Do you have that one weird friend you always catch smiling to himself when there’s no obvious reason to be smiling? It makes you wonder what is going on in their mind right? Imagine yourself to never have to be sad, always smiling – not because something funny is going on in your head, but because you have no reason to be sad? That’s something hard to accept. What would it be like to never know sorrow? What would a life without pain be like? Some school of thought believe that life has meaning because of our experiences – we place value on life, love, and hate because we die, we don’t really want sorrow, or death, or pain. The truth is we never really know what life would be like without pain and sorrow, but it is the promise we have received.
Jesus said to Martha in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die” . Take note of something important here; this was a moment of sorrow for Martha and Mary, Jesus was doing the work of the comforter here – but he was not comforting her the way everyone would have comforted her. He was making a bold declaration here – I am Life! If I live then you live, I won’t let you die. Jesus was not just referring to eternity here as life after death – he was referring to a new possibility of never dying. How do I know this?
Jesus was talking to his disciples when the messenger arrived with a message from Mary and Martha about Lazarus’s sickness. But he explained that it was an opportunity for God to show the power of his Son and his purpose in the world, and for the world to believe. And when he finally decided to go back to Judea he explained to them, “There are twelve hours of daylight every day. During the day people can walk safely. They can see because they have the light of this world. But at night there is danger of stumbling because they have no light” . Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up” . Just the same way Jesus had said to Martha that if anyone lived in him, there would be no death, Jesus was simply explaining to his disciples that they could only die when/if he was not there. He declared to Martha that he is the resurrection and the life, so there would be no death. When there’s light in the day, nobody stumbles against a pit. So Jesus was saying, Lazarus is dead but I’m going to wake him back to life because that’s why I’m here!
Why was this lesson important for the disciples? Martha had said, “Lord, if only you had been here…” it must have been a difficult thing for them to believe that Jesus could raise the dead because even after he told her Lazarus would rise, she thought he referred to the final resurrection. But Jesus was saying, ‘I am here now, you don’t need to worry I’ll just make him alive again’. This whole thing makes you want to evaluate again what the resurrection really is. It is not just life after death, it is coming back from the dead. He said, “I am THE RESURRECTION and THE LIFE…” two distinct things; the first is to take back from death what was stolen, the second was to keep it from being stolen.
God’s Purpose for us
Ever wondered what the Sabbath really meant? God blessed the seventh day and made it Holy, everybody knows that, but why? This was a kind of celebration; when your child takes it’s first steps you celebrate, when you conclude a pleasing project that was worthy of your time and efforts you celebrate, when you get married you celebrate – to God, this was the end of a ‘job well done’. It was the conclusion of everything, yet it was the beginning for us, because He brought us into it. Let’s dive deep into what I mean in a few words as possible before discussing its implications.
1. The Rest: God had concluded his work of creation. He had perfected it from the beginning to the end. It was not just the making of light, trees, animals and all that he made, he made the conclusion of it all to be in him.
This is how the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world, Peter calls it a mystery hidden in God that non should know it or understand it until it’s appearance. That was why the devil though killing Jesus was the answer to his problem of man’s redemption – it was hidden from him, if he had known, he would not have killed Jesus. God made the plan, made the world – and man was placed in the center of God’s rest (the finished work). This was the first Sabbath, an end to labour, an entering into God’s rest; the 7th day Sabbath.
2. The Atonement: God commanded the children of Israel to make an atonement once a year, on the tenth day in the seventh month of the year. This atonement was to separate them from their sins so they could experience God’s mercies, love and protection. The atonement kept them in a relationship with God where sin would separate them from God, the 7th month Sabbath.
3. The Jubilee: God commanded a feast for an entire year! The fiftieth year was declared for a Sabbath. The land was given rest, there was to be no farming, only harvesting. God caused the land to produce food for them, and for whoever was going to pass through their lands. Each person returned to his own land given to him (or his fathers) as an inheritance (after they had defeated their enemies and taken the land). It reflects our return to our true home with God, a home promised to us by Christ, “…I go and prepare a place for you… that where I am, there ye may be also.”
4. Christ died – Lord of the Sabbath: Christ came, everyone had been waiting for him but only few recognized him. He began to do things that seemed to defile the sacred Sabbath – God’s holy day. Questions arose about his claim as the messiah, some said, “If he was sent by God then he would not defile the Sabbath”. Other’s said, “If he was not sent by God, he won’t be able to do these miracles”. Strangely, nobody seemed to wonder what the Sabbath was supposed to be. Jesus began to teach what the Sabbath was supposed to be – he began to heal people on the Sabbath day. What better day than on God’s Holy day to rejoice in the goodness of God? What would be a better day to set at liberty those oppressed by the devil if not on God’s Holy day? Jesus did those things intentionally to destroy their idea of what a Sabbath was. It wasn’t a day to just sit in your house and wait till the next day doing nothing, it was a day to see clearly the wonders of God’s acts. And there’s no better way to see God’s wonders than when you have to do nothing! There was a need for this people to understand this ‘new Sabbath’, there is a need for us to understand it so we can enter it.
God had made the garden and everything in it, it was after making everything that he placed man in the garden to enjoy all of his goodness and blessings. Three things are peculiar in all the different Sabbaths; first, the people were always commanded to do nothing – just as man did not have to do anything to enjoy God’s blessings. Secondly, Man had a relationship with God in the garden before the separation, the atonement mended the separation by animals sacrificed for the sins of the people. Thirdly, man was satisfied, joyful, knew no pain nor death, knew no sorrow or regret, nor guilt – not in God’s rest, not until he stepped out of it. This was the reason for the Lord of the Sabbath himself to come. Until he came, the mission of man’s redemption into God’s rest was not manifested even though the work was finished from the foundations of the world. His death and resurrection is the affirmation of our faith. Those who believed in him, though the Sabbath was for a day they continued in His Sabbath – we enter into an inheritance of a promise made by God, to give us an end of sorrow and death.
Joy without End
Christ is the life to an endless celebration. When we are in him, we receive the same assurance that he gave to Martha, we will never die. He is our light, we will never stumble. He is the reason for our eternal jubilee. Not just an entire year of celebration but a life of joy without end, where we cannot be threatened by death, sorrow nor pain. We will live with him endlessly, knowing that death cannot conquer him, for he has conquered it already. We know that we will have no trouble for he is our Prince of Peace. Let me tell you how glorious it gets, you don’t have to wait till you are translated into immortality – this is the beauty of our faith. We receive right here on earth the end of our promise. This is like saying that we have purchased our salvation (an entrance into his rest) through our faith, and we have received and can enjoy now what we will truly become when we see him.
Make no mistake, Joy is eternal – it comes from God and transcends material and physical things. We experience joy because God brings us into His celebration. This is God’s purpose for those who are willing to enter into his rest. To enter into God’s rest (Sabbath) is to relax and allow him be responsible for you. Your problems can be bigger than you, but not when you are in God’s rest – they become his responsibility not yours. To experience an eternal joy, you must be willing to trust God that he has the best in mind for you and will never let you down. You may feel like a grasshopper before your challenges, but you must remember that with God nothing shall be impossible. So long as there’s light, night won’t come and you won’t stumble – so long as you are in his rest, your joy won’t end. Jesus was not sorrowful because Lazarus had died, it was the same compassion that had driven him to heal those people oppressed by the devil. It was a sorrow of knowing what hopelessness there is in death – if he wasn’t there to die and to give life, Lazarus and all who had died would have had died for nothing. It was the same reason he wept in Luke 19:41, because the people did not know what would have given them peace. He had offered it to them, but they had rejected it not realizing what it was he offered – so they could not have joy.
Fix your own gaze on Jesus, build your relationship with him, he will tell you what you do – he will stay by your side to give you peace and joy without measure. God’s love and purpose for you is beyond this life, yet he doesn’t wait till eternity to give you these blessings. Happy Sabbath brothers and sisters – may your joy never cease.
“...Sometimes I’m faint and weary, He knows that I am weak; And He bids me to lean on Him, His help I’ll gladly seek; He leads me in the path of light, beneath a sunny sky; And so we dwell together, my Lord and I”. By Ruthie Fisher