Anglican Morning Devotion for 20 April 2022 Anno Domini
a ministry of the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: 51(The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. 52This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. 53And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid. 54And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.” (Luke 23:50-54: all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
At the dawning of a pristine Sabbath morning in Israel more than 2,000 years ago, there was a deep silence that fell upon the hills and slopes of all the land. The Cedars of Lebanon waved their branches in the gentle breeze that was typical of that spring season in the region. Even on this Sabbath, Jordan continued her roll to her demise in the Dead Sea, and gentle Galilee reflected the rays of the morning sun on the same hillside at which the Lord had fed five thousand with two fishes and five loaves of bread. But there was a confusing mixture of celebration and abject sorrow on this Sabbath day. Many in positions of power, both religious and secular, were exultant at the death of a Man who preached love, healed the leper, restored vision to the blind, and even resurrected the dead. His name was Jesus of Nazareth. Others who were His disciples, hid themselves away behind locked doors in dismay and horror over events whose gravity and significance they could little comprehend.
This Man, Jesus, kept the Law of Moses with meticulous care – in fact, He was the culmination of the Law and the Prophets. Now, He lay in a borrowed tomb in a garden outside the gates of Jerusalem. No one waited at Jacob’s Well at the noonday hour for that need was satisfied. No woman of Tyre buried her son that day for he had been made alive. None of the ten lepers watched along the road to Jericho because they were healed. And the body of Lazarus no longer remained in the tomb at Bethany for he had been called forth by the Voice of the Lord. At the end of three years of weary travel and constant service, He was worn with His labors which were not for money or comfort, but for the desire of nations for peace, love and reconciliation to God our Father. Now, as a final fulfillment of the Law, He rested over that Sabbath Day so long ago in His rest of death. This was the second notable Sabbath rest of the Lord. It was the long prophesied consummation of the means by which a just God could look upon the redeemed sinner who would be accounted righteous because of the imputed righteousness of Christ. It was finished! That was the Sabbath of the New Creation of man in Christ.
The first Sabbath is well known. It occurred eastward in Eden on the seventh day following Creation of all living. That Sabbath was a rest for the physical world and all that was in it. It was reinforced by the Commandment of God to Moses for His people, Israel – and to us. “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20:8-11) Man’s greatest abuse is likely in failing to work those six days in order to make the seventh Holy by his good works.
There is much spiritual conflict today concerning the Sabbath Day – are we still required to keep it? Was it annulled by Christ who, even in death, kept it? Which day is it? Was it changed from the seventh day to the first day as observed in churches today? If so, precisely where do we find such an important change stipulated in Scripture? I do not believe any of the Laws of God have been annulled or suspended. I believe they are even more binding on the Christian today than when first uttered at Sinai. The difference is the means by which we are enabled to obey that Law – it is solely by the means of love since love covers all sin. (See Proverbs 10:12)
Sabbath literally means rest. The Sabbath Day was given as our day of rest, and certainly, one day in seven has been found to be of biological benefit to man and beast; and one day in seven devoted particularly to the worship of the Lord is of supreme value. But Jesus has become our Sabbath in the same way as He has become our Passover. He fulfilled all the requirements of the Law for our salvation and benefit. It is not one day in seven any longer in which we rest from OUR labors, but rather seven days in seven since it is the Lord who works in and through us. If our works are of righteousness, then they are the works of the Lord. Only those unrighteous acts may be claimed by us as ours alone. “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 10For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.” (Hebrews 4:9-10) And we do from ours.