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The weekend is often portrayed, in popular songs, movies, and “binge-worthy” shows, as the only reason to keep going. It’s thought to be a time of rest, fun, and relaxation, and it crowds out all thoughts of the impending doom named Monday. However, if we’re honest with ourselves, our weekends look like our weeks: too much to do with too little time to get it done. Our culture does not know how to rest. Neither do most of us in the church. The gospel helps here.
From the outset, God set apart a day of rest (Gen. 2:2). He did this not because He was tired but because He knew we would be after six days of labor. Therefore, our need to rest is basic to who we are as creatures made in the image of God. But our first parents forsook God’s good provision of rest, and we have been looking for it ever since. The hopes of all the old covenant saints were summed up in the name Noah, for, as his father said, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands” (5:29). The word for “relief” sounds like Noah and means “to bring rest.” Noah represented the hope promised in Genesis 3:15 of a coming Son who would crush the serpent, bringing to an end the all-encompassing curse that blights our every waking moment.
But rest has proved elusive. Rest substitutes are offered all around us. More leisure, a better spouse, more-obedient children, a better job, more money—the bewitching idols that promise rest surround us. The gospel helps here.
One of the most riveting scenes in the Gospels occurs when John the Baptist sends messengers to Jesus. John has begun to have doubts. Is Jesus really the Messiah, or had John been wrong about Him? Jesus responds by alluding to Isaiah 61:1–2, the prophecy of the coming reign of the Messiah, who ushers in eternal Jubilee. In the old covenant, the Jubilee was the fiftieth-year sabbath for people and the land. Immediately after alluding to the coming eternal Jubilee and commending John, Jesus says these stunning words: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28). In other words, the gathered hopes of Noah and Isaiah meet in the Son of God who alone can bring eternal rest.
This weekend, take some time to nap, for physical rest shows our dependence on the One who alone can bring rest. Take a break from the frenzied, neurotic schedules most of us keep, and pray, for prayer shows that we rest spiritually in the finished work of Jesus, who takes our prayers to His Father (Heb. 7:25). Rest promised only comes through Rest incarnate, and He offers it to us freely.