Silent Sabbath

Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

Luke 23:50-56

Friday, before the sun set, Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’s body down from the cross, wrapped it in linen, and placed it in a new tomb. Mary Magdalene and the other women watched the burial, mourned, and planned to return after the sabbath to cover the body in spices and perfumes.

Imagine the looks of silent shock around the shabbat dinner Friday night. Imagine the silence of Saturday.

It was meant to be a day of rest, but I imagine it was a day of restlessness for the followers of Jesus. Their rabbi, their Messiah, their King, their hope for freedom from Roman occupation was dead. One of their closest friends, Judas, had turned Jesus over to the Jewish leaders and then committed suicide. One of the leaders of their band of brothers, Peter, had just denied even knowing Jesus in the moment when Jesus needed him most. Everyone else seemed to scatter except the women and the beloved disciple John.

What just happened?

Everything happened so fast. Have you ever had one of those moments of confusion and disillusionment that seemed to move faster than your thoughts and feelings could process? When things finally slow down, as they did that sabbath, everything comes rushing back. Flashes of scenes play through your mind.

Jesus in the Gethsemane agonizing in prayer.

The soldiers marching toward them with torches.

Jesus getting struck on the face.

The mock trial.

The early morning pronouncement of Pilate that left them in shock.

The beaten and bloodied image of Jesus stumbling up to Golgotha.

His eyes.

What was on his head?

The clank of metal on metal met with screams of pain.

Our Savior hanging there.

The smell of blood and death.

The lifeless body.

The dark tomb.

All the images flashing in their minds on repeat. Then the questions. How could this happen? Why would God let this happen? This can’t be God’s plan. Why didn’t God stop this? What do we do now? How can I go back to my old life? Will the Romans come for us next? The Jewish leaders know us. Are they going to hunt us down? What about my kids? What are we going to do?

Silence.

They couldn’t have known that while they were feeling defeated, Jesus was defeating death.
All they knew was silence.

Sometimes God does His best work in the quiet of disillusionment…

…if we would only hold on until morning.

Vampire Christians

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone…

Matthew 14:22-23

Jesus Himself believed it was essential to get alone to spend time with the Father. Jesus intentionally dismissed the crowd and sent His disciples ahead of him to the other side of the lake. He then went alone up the side of a 3000 foot elevation around the Sea of Galilee and spent time praying.

Jesus wasn’t praying because He was checking some religious box. Jesus was perfect. Jesus never sinned. He wasn’t praying to show people how spiritual He was. He just wanted to be with His Father. He longed for the intimacy and nearness that only time alone with the Father can bring.

Jesus said that He only does “what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does“(John 5:19). He accomplished this by staying in constant communion with the Father through prayer. While Jesus “prayed continuously” as He walked through life, He also sought alone time with God where no one else was around. He got alone in order to listen to the Father as much as to talk to the Father.

With packed schedules, hurried and harried lives, many Christians are not spending alone time with God. I believe this has resulted in so much of the dysfunction in the lives of Christians and the Church. How can we expect to be shaped into the image of Christ if we are not spending daily alone time with Him? How can we expect to love the unlovable if we are not daily receiving love from the Father? How can we expect to forgive those who’ve hurt us if we are not daily reminded of the forgiveness we’ve received from Jesus?

I believe that many Christians look for programs in the local church to fill in for their lack of one-on-one time with the Lord. They want once-a-week worship services to build in them intimacy with God without ever spending alone time with Him. They want once-a-week bible studies to help them grow spiritually without having to dig into the word of God on their own. They want people praying for them but never spend time praying alone themselves. Then they wonder why they can’t seem to find a “good church” or a church that “fits them.”

The local church will never be able to give us what only time alone with the Lord gives us. It was never meant to. We have it backwards. Christians were meant to fuel up in their alone time with the Lord–worshiping, studying scripture, and praying–so that they could enter Christian community with something to give to others when they are there. Church was never meant to be a consumeristic place that meets all of our spiritual needs. American churches have too many vampire Christians who suck the life out of the community because they never receive from God the other six days a week in alone time with Him.

Spending daily time with the Lord is not a sign of super-spirituality. It’s one of the very basic, foundational things every Christian should be doing. It is an admission of our weakness, our daily need for God. It’s a posture of humility, knowing we can’t live the life we are called to live without spending regular time with the Father.

The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit can’t wait to spend time with you every single day. They love time alone with you. It’s one of their favorite things in the world. They treasure it. They can’t wait to be with you…if only you’d set aside a little time for them.

Are you spending alone time with the Lord? Or have you become a vampire Christian?