Is it correct to say that Jesus rested on Sabbath inside the tomb?
Published on: 12-29-2020
No Bible passage explicitly states that after His death Jesus went into the tomb to rest on the Sabbath. But enough biblical evidence supports that conclusion.
1. JESUS DIED ON FRIDAY
With few exceptions, Christians have always believed that Jesus was crucified on Friday and that He was resurrected on Sunday morning. The biblical evidence supports this chronology of the Crucifixion. According to Matthew the resurrection of Jesus occurred “after the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week” (Matt. 28:1, NIV). Mark indicates that Jesus died “the day before the Sabbath” (Mark 15:42, NIV) and that when the women went to the tomb “very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise” (Mark 16:2, NIV), Jesus had already been resurrected. Luke informs us that when the body of Jesus was placed inside the tomb “the Sabbath was about to begin” (Luke 23:54, NIV) and that the women went home and “rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment” (verse 56, NIV). Luke also indicates that the women went to the tomb “the first day of the week, very early in the morning,” but by then the tomb was empty (Luke 24:1, NIV). Jesus’ resurrection occurred very early Sunday morning. Jesus was indeed in the tomb during the Sabbath.
2. “IT IS FINISHED”: THE WORD
In trying to understand the last words of Jesus on the cross, scholars have looked for an Old Testament background for the expression tetelestai (“It is finished”), from the verb teleō (“complete, fulfill; bring to an end”). Two main passages have been suggested and both are important for our purpose. The first one is Isaiah 55:11, where the verb sunteleō (“complete, finish”), from the same root family as teleō, is used in the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The passage is a proclamation of the reliability, trustworthiness, and irrevocability of the Word of God. Once God utters a word of salvation, that word will not return to Him until what “I willed shall have been accomplished” (LXX). If we take into consideration Isaiah 55:4, the Word in verse 11 has a messianic content. The ultimate Word that God would send out was the Messiah: His Word. If John had this passage in mind, then Jesus, as the Word of God, brought the message of salvation that was effectual and on the cross proclaimed that His redemptive work has been accomplished, finished. He was now ready to return to the Father.
3. “IT IS FINISHED” AND REST
The second Old Testament passage suggested as a background for the verb tetelestai (“It is finished”) is Genesis 2:2, where we again find in the Greek translation of the Old Testament the verb sunteleō (“complete, finish”), but now in the context of creation: “And God finished [Greek: sunteleō] on the sixth day his works which he made, and he ceased on the seventh” (LXX). Here we find two important ideas also present in John, namely, something is finished—in Genesis Creation and in John redemption—and followed by rest on the seventh day. In John, Jesus’ proclamation (John 19:30) is immediately followed by a reference to the Sabbath: “It was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath” (verse 31, NIV). He indeed rested during the Sabbath after finishing His work of redemption (re-creation), as God rested on the Sabbath after His work of creation. Inside the tomb, God in human flesh rested on the seventh-day Sabbath, instituted by Him for the benefit of humanity (Mark 2:27).