The Day (and Promise) of Rest

It’s the day between. Good Friday has concluded; Jesus is in the tomb; Sunday is yet to come. There is no gospel text to guide our thoughts on this day, but there is a very poignant passage for the day in Hebrews 4, the latter portion of which is below:

11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be among the disciples of Jesus the day after. And the day before. Except they only knew about the former. Everything in which they had invested had gone south, and very quickly at that. The unimaginable series of events had landed them in a place where the only possible conclusion was that they had lost it all. And how would they ever hope to be rehabilitated into the world they had left, the one they had rejected in exchange for a vague but very compelling vision from a man like no other–who was now dead. Talk about needing some downtime. Today, we would probably add “and a therapist.”

The text in Hebrews speaks of those who fell short of entering into God’s rest due to disobedience. But it also tells us that even the promised land of Canaan was not the final rest of which God had spoken. There were “rests” along the way toward the final Sabbath rest. God knows we need them. They clear our thoughts, allowing us to debrief, reflect, and refocus. Sometimes they come at pivotal points, where we seem to have every reason to turn around, turn away, and perhaps even turn against God because of the failure of the plan we thought we knew, the one for which we had signed up. At the very least, it forces us to ask ourselves again just what it was that we expected from this relationship in Christ. Before us is the specter of many who had failed and bailed at these junctures; but there are also those, like the disciples of Jesus, who wondered just as much, but stayed the course long enough to receive the unbelievably good news.

Our “Saturdays” of disappointment and confusion are real, and sometimes they are long. Just as with the disciples, God knows when to end them with His powerful intervention. The one He was to provide Easter morning is proof enough that he does redeem the times of rest if they are endured with hope, even while uncertainty dominates the moment. He knows when and how to raise the dead.