DayBreaks for 2/16/18: The Jewish Sabbath Secret
From the DayBreaks archive, February 2008:
Luke 23:50-54 (NIV) – Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it 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.
It would be hard to find someone who doesn’t know at least something about the Jewish Sabbath. Anyone who knows the Ten Commandments is familiar with the command to set one day aside to rest and be recreated. Yet because of cultural differences between the ancient Jews and modern day people, we miss some key elements that we should not miss.
The passage above from Luke 23 tells us the reason that Jesus was taken down from the cross in such a rush – and in John, it also tells us that the approaching Sabbath was the reason the legs of the thieves were broken and Christ’s side was pierced. The Jews didn’t want such things happening on the Sabbath – it would have been flat wrong to their way of thinking and belief.
Bear in mind the time of day when Jesus died…it was in the late afternoon, shortly before 6 p.m. Sabbath would begin promptly at 6:00 p.m. because the ancient Jews counted time from sundown onward. Today, we use the convention that a new day starts just after midnight, but the Jews felt it started the evening before. In reality, even though our clock tells us a new day starts at 12:01 a.m., for all intents and purposes, most of us think of the new day starting when the sun comes up.
Why is that important? And what does it have to do with the meaning and purpose of Sabbath itself? A lot, I think, and it has spiritual ramifications: we start the day out with getting ready to go to work, to begin our labors. The Jews, on the other hand, started their day out with a time of feasting and giving thanks, and then with sleep. What difference does that make? I think it says a lot about who is in charge of our lives and our times. The Jews began their day with a meal and thanksgiving to God, and then instead of working, they laid down to sleep through the night. On the other hand, we start it out with a quick breakfast (often hurried without time for leisurely giving of thanks) and running off to work to control our destinies.
By worship and then sleeping, the Jews were acknowledging that this new day was from God, and that they could rest in that knowledge. Sleep is a very real kind of self-relinquishment or self-abandonment. When we’re sleeping, we’re helpless. Someone could steal in and murder us or rob us and we’d be oblivious to it. When we are sleeping, we relinquish all attempts at making money, controlling life, controlling others, being successful. When we sleep, we are acknowledging our weakness – that we MUST rest. But the God who watched over Israel (and over us) never sleeps nor slumbers. And by sleeping first in the day, the Jews showed their trust in God for all that each day would bring.
I know that we aren’t going to be able to change the way the world views time these days, but in our hearts, maybe we’d be wise to recognize our laying down to sleep as the start of a new day – reminding ourselves that we can rest in, and because, of God who never takes His eyes off of us.
PRAYER: Lord, thank you for new days and new beginnings, and for inviting us first and foremost to rest in you, knowing you are ever vigilant! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
COPYRIGHT 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.