Saturday, March 30, 2013

Dark Sabbath

This week we remember Jesus’ final days.  Today is Saturday, the last day of the week, the “seventh day,” and that means today is the Sabbath, a day of rest.  God gave Israel the Sabbath day through Moses when He started providing food from heaven, just some 6 weeks or so after the first Passover.  For all those centuries from Moses to Jesus, Israel was to rest on the 7th day and do no work.  Of course religious leaders felt compelled to tell people what was “work,” and what wasn't.  They made up rules about how far one could walk, what kind of activities were acceptable and which ones weren't  and then those man-made rules became the same as the law to the ordinary person. 

Jesus’ disciples had learned these rules as children in their synagogue/schools, and probably followed them their whole lives.  But as they followed Jesus, they had learned new things about the Sabbath – they had learned that human rules weren't the same thing as God’s law – and they had been chastised for their actions by the religious leaders. 

Today we remember a special Sabbath, because today Jesus was dead.  His body was in a tomb, his soul in Hades.  What do you suppose was on the hearts and minds of his disciples today? 

I imagine they were very tired after several sleepless nights and happy to have the rest.  On the other hand, it can be very difficult to be still and rest, study and pray when one’s spirit is troubled; and they were certainly troubled.  How can this have been the Son of God, if he is now dead?  They thought he was The Anointed One (Messiah/Christ) and yet he had been mocked, beaten and murdered by the Romans – the very Romans they had expected him to destroy!  And now he was dead. 

I imagine they felt foolish for having believed in Jesus.  As they reflected today, I imagine they were confused, embarrassed and filled with guilt, anxiety and doubt.  Surely this was the longest, darkest day of their lives. 


Do you suppose they reflected on their Sabbaths with Jesus and wondered if it had all been a lie?  They must have thought maybe the religious rulers had been right the whole time. 


Today they must have been overwhelmed by guilt.  Remember how often they had disappointed him?  Remember that they couldn't stay awake to pray with him on his last night?  They had disbursed, abandoned and even denied him in his final and most desperate hours. 


On this day of reflection and rest, their next thought must have been to wonder: what now?  What will they do with the rest of their lives?  How does one recover from what they've given up to be followers of Jesus? 

Passover Comfort

Today consider Jesus’ BFF (John), who wrote the most about the last Passover.  Especially today – the Sabbath of Jesus’ “rest” in Hades – we should remember the words of comfort Jesus spoke to the 11 so they would make it through this dark day.  Read John 14-17 today and pray about it and consider their hearts as we reflect on this day.  Here are a few excerpts, but I hope you’ll read all four chapters. 
Don’t let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many dwellings; if it weren't so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I’ll come again and receive you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  John 14:1-3
After a little while the world will no longer see me, but you’ll see me; because I live, you will live also
John 14:19
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Don’t let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.  John 14:27-29
These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling. They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me. But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. These things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to Him who sent me.  John 16:1-5

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