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?

Sticks and Stones

What do you do with the story of the guy who was stoned for picking up sticks on the Sabbath?  I taught on this in Sunday school this past week.

While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation. They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him. And the LORD said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” And all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, as the LORD commanded Moses (Numbers 15:32-36).

The people know the guy has done something wrong.  That’s why they bring him to Moses and Aaron.  But they just aren’t sure how to punish him.  What will YHWH say?  There are at least four options:

1) Have him put the sticks back and tell him not to do it again.
2) Get him to repent then show him mercy.
3) Ostracize him.  Send him back to Egypt, or forward to Canaan.
4) Kill him.  By stoning.  With the entire community (get the whole family involved).

Why does YHWH pick option #4?  If someone asked you about this story what would you say?  In the next blog, I’ll discuss your answers as well as my own.  So, make some comments. 

No cheating, if you’ve read God Behaving Badly.  I’m not even going to tell you where I discuss this story.

Image from


The 14 Commandments

After Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt they went to Mount Sinai where Moses receives from YHWH the Fourteen Commandments.  I know what you’re thinking: “Does he know how to count?”  Re-read Exodus 20:2-17 carefully and see if you don’t come up with 14 also.

Traditionally, the 14 commands are divided into 4 commandments that focus on “loving” God (Exo. 20:2-11) and 6 commandments that focus on “loving” humans (Exo. 20:12-17) for a total of 10.  In the first section focusing on God, the English phrase “You shall…” is repeated 6 times (all imperfects in Hebrew).  The command “Remember the Sabbath day” is unique (an infinitive absolute in Hebrew).  So there are 7 commands in Exo. 20:2-11 in a six and one pattern. (The two other verbs in 20:9, “you shall labor and do all your work” appear to be descriptive, not prescriptive, and therefore aren’t interpreted as commands.)

In the second section focusing on other humans, the English phrase “You shall” is repeated 6 times (all imperfects in Hebrew).  The command to “Honor your father and your mother” is unique (an imperative in Hebrew).  So there are 7 commands in Exo. 20:12-17 also in a six and one pattern.

(Don’t read this paragraph unless you’re into details.  How did the Fourteen Commandments become the Ten Commandments?  Good question.  Several texts from the Pentateuch call them literally “the ten words” (Exo. 34:28; Deut. 4:13; 10:4), so that’s where the number 10 comes from.  But we still need to decide how to make the 14 into 10 and this is where Christians disagree.  People agree that the 3 commands in verses 8-11 are all part of the command to “Remember the Sabbath.”  The disagreement centers on the beginning and the end.  Most Protestants think the 2nd commandment entails verses 4-6, while the Catholics and the Lutherans think the 1st commandment includes verses 3-6.  The Catholics and Lutherans then divide the two commands about coveting into #9 and #10.  For more details see,

I call them The Fourteen Commandments, not only to be provocative, but also to highlight the textual emphasis on Sabbath.  A pattern of 6 and 1 in the God-commandments, then a pattern of 6 and 1 in the Human-commandments.  Even in the covenantal laws given to his people, God reminds them to rest, remember the Sabbath and enjoy his creation.

Which is better, DeMille’s The Ten Commandments or DreamWorks’ The Prince of Egypt