A Priority to Rest?

By Michael Chung (BS, The Ohio State University; MDiv, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; PhD University of Nottingham) has taught at Fuller Theological Seminary-Texas, Houston Baptist University, Calvary Theological Seminary-Indonesia, and Houston Christian High School. He is also the author of Praying with Mom (2012) and has published academic journal articles in North America, Asia, and Europe on Gospels, Paul, Spiritual Formation, New Testament Theology, and Missiology. He has also done missions and pastoral work.

The Priority of Rest

The Easter season heightens spiritual awareness, providing amplified rest for the soul, but physical rest is also essential. In studying Jesus’s final ten days, chronicled in The Last King of Israel, one of many things that stands out was how Jesus rested during those final ten days. Despite knowing his mission was about to end (John 13:1-3), he made time for rest.

Whether it is work, school, or any day-to-day matter that depletes the soul, rest is required. The human body tires, and the possibility of emotional breakdowns, occupational burnout, sickness and disease, all increase when adequate rest has not been achieved.

Jesus arrived in Bethany before sundown Friday, one week before he would be crucified. On Saturday, he is finishing his rest and about to eat a meal in Bethany. Before the most important week of Jesus’s life, where he would fulfill his mission and finish paying for humanities’ sins, he took time to rest.

Jesus likely rested twice during his last ten days. Shabbat HaGadol, the Sabbath before Passover, also known as the Great Sabbath, is celebrated on a Wednesday during Passover.[1] With the end in site, Jesus did not neglect the need to detach from labor.

Rest, at it essence, is a removal from work. Before his final ten days, Jesus cultivated the discipline of spending time alone for prayer before exertion (Mark 1:35–39). He knew he needed it due to the great amount of trials ahead. No longer could he enter into a town openly but needed to stay outside in lonely places (Mark 1:45). Jesus had so much work that it made him extremely tired; a deep storm could not wake him from sleep (Mark 4:35–41). Rest was valued (Mark 6:31).

Many of us use a busy and demanding schedule as a “red badge of significance.” Personal self-esteem and value can be tied to exhaustion and an overtaxing schedule. Dr. Brené Brown writes in The Gifts of Imperfection, “If we want to live a wholehearted life, we have to become intentional about cultivating rest and play, and we must work to let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.” Though Jesus knew he would finish His mission within 10 days, He still took time to rest.

How would you live if you knew you only had ten days left? Jesus spent significant time with those he loved and rested. Could you rest if you knew your time was limited? Jesus did, maybe we can learn from him. [2]

 

[1] Scholars debate on whether or not there was activity on Wednesday but many conclude that the Gospels are silent on Jesus’s actions.

[2] This article has been adapted from the book The Last King of Israel: Lessons from Jesus’s Final Ten Days (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2016).

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.