Late Friday afternoon, Jesus hung lifeless on the cross. Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin who had gone public as a disciple of Jesus, had to work quickly. Sabbath would begin at sundown, and the body had to be taken down from the cross and laid to rest in the tomb.
His fellow council member Nicodemus helped, bringing ample spices to prepare the body for burial. Mary Magdalene and some of the other women who followed Jesus watched, deciding they would come back with spices of their own to lovingly anoint the body of their Master. But piously, respectfully, they delayed their ministrations until after the Sabbath.
Interesting–considering that they followed a man with a reputation for being a Sabbath-breaker. When on the Sabbath Jesus healed a man who had been born blind, for example, the Pharisees snorted, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath” (John 9:16, NIV).
Healing the blind, therefore, was not acceptable on the Sabbath. Neither was picking a few heads of grain (Mark 2:23-24). Nor was healing a man with a shriveled hand (Mark 3:1-6). Unacceptable.
But as Jesus’ body lay in repose, the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate, then posted Roman soldiers to guard the tomb (Matt 27:62-66). That, apparently, was acceptable behavior for the Sabbath.
Jesus declared himself Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28). The women who sought to honor him at the tomb also honored the Sabbath. His opponents, in their zeal to protect their power and place, dishonored the Sabbath. And none of them, friends or enemies, seemed to anticipate that there would be an actual resurrection.
Meanwhile, it seems that God the Father, who would soon do the resurrecting, rested. The most game-changing miraculous work since creation itself? No hurry. All in good time.
All in God’s time.
We, who are frequently impatient in our prayers, are rest-less. Perhaps today, the silent Saturday between the cross and the empty tomb, would be a good day to cultivate a Sabbath trust in God’s sovereign timing.
Lord, so much of life seems to fall in that dark space between death and life, slavery and freedom, promise and fulfillment. Time moves so slowly in that fretful space. Bless us with the gift of faith. We need rest, Sabbath rest, for our souls. Amen.