Holy Sabbath

Today is Holy Saturday.  This, according to Church tradition, is the day after the crucifixion.

Not much happening today.  Or is there?

This must have seemed like the longest Sabbath ever to the disciples.  They watched their leader, their Messianic hope, die a cruel and painful death on a cross.  They saw the Roman guard pierce his side.  They saw the whole thing.

Today was their day of rest.  They could do nothing.  No work.  No cooking.  No cleaning.  They had no daily duties to distract them from their overwhelming grief.  The Jewish day was counted from sundown of one day to sundown of the next, so Friday night to Saturday night they prepared nothing.

Contrast that with Jonathon and I today.  He’s editing video for tomorrow’s program. He worked on the pergola he’s building outside.  I dyed Easter eggs whit Ruby this morning. We still need to hide those later today, and then find them.  I’ve got a cake in the oven (not a euphemism) and another pie to make still.  The list is long and seemingly endless in preparation for Easter.

I found a good online resource that outlines the origin and institution of the Sabbath:

The formal institution of the Sabbath did not occur, however, until many centuries after creation. It is first mentioned in Exodus 16:23, where Moses explains to the Israelites in the wilderness that on the sixth day of the week they are to gather and prepare enough manna for two days instead of the customary one.  On the seventh day they are not to gather manna, for none will be given them.  Rather, they are to remain where they are and rest (vs. 29-30), eating the manna they have stored up in advance.  Although the Sabbath is named and instituted in this passage, it did not immediately receive its full formal significance, for the violation of the Sabbath by some of the Israelites earned them no more than a verbal rebuke (vs. 28-29).

Later, however, the Sabbath was explicitly codified in the Mosaic Law, even receiving a central place in the Decalogue:  “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.”  (Ex. 20:9-10)  The keeping of the Sabbath was a sacred sign between God and Israel, a day “holy to the Lord” (Ex. 31:12-17) and violation became punishable by death (Ex. 35:2).  When a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath contrary to the Lord’s command, he was stoned to death by the community (Num. 15:32-36).  Thus it was clear from the very beginning that this day of rest was not to be taken lightly.

The rabbinical law had this outlined fully.  You could only walk up to a half mile on the Sabbath.  You could only do so much to care for your animals.  You could not carry burdens – hence the Pharisees scolding the lame man Jesus healed on the Sabbath.  The original idea, long lost through time it seems, was to let man rest.  God wanted man to take a break from all his labor, like He Himself did on the seventh day of Creation.  Make a man or woman sit and not be planning the next meal or project, and they will feel rejuvenated, right?

I can only imagine Mary, Martha, Mary Magdalene and the disciples just…waiting.  When will Saturday night be over?  What will we do now?  Our hands are tied.  Our Lord is dead.  They probably only felt the futility of their situation and a certain amount of despair.

That very first Easter, they visited the tomb to prepare His body for burial.  They got there at first light. They had no big plans other than that.  And then…Jesus wasn’t there!  Angels greeted them with the news that “He is risen!” Hallelujah!

So you see, the Lord was working even on the Sabbath.  He was overcoming sin and death.  Now, we can truly rest in His sacrifice.

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