Today is “Good Friday.” Christians take this day each year to remember the death of Jesus which, we believe, reconciled us to God forever. It’s a very good thing indeed if, in fact, you believe we need reconciling and there is a God. Today there will be a lot of emails and posts about what the death of Jesus means. I want to put a slightly different spin on it – and offer one way to let it impact our weekend.
Our lives are full of hurry and worry. There is always much to do and there is so much uncertainty in these times. So we hurry around and worry ourselves through each day. We all seem to be facing it on some level. But why? About this, Jesus says the following in Matthew 6:31-33:
Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Easy for you to say, Jesus. Have you seen the things we’re facing down here?
There’s a story in the Bible which is a fascinating look into this problem. Jesus was coming to town. Two sisters, Mary and Martha, were preparing for his arrival. Martha was “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” She asked Jesus why he wasn’t concerned that lazy ‘ol Mary wasn’t pulling her weight. She was just sitting there, hanging out with Jesus. Couldn’t he see it? Here’s what Jesus said to Martha:
“You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.”
He gently but directly goes a few layers deeper in Martha’s heart and invites her to a different way of thinking. “Just be present with me,” he says.
On this Good Friday, and in this holy weekend, we too are invited to slow down and peel back the layers of our hurry and worry. To just sit with Jesus – and the story of His death, burial and resurrection. When we do we will often find the idols of self-sufficiency, pride and busyness are exposed. We will find a lack of trust that God actually will bring about His purposes. We don’t actually believe God so we bustle around trying to figure life out and work our way to something better.
We should beware of these idols. They are built on the lies of the enemy that God is not trustworthy and that we should take matters into our own hands. They are the roots of trees whose fruits are hurry and worry. When we taste this fruit we will realize it is bitter indeed.
But how do we slow down and worry less? And what does it have to do with Jesus dying on a cross? Here it is: the greatest way to slow down is to do nothing. To surrender and truly rest. God knew we needed this and he made a way. For our good, He sometimes allows us to come to the end of our efforts and still not have what we desire. Can you imagine how the disciples felt the Saturday after Jesus died? It was the Sabbath. They were supposed to be resting. Were they?
The full story of the cross is that Jesus paid it all – that his death was the single and sufficient sacrifice for all the things that are broken in the world. He offers reconciliation to God, and peace. The disciples didn’t know this yet on Saturday. But we do. We should allow God’s free gift of peace and grace to lead our weekend. For when we find peace, we will find the deepest rest.
To help us, God instituted a principle called Sabbath. Practically speaking, it’s simple: take an entire day of each week and do not work. Intentionally limit your mental, physical and emotional exertion and do things that give life rather than take it. Allow God to fill you up in that rest. Fill the time you’d normally work with worship, recreation, relationship, quiet – a life-giving change of pace.
This weekend, try it out. Rest in God’s love – both physically and spiritually – for an entire day. You’ll find that the worries and cares and stress may not go away entirely, but a deeper peace will flow in, and it will be sweet indeed. Jesus didn’t just die to give us a ticket to heaven in the afterlife. He died, and he prayed, that His kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven. That means now.
Lord, we remember your death and celebrate the freedom you have given. Help us slow down and rest in you. Thank you for making a way for us to discover true peace.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Joel & Jeff