Remembering the Sabbath on Holy Saturday
With Good Friday behind us and Easter Sunday before us, many in the Christian community may overlook the significance of today – Holy Saturday – the day when Jesus rested in his tomb.
It comes right before the resurrection and, as such, is overshadowed by the significance of Easter Sunday. But for Seventh-day Adventist Christians, Holy Saturday is an extremely meaningful part of Holy Week.
Seventh-day Adventists observe the seventh day of the week, Saturday, as the Sabbath. Remembering the Sabbath day is the fourth of the ten commandments and a major foundation of the Adventist denomination.
The Sabbath is a 24-hour period, observed from sunset on Friday until sunset on Saturday each week. This practice dates back to creation and is also kept by those of the Jewish faith.
Paster Kenneth Manders, president of the Bermuda Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, explains its significance:
“The seventh day is the day that the Lord blessed and sanctified at the end of creation. He completed his work and rested. He then asked us to keep it holy.”
Observing the seventh day as the Sabbath is one of the 28 fundamental beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists. It was established in Genesis at the end of “creation week” and reinforced in The Ten Commandments, outlined in Exodus 20.
The Sabbath is a day of rest, reflection, enjoyment and worship for God’s people. When God rested on the seventh day, He set for us an example. He gave the weekly Sabbath as a day of rest and worship for all of mankind.
“He created the Sabbath for mankind. There is a blessing in it. It’s not a holiday or an excuse not to work. It is a sacred time where we are called to commune with the Lord,” Mr Manders said.
Sabbath keeping is a practice mentioned several times in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testament.
However, the majority of Christian denominations have abandoned Sabbath keeping, specifically the reverence of the seventh day of the week. Instead, the day of rest and collective worship is held on Sundays throughout most of the western world.
This change formally came about in 321AD, when the Roman Emperor Constantine I issued a civil decree making Sunday a day of rest from labour across the Roman Empire. Centuries later we continue this tradition, in both religious and secular circles.
“The one commandment that Christendom has tried to forget is the one that the Creator specifically asked us to remember,” Mr Manders emphasised.
“Exodus Chapter 20 and Verse 8 says to ‘remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy’. The world has found its own rationale to justify breaking this commandment, but Adventists are commandment-keeping Christians and we believe that the fourth commandment is still as relevant and important as the other nine.”
While the world may observe Sunday as the day of rest, the Bible has been clear and consistent on the seventh day as the Sabbath, he added.
“There are some who will say that Jesus nailed the Sabbath to the cross and done away with the practice. But this is simply not true. Jesus died for our sins. Not to give us licence to sin but to absolve us of the penalty of sin through acceptance of him as our Lord and Saviour.
“Jesus was in no way doing away with the practice at Calvary, but instead showed us how to keep it.”
In Luke’s account of the crucifixion of Jesus there is a specific reference to the keeping of the Sabbath. The setting is immediately following the crucifixion, Jesus has just been taken down from the cross and put into a tombstone. Joseph of Arimathea and a small group of unnamed women prepared spices and ointment for Jesus’ body.
However, according to Luke 23:56, they “rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment”. The women returned on the first day of the week to complete their work but found that Jesus was not in the tomb.
“The Lord has been so consistent, in that in creation he finished his work on the sixth day – Friday – and then he rested on the seventh day, Saturday, the Sabbath. Jesus was crucified on a Friday. He finished his earthly work on that Friday, and he rested on the Sabbath again,” Mr Manders said.
As we continue in our Easter celebrations, may we also reflect on what Jesus did between death and resurrection – he rested.
“We highlight Good Friday because he died and paid the price for sin. We highlight Easter Sunday because he rose from the dead. But let us not overlook that he rested on the Sabbath,” Mr Manders said.
“From creation to redemption, we see the same example of resting on the Sabbath and keeping it holy.”
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