December 6, 2009

Wednesday night I attended an event put on by Activism from the Kitchen Table, and the theme was Rest. My goodness, do I ever need it. So easily I forget, and it is made all the more amazing by the time I spent thinking and reading and practicing Sabbath last year. Regretfully I left my copy of Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Sabbath at home, so I don’t have it to go through when I need chill out time. I do have my journals from last year’s Monday’s in Brian’s apartment still, but… well, I easily forget to stop and spend time doing nothing.

Not coincidentally that’s what I’m trying to do now. I’m in a bar watching Spurs and Everton, since the Fulham game isn’t on. (The Fulham game is never on.) The AKT event reminded me (again) of the value of rest, and I want to share a few of the things that struck me from the evening. It was around two hours, with some socializing at the beginning, and then two thirty minute sessions separated by a brief moment to refresh. The organizers provided several different tables to facilitate conversation centered around various topics with leaders assigned to lead the discussion and prompt reflection. I wish I’d been able to listen to more of the ideas, but the two tables I went to were called “Theology of Rest” and “In Praise of Idleness.”

Padraig led the first discussion, and opened it with a consideration of the passage at the end oh the Gospel of John, when Jesus appears to his disciples in the upper room after being crucified. Padraig pointed out that at that point in the story, Jesus would have been a huge source of anxiety for those in the room. Some had betrayed him explicitly (Peter) and most had at the very least abandoned Jesus. These people were identified with an executed criminal. For all they knew the chief priests and Romans would be coming after them next. And what does Jesus do? He shows up in the room and says, “Peace be upon you.” That’s profound enough as is, but consider an alternate translation. In the Hebrew culture of the time, what Jesus said “Peace be upon you” also doubled as a simple greeting.


Jesus just said hello to them. There, the great source of tension, anxiety, and confusion, and it greets these first century radicals with “Hello– Peace.” So Padraig asked us to consider instead finding ways to greet our tension, respond to it in peace, with a greeting, and take time of rest to work things through.


3 Responses to “Rest”

  1. Mom said

    Email me or facebook me and let me know if you want me to send you that copy of the book you said you left here at home. Did you get the 2nd package?

  2. Tyler said

    i like the insight from ancient Jewish history (even contemporary actually)…but the conclusion and application are biblical malpractice at best. to put it bluntly it is helpful to study the Talmud, Mishnah, and a other Jewish writings but here’s what I’m convinced of based on the New Testament: though these sources may prove beneficial in regard to cultural practices or customs, the Jewish writings have little to offer the follower of Jesus. why would i receive biblical instruction from someone who has missed it entirely? (yes, I realize this is a radically audacious claim but it’s not mine, it’s Jesus’–John 5:39-40). I agree that Jesus’ presence in the room would have been a major source of anxiety but I can say confidently the tension when Jesus entered the room had little to do with the tension of Apostolic abandonment, denial, or legal accusations.

    You’re correct the text tells us the doors were locked [in the room] for fear of the Jews but it also tells us they had discovered his tomb empty that morning and a couple women claimed to have seen him…their fear is obviously because the body is missing and rumors are spreading, the Jews would want to shut them up quick. When Jesus entered the room I doubt Peter was bashfully thinking “oh crap…I bet he heard the rooster too.” and I doubt the others were thinking “surely, he knows that we followed at a distance and scattered after he was killed.”

    Jesus greeting, “Peace be with you [shalom]” is profound on the first day of the week (Christian Sabbath). But the point is by no means telling us to take life easier, greet our tension with the peace of Christ…work hard/play hard. Although inspiring and (I must confess) a fascinating exegesis. the scene looked a lot more like this:

    Disciples: “HOLY CRAP HE’S ALIVE!!!!!!!”
    Jesus (while showing recent, scabby, wounds on his hands and a severe puncture wound on his side) “Peace be with you [shalom].”
    Disciples: *sigh of relief and awe* :)
    Jesus “Peace be with you [shalom]. As the Father has sent me even so I am sending you.” *exhale* “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

    The Sabbath was to be a day of solemn rest, intrinsically tied to the Day of Atonement (yom kippur) and the Feasts/Festivals prescribed in Leviticus. Psalm 95 speaks of this rest, Jesus in his death and resurrection provides a way for God’s covenant people to enter this rest (Hebrews 4:1-11). Through faith in Jesus the Sabbath is honored not just in a day or in a year, it is honored all day everyday because we have eternal rest. This is a rest that even the Jews could not fathom with all their rabbinic commentary on the Sabbath because God has done what the Law was incapable of (Romans 8:1-11). The peace is not peace of mind or a quiet place to clear our thoughts and relax…those experiences are important but are mere shadows the the peace offered in Jesus, eternal peace with God. All of humanity (Jew and Gentile) once lived as enemies of God but now, by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we have been made God’s children, co-heirs with Christ himself to the eternal kingdom. THIS is true Peace, THIS is Sabbath Rest!

    Practically we certainly live differently and reflect/evaluate/”greet our tension” differently but our culture (even Reformed theology which I am a part of) encourages us to work hard and play (rest)hard Sabbath. This sort of binge-resting is killing us because most of us haven’t experienced the true peace and Sabbath Jesus offers. The testimony of the Apostles and the history of the Church is not that one day a week we down a pot of coffee while reading a good novel or sip a couple beers while watching a baseball game. These are not wrong or sinful but to call the rest, working through our tension in order to make peace, or Sabbath is ludicrous! The thought of including the word “work” or “make peace” in Sabbath in regards to anything I must do on a certain day is wrong. Jesus has done all the work that needs to be done, He has made peace, and every moment of every day I rest in God’s Sabbath. I can work, I can sleep, whatever because I am at peace with God. The history of the church is laborious-Gospel-driven living that ends in martyrdom…I doubt the Apostles found “peace” or “rest” in being flogged, imprisoned, chained, or killed from our typical perspective but through the peace and rest offered in Jesus they found joy, peace, and Sabbath even amidst the most severe and violent persecution.

    p.s. I side note–most of the recreational activities we do on our “sabbath” don’t serve the function they’re supposed to…namely, they fail to “re-create” us. No wonder why Jesus tells us to take up our cross, follow him, lose our lives to find them, etc…He re-creates us, He is our peace, He is our rest, He is our Sabbath.


    • christophermahlon said

      Alright Tyler, I’m finally getting around to replying to this. I take your points on board, but I wonder if I didn’t quite express Padraig’s point clearly. I would also say that I disagree with you on the subject of the Old Testament, but that’s ok.

      I would say that Padraig was trying to say with the example of Jesus that the interaction could be seen as an example of the peace that Jesus inaugurates in a person’s life. I guess I’d say that in objecting to the specifics of Padraig’s example, you’re missing the forest for the trees. Everything about Jesus was a source of tension and fear for them at that moment, both what you pointed at and, I think, the things that Padraig pointed out, too. By greeting them and speaking a word of peace over them Jesus invited them into a life of peace, like you’re talking about.

      I guess I’d also say that I disagree somewhat with your sentiments on Sabbath. I think I understand what you’re saying about Jesus and the Christian life being able to create the conditions for Sabbath at any moment, but I also think that the words of the Old Testament, “Man was not created for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man” speak very much to my life. This might be where we part ways, but this embrace of the Sabbath and cycles isn’t (necessarily) indicative of Sabbath bingeing. Hopefully it is more of a holistic part of a person’s existence– which is what Padraig was getting at– and I would say that the existence of Sabbath bingers who don’t get as much out of rest as they could doesn’t make the idea of the Sabbath any less a good thing. Just because people speed doesn’t mean speed limits aren’t a good plan.

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