Download or listen to the Vigil of Easter: “Day of Rest” (Genesis 2:2-3, et al.)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This is the Sabbath of our Lord. “[O]n the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:2-3). God does not rest because He is tired; He rests because He is finished. And when His work of creation is finished, He attaches a blessing to the day.
The Sabbath was at the heart of Israel’s life: both in the cycle of creation, which alternated work and rest; and in the cycle of redemption, in which they rested and God did His work of instructing, forgiving, and saving. The Law, given through Moses, was meant to safeguard the people from themselves, from trusting themselves, from thinking they had to work or nothing would get done. From thinking they had to do everything because they were fully responsible, fully in charge.
We are not immune from those temptations; the temptation to work our bodies into the ground; the temptation to work so that we can rest, rather than rest so that we can work; to think that silence and mediation on God’s own Word is not “doing anything”; to think that we are in charge, and if we don’t do something now, who will take care of us; to trust ourselves, instead of God; to give up the hearing of God’s Word for the work we’ve made necessary by our desires and wants. It is all, in the end, idolatry of one sort or another; trusting the things we make with our own hands. But none of those idols take flesh; they are as cold as paper, and steel, and plastic. Our God, however, has seen our slavery; He remembers and He acts. And today is the Sabbath of the Lord. Today, Jesus rested in the tomb after He finished all the work that He had come to do. He rested on the seventh day from all the work He had done in making the New Creation. And He has attached a blessing to this day, to the Word of His salvation from Creation to Flood to Exodus to the Land of Promise to faithfulness in the face of death and salvation by the Son of God. This is the story of your salvation, and His work is finished, but He is not done, not yet; not until He brings you safely in to the Land of your Promise, the restored Garden, the eternal and faultless creation.
This is not a day to mourn; it is a day to rejoice in the eternal Sabbath rest won for you by Christ. “[F]or whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:10). Today, rest in the work of Christ, and not in your own. Today, rejoice in His Sabbath, and you will find today a foretaste of the rest to come. This is the seventh day, when the flood of God’s wrath sin is over. “Then [Noah] waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore” (Genesis 8:12). This is the feast day of our Bridegroom, on which His Bride rests in His wounds, “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the Church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26-27). This is the Sabbath of the Lord; let all the faithful rejoice. “For today among His own Christ appeared, bestowing His deep peace, which evermore passes human knowing. Neither could the gates of death nor the tomb’s dark portal nor the watchers nor the seal hold Him as a mortal” (LSB 487).
In the Name of the Father and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 4/3/12