My Father is at work until now, so I am at work. (John 5:17)
One of the great ironies of history: the Pharisees turned doing nothing into an intolerable burden. No job could have been more demanding than properly resting on the sabbath. The toil of the week might have been fraught with worries, but on the sabbath you had to be especially careful.
One of the great ironies of my own personal life: Nothing relaxes me, nothing soothes me or gives me rest, like a nice long run. Perhaps you non-runners will dismiss this as sheer insanity. But everyone can relate somehow. We find genuine rest not in supine couch-slouching but in some activity that harmonizes with a rhythm we have inside. Could be gardening, clubbing the little white ball around the dale, bridge or pinochle, kicking the soccer ball, downing beers in the Martinsville speedway infield, reading a book…In other words, in order to rest, we do something that requires attention and effort.
The Son of God became man to do the work He sees His Father doing. What does Christ see His Father doing? Only He Himself can answer that question completely. But, at the very least, He sees His Father doing what we see His Father doing—which is everything that gets done, except sins.
Make the sun rise, sustain the earth in existence, move us to do any good that we do, keep the possibility of heaven out there for another day—all in a day’s work for the heavenly Father. And He does it all day, day in and day out, 24/7, 365 or 366 days a year, for the entire length of the history of the universe.
Ought we to say, “Lord, we love You and we appreciate it. But You are working too hard. We are wearing You out. Take a day off and relax.”
No. The Lord has no trouble sustaining His unimaginably enormous workload. Being the Creator and sustainer of all things does not exhaust Him. It is, in fact, His pleasure. To work every good work that is worked provides God with a perpetual sabbath. He could do infinitely more work effortlessly.
The same thing goes for the Son made man. Did it exhaust Christ to teach the truth to the human race? Did He get tired of healing the sick and feeding the multitudes? Did it wear Him out to take all our sins on His back, carry them to Golgatha, and incinerate them on the altar of the cross?
No. Even descending into hell did not tire the Lord Jesus. He woke up refreshed, talked to Mary Magdalen, walked all the way to Emmaus, and He was still fresh as a daisy when He came to the upper room at supper time.
We must, however, obey the commandment and keep the sabbath rest. The Pharisees were right in this respect: Resting on the sabbath distinguishes the people of God. The pagans slave themselves and squander their vitality with fruitless agitations. But Israel heeds the law of Moses, which recounts the serene holiness of the Lord’s day.
So, how do we keep it? How can we act and rest at the same time, to the glory of God, Who moves the heavens without breaking a sweat? There is only one way: By believing in the Son Whom He has sent. Faith in Christ is the most fruitful work and the sweetest rest.