55.) And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after and observed the tomb and how His body was laid.
56.) Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.
In the flow of Holy week, as we move from Palm Sunday to Easter, not a lot of thought is given to Holy Saturday. It doesn’t get very much mention in the Scriptures. It was the day between the crucifixion and the resurrection. We are simply told it was the Sabbath and that it was a day of rest, so according to the Scriptures, the women rested.
The Sabbath in Israel is different from what we are familiar with here. If you have spent a good bit of time around Hasidic or ultra-orthodox Jews, you may have a better understanding. For them the Sabbath is taken very seriously. In Israel today there is not a complete shut down, but certain compromises are made to appease. The Sabbath is a family day. It begins at 6 p.m. Friday night and ends at 6 p.m. Saturday night. Many families come home for the Sabbath. I was talking to a gentleman in Jerusalem on a Saturday night after 6 p.m. He has three sisters. The typical house in the country has maybe two bedrooms. Each sibling takes a turn at the parents’ house while the rest stay in a hotel. They alternate each week, throughout the year.
In the cities and larger towns, people tend to eat out on Friday night while Momma has cooked all day Friday for the Sabbath meal, which is eaten at home. I saw great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, and children of all ages gathered together on that Friday night. They blocked off the streets in the Hasidic and ultra-orthodox parts of town because if you go into those areas during Sabbath, the residents will throw rocks at you and try to stop your car in order to burn it. For them, starting a car is striking a fire, and that is against the commandments. I haven’t been able to wrap my head around where it is OK to throw rocks and stop a car to burn it on the Sabbath, but not OK to crank it. Maybe some of you can help shed a little light on this for me….
One of the common compromises is that if you are in a building with elevators, all are shut down except one. And that one elevator is programmed to stop at every floor both going up and coming down – because this prevents your breaking a Sabbath law by pushing a button. Imagine the enjoyment of being in a 24-floor hotel, filled with tourist on a Sabbath day. Your room is on the 20th floor, the elevator is on the 23rd floor, and for some reason it has remained there for awhile. You have a choice: You can camp out on a couch in the lobby or climb 18 sets of steps. Again, how is climbing 18 sets of steps less work than pushing a button? But I digress….
The important point is the Sabbath is supposed to be a day of rest. That is what the Scripture said these women did – they rested. I have always wondered – did they go to the Synagogue? Did they hear the liturgical readings from the law, the prophets, and the Psalms for that day? Were they able to take their minds off the events that had just transpired? Were they able to take their mind off the work that had to be done Sunday morning, which had been left undone from Friday? I’m sure physically they didn’t have to crank the car or push the elevator button. But were they able mentally to let go and let God? I doubt it.
I am positive the disciples were not able to. They were not resting. They were hiding. Jesus was dead, and they could be next. Their thinking was, “Where do I go from here? I gave three years to this. I was going to be the prime minister, or the secretary of state. Now, I’m hiding for my life. When will it be safe to go outside again? Can I get through the city gate without being seen? I wonder if I can get my old job back as a tax collector.” The disciples were not physically cranking the engine or pushing the elevator buttons, but they weren’t resting either.
We know exactly what that is like. Like myself, I suspect you have experienced lying down at night, physically exhausted, only to have your eyes remain wide open as your brain churns 90 to nothing. And once sleep finally does come, it is not restful, as on awakening you feel like you’ve pulled a loaded barge up the Mississippi River all night long….
The word rest has a different meaning for the church than it has for the secular world. In the Old Testament, the word rest means to be living in the provision that God has provided. In the first 5 books of the Bible, it literally meant the promised land. Later, as with David, it meant dwelling in God’s goodness, presence, power, and grace. Working in God and through His power in order to accomplish His will. It meant a life of not trusting in oneself but in the power of God working through one. Paul carried this over into his thoughts in his epistles. For the Christian to be resting is to be trusting. Through trust we live by faith that our God is in control. His word and His promises are sure. What has happened and what is going to happen is not a problem. Through the Holy Spirit, our God is with us – and we are in Him!
One of my favorite old hymns is “Blessed Assurance”. The third verse starts out, “Perfect submission, all is at rest, I in my Savior am happy and blessed”. Did you catch that? Not I AND my Savior but I IN my Savior. It is when we are IN Him, when we are IN His Spirit, IN His word, IN His presence through prayer and praise, that we can have perfect rest. Then it is no longer about us, but it becomes all about Him. It is no longer about what He is going to help us do, it becomes about what He through His power is going to do through us.
Back to our story. It would seem no one was resting that day. The religious leaders were not resting – they were afraid Jesus would do what He said He was going to do and rise from the dead. Pilate wasn’t resting – he had no clue what political repercussions might come out of this. The poor soldiers on guard duty couldn’t rest – the darn angels kept waking them up. Jesus wasn’t resting – His earthly body was still in the tomb, but He was in Hell jingling keys, rattling doors, and driving Satan nuts.
I believe there was only one Being resting on that Sabbath. It was God the Father. His Son’s work was finished. His love for His creation and His plan for the salvation of His creation had been paid in full the day before. The next day would start the new beginning, and He could rest in the fact that He through the work of His Son and the power of His Holy Spirit had truly made all things new.
BLESSINGS AND PEACE
Remember to read Psalm 91 in the first person each day and claim it for yourself.