In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1. Saint Mark begins His account of our Lord’s resurrection by telling us of all that happened “When the Sabbath was passed” (Mark 16:1) when it was “the first day of the week” (Mark 16:2). With these phrases, Saint Mark indicates to us that something new has come in the resurrection of our Lord. The Sabbath having been completed, a new week has now begun. In our Lord’s resurrection from the dead, the old creation, which was overrun with sin, is being remade. Having completed and fulfilled the Sabbath of the old creation, our Lord Jesus ushers in a new Sabbath rest for His people. The announcement of the angel to the women outside the empty tomb on Easter morning proves that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath. The fact that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath has two enduring consequences for Christians.
2. The first enduring consequence of our Lord Jesus being Lord of the Sabbath is that He has completed all things necessary for our salvation. Just before drawing His last breath and committing His Spirit to the hands of His Father, our Lord Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). That work which was begun at the creation of the world has been completed in Jesus.
3. In the beginning, God created all that is in the heavens and the earth simply by His word. “Let there be light,” and there was light (Genesis 1:3). “Let the earth sprout vegetation” …And it was so (Genesis 1:11). “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth” …And God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:20, 21). “Let the earth bring forth living creatures” …And God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:24, 25). And finally, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” …So God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:26, 27). Then the Lord put man into the Garden of Eden “to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Adam and Eve were given the task of cultivating this garden and spreading its goodness to the ends of the earth as they “fill[ed] the earth and subdue[d] it” (Genesis 1:26). And on the seventh and final day of creation, God rested. “So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation” (Genesis 2:3). And curiously, the pattern of creation is broken with this seventh day. No direct speech of God is recorded as this day is brought about. No action of physical creation was performed because God had finished His work. The torch had now been passed to the humans. However, God invited Adam and Eve to a restful labor, not the toilsome labor with which we are so familiar. They were to rest in Him even as they labored in subduing the earth. This is why the seventh day of creation does not have a recorded end in the same way as the first six days. The first six days of creation conclude with the passing away of the day: “and there was evening and there was morning” (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, & 31). The Sabbath rest which God created and blessed on the seventh day was not meant to pass away. God created humans for Sabbath—to rest in Him even as they labor.
4. But the blessed Sabbath rest came to a screeching halt when mankind rebelled against the Lord. Rather than faithfully carrying out their God-given task of spreading His goodness and resting in Him, our first parents sinned against the Lord. And “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Through the sin of the first Adam, the perfect Sabbath rest passed away. Mankind spent lifetimes seeking to restore the rest he had lost. When Noah’s father, Lamech, named His son, He said: “Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed, this one shall bring us rest from our work and from the painful toil of our hands” (Genesis 5:29). Noah did not restore the perfect Sabbath rest to creation, as his father had hoped. But through His faithfulness, the Lord preserved mankind through the ark. And through Noah’s seed, the Last Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ, would come to complete all things necessary for our salvation. He fulfilled the law perfectly for us. He suffered the penalty for our sins in our place. And He was raised to new life, demonstrating that His sacrifice has been accepted by the Father. Through His death and resurrection, our Lord Jesus has completed all things and has restored to us the Sabbath rest lost by the first Adam. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45).
5. Having completed all things necessary for our salvation, the second enduring consequence of our Lord Jesus being Lord of the Sabbath is that He gives us rest. And this is wonderful news for we who labor so much. The problem with our labor is that too often it is not fruitful labor. Our labor is far from the restful labor the Lord granted to Adam and Eve. Our labor so often is toilsome labor. We work 9-5 (or beyond) to bring home the check to pay the bills, but the bills keep coming, the prices keep increasing, that one more thing goes wrong, and we don’t know how much more we can take. The toil never seems to end. Work piles up around the house. The “to do” list is never ending. There is always someone else demanding our attention or our help. There is always something else that really ought to be done, even when we’ve spent all of our spare time on those things which absolutely must be done. The dishes don’t stop piling up, the laundry is never-ending, the repair projects are insurmountable, and before too long, the weeds will be going full force in your flowerbeds and gardens and the black flies and mosquitoes will taunt every minute of your labor to keep them at bay. We toil and so often cannot seem to find rest or reward. This is the curse which the first Adam brought upon the ground. There is no purpose, no belonging, and no end to the toilsome labor. This is what happens when God’s Sabbath rest is removed from creation.
6. But our Lord Jesus rose from the dead so that He might give us rest here in time and there in eternity. Here in time, our Lord Jesus gives us rest through His Word. Every time we open the pages of the sacred Scriptures, every time that we hear the Word read aloud or preached to us, our Lord offers us rest. He whom completed and fulfilled all things by His death and resurrection has instituted a new creation. Upon the first day of the new week, our Lord rose from the dead and instituted that new creation where He is now working to re-create the heavens and the earth and all that is in them through His Word. Just as the Lord spoke all things into existence in the beginning, so too does He speak the new creation into existence in you through His Word. When He declares forgiveness, there is forgiveness. When He declares you to be His friend, it is so. When God grants salvation unto you, He sees it, and behold, it is good. Through the written word on the page, through the mouth of a friend, or from the pastor himself, God speaks and grants you rest and it is so. In a world of endless toilsome labor, God’s Word grants us the only true reprieve we will find. It’s not a coincidence that starting your day with prayer and devotion or in God’s house has a profound impact on the rest of your day. The Lord offers you rest through His Word each and every day.
7. But the temporary rest and reprieve found in God’s Word in this life is not the end. As great of a gift as that is, as much as we long to return to God’s Word to escape the meaningless toil of this life, God’s written and spoken Word do not provide enduring rest on this side of eternity. Even the sacramental Word, as great of a gift as it is, does not provide enduring rest. Only once the sinful man in us is destroyed will enduring rest be ours. Only once our Lord Jesus returns on the last day to usher in the final Easter will we be granted enduring rest. In this life, we gather around the written and spoken Word of God to be granted rest and reprieve in this life, yes. But more than that, We gather around the written and spoken Word of God to be prepared for the final word which our Lord will speak to us on the last day: “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
8. “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here” (Mark 16:6). It is this announcement of our Lord’s resurrection to which we cling on this Easter Sunday. Jesus has completed all things for our salvation. He has conquered death and the grave for us. And by His resurrection He gives us rest here in time as well as there in eternity.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In Jesus’ name. Amen.