“Man was created on the sixth day right before God rested, so man was created as it were to enjoy the weekend with God.”
– Michael Wilcock
Summer Camp and the Already but Not Yet Reality
During most of my high school and college years, I served as a counselor at a Christian camp for one week each summer. Some of my fondest memories were formed through those experiences. The camaraderie among the counselors and the joy of seeing the Spirit at work in the lives of students were like little glimpses of heaven on earth. By the end of the week, none of us wanted to leave and return to the “real world,” and we had to be reminded of the fact that the world was still fallen and desperately in need of our ongoing engagement. The reality of the kingdom had broken into our lives that week, but much of the community around us was still devoid of that reality. If we wanted to extend to the world outside the glimpses of heaven on earth that we had experienced, it would require, not an ongoing retreat, but action.
Jesus and Sabbath Action
In John 5, the Jewish religious leaders are fired up because Jesus has healed a man on the Sabbath. In their minds, this is a clear violation of the Law and one deserving of severe punishment. Jesus’ response, as always, is insightful, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (John 5:17). The point Jesus seems to be making is this: the Sabbath is about experiencing life as it was meant to be, and ever since humanity fell into sin God has been working to restore what has been lost and broken.
Jesus is working on the Sabbath, but paradoxically his work is about restoring the true meaning of the Sabbath (unhindered enjoyment of relationship with God), and it is grounded in that very reality (his relationship and identity as the Son of God, see verses 19-20).
In Isaiah 58, there seems to be a similar connection between the active work of renewal and the idea of truly making the Sabbath a delight. We can see this by comparing verses 6-7 with verses 13-14.
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”
“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Jesus no doubt embodies Isaiah 58 as he rests in complete dependence upon the Father while also going about his Father’s work of bringing rest to a restless world.
As we follow Christ, we should know that a life of promoting the gospel of true rest will be a life of action as long as we live in a fallen world. While at the same time, as long as we remember our identity based on his finished work, our Kingdom action will be carried out from a posture of rest and inner peace.
Even our times of “getting away to a quiet place” need to include intentional action, not mindless binge-watching, but focused prayer and extended meditation on Scripture to be recharged for mission.
Both the Father and the Son are working to restore Sabbath delight and wholeness to the world. Through the Spirit, we can join them in that work and one day see things brought back to how they are supposed to be; all of life lived in constant enjoyment of a weekend with God.
- What are some specific areas in which you are not experiencing the rest that is available in the finished work of Jesus?
- Ask the Spirit to reveal areas where self-dependence and unbelief are hindering you from experiencing the rest that Jesus purchased for you.
- Through his Spirit in you, how does Jesus specifically want to bring new creation rest to others?
- As a community, be specific in prayer about asking the Spirit to reveal areas in which you can more intentionally take action to bring new creation rest to those around you.