God’s Word for You
Luke 23:54-56 on the Sabbath they rested
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, June 27, 2019
54 It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was beginning. 55 The women followed after Joseph (the ones who had come with Jesus from Galilee), and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes, but on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
Preparation Day was Friday, and modern Greeks still use this word (παρασκευῆ) for Friday. Luke does not mention the seventy-five pounds of spices brought by Nicodemus to help Joseph with the burial (John 19:39), but the women, who saw the way Jesus’ body was prepared and laid in the tomb, felt that more was necessary, and so they prepared some more.
Many tombs of this period actually had doors on hinges which are still visible today. Some commentators think that since this was a new tomb, the entrance part may have been unfinished, and so a stone was required to close it rather than simply the closing (and locking) of a door. Sometimes this is depicted as a tomb flush with the ground, so that the stone might be rolled over it, or a tomb set into a hillside (which is more in keeping with what can be seen today in the area around Jerusalem) with a round stone large enough to cover the entrance but thin enough to be managed by one or two people. Such a stone was typically set in grooves along the front edge of the entrance.
The women did not abandon the word of God or the will of God, even though the Lord Jesus himself had died. The Sabbath day had arrived, and they used the day to rest according to the Lord’s command. Jesus had pointed out that there could be exceptions, such as healing the sick (Luke 6:9-10) or to rescue an animal in need (Luke 14:5) or even to do the basic labor of caring for one’s animals (Luke 13:15). But the work the women were going to do could wait another day. There was no emergency. Nicodemus and Joseph had prepared the Lord’s body well enough for the Sabbath; they could wait until dawn the next day.
How often do our choices for the use of our Sundays conflict with God’s will that we should worship him? God urges us: “Build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20). I can build up my faith well enough by reading the word of God and thinking about it on my own, but who else am I building up by doing this? We meet together for worship and Bible study to point out things we notice and love in the word of God that someone else might not notice—and to be shown things we might have missed. Solomon says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
Blessed James says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). We confess our sins publicly in worship, and receive the absolution there. Jesus commanded this as well and instituted the absolution when he said, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18; John 20:23). This power was given to the whole Christian church, not merely to some or to one. And so we do it as a church, according to the Lord’s command and blessing.
The gracious writer to the Hebrews says, “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). This is surely done partly through the preaching of the word and also through the examples of our fellow Christians. But the public preaching of the gospel should especially be received by the church, as Paul says: “Devote yourselves to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). Those who avoid church miss this vital part of the work of those called by God. Paul asks: “How can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:14). So, “do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing” (Hebrews 10:25).
This is enough about such things for now. We haven’t even touched on the value of public prayer (Ephesians 6:18) or of singing together (Acts 16:25; Colossians 3:16), or of setting aside our gifts for the work of the church (1 Corinthians 16:2). Take the lesson to heart from the women and respond to God’s urgings with humble obedience. Take the day of rest for your body, but nourish and care for your faith and your soul, week by week, Sunday by Sunday, from this day on until the Lord comes again.
Pastor Timothy Smith