Good Friday

Jesus Rested in Peace on the Sabbath

According to the Bible, Jesus wasn’t dead for three days.  It was closer to a day and a half, perhaps just over a day.  Which day?  The Sabbath.

Let’s go through it step by step.

“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice…And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last…And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath” (Mark 15:34, 37, 42).

The ninth hour is nine hours past dawn (about 6:00 am), so Jesus died about three on Friday afternoon.  We don’t know exactly when he came back to life, but we do know it was before dawn on Sunday (Mark 16:1-6).  Jesus was dead from Friday at 3:00 to before six am on Sunday.  That’s a lot less than 72 hours (= 24 hours times 3 days), probably between thirty and thirty-six hours.

You might object and say, “But the gospels say Jesus was supposed to be dead three days” (see Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34; 14:58).  Yes, and in the Jewish system of counting, Jesus was dead for three days: the day of Preparation (for 3 hours), the Sabbath (for 24 hours), the day after the Sabbath (for we don’t know how long, but less than twelve hours).  (In the Jewish calendar a new day begins not at midnight, but at dusk, which goes back to creation, “There was evening and there was morning, the first day”; Gen. 1:5.)

In our system of counting, Jesus was dead for a little over a day. 

We celebrate Good Friday to commemorate Jesus’ crucifixion, and Easter Sunday to commemorate his resurrection, but Jesus himself remembered the Sabbath by resting in peace.

In the Jewish calendar, the year of Jubilee was celebrated every fifty years (Lev. 25:8-55), the Sabbath year, every seven years (Lev. 25:1-7), the Passover, every year (Lev. 23:5), but the Sabbath was celebrated, or perhaps we should say remembered, every week (Exo. 20:8-11; Deut. 5:12-15).  The Sabbath was supposed to be celebrated 52 times more frequently than the Passover.  The Sabbath was also the only festival mentioned in the Ten Commandments (or as I like to say, the Fourteen Commandments).

Why was Sabbath so important? 

It commemorated two of the most important events of the Old Testament.

According to the Fourteen Commandments, the Sabbath commemorated Creation when God rested on the seventh day (Exo. 20:8-11), and it commemorated Deliverance when God brought his people out of Egyptian enslavement (Deut. 5:12-15).  Whenever the people of Israel rested on the seventh day they were remembering the two most dramatic events in their history, when God displayed his awesome acts of power as Creator and as Deliverer.

Instead of just celebrating Good Friday and Easter Sunday once a year, why not celebrate the Sabbath by resting once a week?  The Sabbath commemorates God’s Creation, Israel’s Deliverance, and Jesus’ Death.

God knows that we need rest, so he commanded us to remember the Sabbath and rest.  For me, I often teach on Sunday morning, so I rest Old Testament-style, from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown.

We live in a world that desperately needs rest.  Let’s follow Jesus’ example and rest in peace on our Sabbath. Just as it did for Jesus, resting on the Sabbath will give you new life.

What are your thoughts on taking a Sabbath?

Good Friday and Two WWII Prisoners (Bonhoeffer and Zamperini

Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Louis Zamperini.  Two WWII prisoners of war.  One imprisoned in Germany, the other in Japan.  One survives, the other is killed.  Two books published in 2010.

I’ve just finished reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (by Eric Metaxas, author of Amazing Grace) and Unbroken (by Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit).

I didn’t say, “Hey, I feel like reading books about WWII prisoners of war.”  It was rather random.  My father recommended Bonhoeffer and my neighbor Steve recommended Unbroken.  But as I was reflecting upon life and death on this Good Friday morning, I was struck by the similarities and differences between these two men, and wondered about their fates.

Why did Zamperini survive his multiple-year imprisonment and Bonhoeffer didn’t?

louis zamperini

Zamperini was an Olympic athlete (5000 meters), who actually met Hitler at the Berlin Olympics in 1936.  In 1942, he was part of a US Air Force crew that was forced to take out a damaged plane on a rescue mission and their plane crashed into a remote region of the South Pacific.  For 47 days he and the pilot floated in a raft, until they were picked up by the Japanese.  Unbroken tells his amazing story of survival in the midst of starvation and torture.  He should have died multiple times, but miraculously survived.  Not really a spiritual man, he prayed for deliverance along the way.  (As they say, “No atheists in fox holes.”)  God heard his prayer and he survived.  Zamperini had a more dramatic conversion post-war involving Billy Graham.  He’s still alive today at 96 years-old.  There are some gruesome bits in the book, but overall it’s a great story.  I highly recommend it.  Hopefully, to be made into a film like Seabiscuit.

Pastor_Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer was a theologian (which doesn’t sound as exciting as a martyr, prophet or spy, but trust me, our lives are just as exciting as spies) who stood up to the Nazi’s during WWII.  His books are classics: Life Together, The Cost of Discipleship (#1 Seed in Greatest Christian Books of All Time, March Madness edition).  While at times I thought Metaxas’ book included too many quotations from letters, books and other documents, everything written by Bonhoeffer was gold.  A great read.  Personally, inspiring to me, as I humbling try to follow Bonhoeffer’s example (not getting killed by the Nazi’s though, hopefully).  Bonhoeffer was captured in April 1943 and executed in April 1945, just two weeks before Allied forces liberated the camp.  What a waste!

So, why did God allow Bonhoeffer to die at age 39 when he could have written so much more?  What was God thinking?  One might assume that God would be more interested in preserving the life of his devoted servant (Bonhoeffer) more than Zamperini, who was far from living a pious life.

Of course for that matter, I guess the same could be said for Jesus.  What a waste!  He could have done a lot more if God had allowed him to live to a ripe old age like Louis Zamperini.  But then, our sins wouldn’t be atoned for.  That would be a bad thing, particularly for those of us like me who have a lot of sins that require atonement.  So, in a twisted way, I’m glad God didn’t spare Jesus’ life.

Thanks, God for sending your son to die for me, my family and my friends.  

I know Bonhoeffer’s death wasn’t necessary to atone for the sins of the world, so why did God not allow him to survive?