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  • Writer's pictureWill Stockdale

Rest and Restoration

Modeling the working habits of our Savior

“But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I am working.’” (John 5:17)

How did Jesus use his time? What did he do all day? One answer to that question is carpentry. In Mark 6:3, we read that the public knew Jesus as a carpenter–a profession that he most likely apprenticed in under his father Joseph. Whether or not Jesus continued in that trade after he began his earthly ministry around the age of thirty, we do not know. But what we do know is that during his earthly ministry Jesus explicitly modeled his work after what he saw his Heavenly Father doing. 

Throughout the John’s Gospel, Jesus stated over and over again that his calling was to do the will of the One who sent him. Whatever Jesus did, whether in word or deed, he did it all in accordance with God the Father’s instruction. And that includes healing a man on the Sabbath. Which is the context in which our verse of the day is found. 

It was understood in Jesus’s time that God was at work. The doctrine of providence alone taught that God must always be working in that sense at least. For the universe itself was spoken into and sustained by his Word. So, if he stopped working, the universe would stop spinning. But Jesus’ words shocked his hearers. Working on the Sabbath was expressly forbidden for God’s people in the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:12-15). Yet there he was saying that he was allowed to heal a man on the Sabbath, because that was the sort of work his Heavenly Father had always been doing. In this verse we read Jesus saying that the work he did on earth was a direct continuation of the work God began immediately after the Fall. 

It is clear from our passage that the work Jesus did was not for commercial gain. From that type of labor he rested on the Sabbath, but the work he continued doing was the work of restoration. Sin marred God’s good, true, and beautiful creation. Into the undoing mess of man’s rebellion against God which resulted in created order chaos, Jesus came to restore the good things that were made. 

His work was to preach good news to the lost, to gather the one that wandered from the ninety-nine, to calm the stormy seas, to heal the sick and lame. He came to bring restoration. His greatest moment bringing restoration occurred on the cross. There he secured our pardon from sin and its disfiguring consequences. There he set us free to walk with him. There he emptied hell of its powers and guaranteed that one day heaven, earth, and the fullness thereof would one day be restored.

Christian rest is good and for our good. Our Heavenly Father’s commandment to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy is still in place for Christians today. It’s not that one odd commandment that somehow out of the other nine has been revoked while the others stay in place. No, it still stands, but in light of the work of Christ its meaning and purpose has been more fully illuminated. Our rest is a remembrance of the work Christ accomplished on the cross. Our rest is a declaration to the world that while our work matters, it matters because its effect depends on the God whom we serve. Our Sabbath rest is an act of worship because we believe “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

Rev. Will Stockdale is a Ministry Associate in Washington, D.C. and cohost of The Statement.


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