficult to image any who lived closely with Christ being able to rest in faith. Rather, it must have been a heart-breaking time of forced inactivity. Human nature being what it is, it’s very unlikely that they spent that time celebrating the coming resurrection. For one thing, the following chapters indicate that they had not fully grasped this. The other is that most of them were in fear of their own lives. Confusion, fear, anger and despair must have been very real.
Rest in faith implies in spite of.
This, I believe, is the beautiful message of a single Sabbath day sandwiched between death and resurrection. When things don’t make sense, it’s time to rest in faith in spite of everything. We must be still and seek God when our expectations are crushed, our hopes destroyed, and all we believer seemingly overturned. It’s the time to remember that God declared all He had done to be very good. Punctuating the crucifixion and the resurrection with a Sabbath day pause enforced this. It reminds us that the work of the cross is very good. When things are at their worst, that is the time to turn to God and rest in faith. He turned what seemed to be the greatest atrocity in the greatest victory. When God says ‘be still and know that I am God,’ this is what He means.
Father, thank You for the gentle reminder this morning to be still and rest in faith. Help to always remember that what You is always very good, even when we cannot see it. Draw us into a place where we rest in faith, focusing our eyes only on You, trusting that what You will begin You will also complete.