Sabbath starts on Friday night, with the setting of the sun and the need for sleep. It starts with a clear reminder that the world does not depend on us, that we don’t have to carry its weight on our shoulders, because they were not meant for that. Sabbath is the holy day of the Jewish people. The day of rest and surrender. The Master’s body is in the ground. Can you imagine the anguish of His friends? The confusion, the disappointment, the disillusion of His followers? They saw Him die. They saw their hope fade away…This was going to be the longest and saddest Sabbath…
The Master’s body was laid into the new tomb, in order to be embalmed, according to the customs of the time. “Then he (Joseph) took the body down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.” (Luke 23:50-56)
The women did not expect such an ending to their beloved Master. They did not have their oils prepared to show the final act of love to a person by tending to their lifeless body. His death came so soon after His triumphant entrance into Jerusalem! So unexpected! So tormenting! How they placed all of their hopes in Him! He would have been an amazing leader. His kindness and love would have changed everything! And now He’s dead…Their worst nightmares were becoming a reality.
Because of the setting of the sun and the start of the day of rest they could not return to their Master’s tomb after they finished preparing the oils for His precious embalming. In spite of their hearts being in anguish, in indescribable pain, they chose to rest. To stop, according to the requirements of the Sabbath. Their love for God and His ways, their devotion to Him helped them keep their priorities straight. They knew that the body could wait. They knew that what pleased the Master the most was love and obedience to the Father. It mattered more to stop and worship, rather than tend to a lifeless body. Life is found in simple obedience. And obedience is not fluctuant, depending on the suitability of the circumstance for us.
On the other hand, another group of people who portrayed themselves as righteous and good, those who claimed the religious leadership, they don’t seem to be preoccupied with rest on the day intended for rest. Because a restless soul doesn’t let the body rest either. The Law and it’s addendum that they themselves had added, extra requirements that were burdening the people, were prescribing the number of steps and of actions that were permitted on the Sabbath day. But this group of religious leaders are more concerned with bringing their petty plan to completion.
The Master was representing a threat even from the grave. Those who are dead inside imagine that everything is evil, that everything is against them, that everything is a threat. On the day meant for rest, for individual and communal worship, the religious leaders gathered not for worship and adoration, but to go and talk to Pilate. They wanted to make sure that no devoted follower of the “Blasphemer” would dare to steal His body and then spread triumphant lies. What fear and jealousy and the desire to control do to our minds! Their plan must have required a lot of steps and a perfect coordination of a whole group, in a time when they did not have our fast means of communication. They got the word out and went to see Pilate together. Their plan was worth every effort, on a day when effort did not have a place.
Our choices will be determined by what is important to us. We might think that what we know will influence our decisions, both big and small ones. But it is not our knowledge, but our heart that will influence us. Our love. What we love will be revealed by what we do. It is easy to identify what you love when you look at your daily choices.
On that day of rest, when the body of the Master is in the tomb, we can easily see what the two groups of people were loving, both the simple, unknown women who followed Him from the area of Galilee, as well as the religious leaders, who were fearful of Him and His influence even after their murderous plans came to completion.
Take some time today to reflect on what is important to you. It is easy to see what is important if you start watching your own life – how do you spend your time or your finances? What fills your mind? What are you terrified of losing? In prayer, ask God if there are areas in your life that have their priorities reversed. Accept the loving invitation of the Spirit to come to the cross with what is important to you. There, at the cross, in the Savior’s presence, priorities are rearranged by Love, by what matters. At the cross, our hearts learn how to respond with love and devotion to Love, who came down and opened His arms on the rugged wood for us. To welcome us.
The lifeless Body of the Master is in the tomb. Those who are devoted to Him are resting their tired bodies and anguished souls. They are waiting for the following day, to be able to complete the burial customs on the dead body of their Beloved One…