Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Thoughts on Lent 4: There Is Joy in Rest

While the Genesis account of creation climaxes with the completion of God's work and His Sabbath rest on the seventh day, John's Prologue instead climaxes with the incarnation of that creative Word. John's Prologue stops short of the seventh day, and leaves us hanging on day six, the creation of man. The completion of God's work, the Sabbath rest, the seventh-day climax is missing from John's Prologue. Something more is still to come. God's creative activity is still unfolding. The final creative Word has not yet spoken.

And so while in Genesis, God finished the work that he had done and rested on the seventh day (Gen. 2:1-2a), Jesus throughout John continues His creative work. Jesus was sent to finish the Father's work (John 4:34). In one of the Sabbath controversies, Jesus said: "My Father is working still and I am working" (John 5:17). And finally, the real fulfillment of God's creative work through His Word comes our Lord's death, when He hands down the Spirit and proclaims, "It is finished" (John 19:30), and then rests in the belly of the earth. As God, Jesus keeps the Sabbath by continuing God's creative work. As man, He keeps the Sabbath by resting in the tomb and rising from the dead. This is why He came. He came to draw all to Himself and give rest to the weary and heavy laden.

We see a glimpse of this in the Gospel for Lent 4, John 6:1-15. It is our Lord's recapitulation of the giving of the manna and with it, the institution of the Sabbath. Jesus gives them their fill of bread before they even grumble for it. This is, after all, what the Israelites longed for in wilderness, to eat their fill of bread back in Egypt (Exod 16:3). And after they have eaten to the full, they gathered and kept twelve baskets full of what remains. It didn't spoil. It was enough to feed the twelve tribes, the twelve disciples, the whole church. It was enough to feed them so that they could enjoy the Sabbath and rest. For "the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27). In the feeding of the five thousand, they had a foretaste of that rest even before our Lord did, even as the Synoptics recount that the disciples receive a foretaste of that rest in receiving His body and blood on the night when He was betrayed.

Sabbath is a gift, not a burden. It is a gift of time free from competition, coercion, manipulation, exploitation, abuse, and anxiousness. Sabbath is time for rest, for play--true rest and true play as children enjoy them without anxiety. Sadly for many of us rest and play has become work, drudgery. We don't play golf anymore. We work on our short game. We don't play tennis, we work on our backhand. Sabbath is God's gift of time to rest and play, a foretaste of heaven.

The purpose of Sabbath is to purposefully and intentionally use the time God has given us. Society won't do it for us. We are addicted to the liturgy of productivity and consumption. What is the rush? Why so hurried and harried? Do you not know that Jesus is raised from the dead and lives forever? And since He is raised from the dead, so, too, will you. You will be raised from the dead and you will live forever. Why are you so hurried, so filled with anxiety? Why do you continue to drive yourself, enslaved to the liturgy of this world, to keep producing, keep succeeding? There is no rush. You have all the time in the world. Jesus is raised from the dead and lives forever. You will be raised from the dead and live forever. It'll be okay. Take eat. Take drink. Rest and Rejoice.


  1. Please keep writing these, Fr. Braaten. These have been the best new sermon prep resources I've read in a great long while. Thanks.


  2. This is awesome stuff...except for your split infinitive, but I'm learning to accept the usus loquendi...


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