Daily encouragement

Video by

Stuart Poteet

Discipleship Pastor

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Luke 23:55-56

The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

Behind the Scenes

If you look closely, you can find Jesus' female disciples carefully and pointedly tucked into the corners of Luke's gospel. In a society that did not value women's voices, they are defiantly there, their faithful actions recorded without fanfare. And as I was reading Luke a few months ago, I found myself stopped dead in my tracks at the end of chapter 23 by the faithful actions of these same women. The end of this chapter records Jesus' death and burial, particularly from the perspective of the women who stood witness to Jesus' final moments. So many abandoned him, but they stood. What resilience the Lord instilled in them for that moment, especially Jesus' mom; I cannot imagine.

But their faithful presence didn't end there. After seeing Jesus' body laid in the tomb, they went home to prepare spices and perfumes to anoint his body. However, that evening was the beginning of the Sabbath, which their customs dictated should include no work, starting at sundown.

When I try putting myself in these women's shoes, it is this moment that grabs my attention. A mother loses a son, brutally, and all she wants to do is take care of her son's body in the manner that her culture says honors the dead. Did she desperately want something to do to fill the void of her grief? Did it all feel so pointless to her in this moment, on the dark in-between days we like to forget about because we know how the story ends? But verse 56 tells us these women did something that I would guess felt entirely typical and yet absurd in light of who they had truly believed Jesus was: They rested. They observed the Sabbath.

This is wild to me because the Sabbath wasn't just about taking a break from a long week's work. The Sabbath was about resting from striving in light of the Lord's deliverance. The Sabbath was about honoring God over our own ability to produce. The Sabbath was about remembering how Yahweh rescued his people, about how we never could. The Sabbath was about resting in the Lord's provision and deliverance - an idea embodied by the Messiah. And yet, they had just placed him in a tomb! How could they turn around and pause their rituals of mourning his death to honor God who had promised to send them this very deliverer who was now dead? Wouldn't it have felt entirely pointless?

Make it Real

And maybe you've found yourself in such a space before, too. Have you stood in the sanctuary, singing songs that feel hollow when compared to your reality? Nodding along to prayers that you have a hard time believing in your gut? Did the women say the Sabbath prayers, recite the words before the meal, lay in their beds that night, silently wondering in light of the death of their mashiach - their deliverer - what's even the point?

How do we pray when it feels pointless? When the diagnosis is brutal, when the deed is done, when the fallout has already laid waste to all we had hoped for - what's the point of praying?

We don't rest merely for rescue. We rest to receive - more of the Lord, more of his grace over our grief, more of his presence in our pain. And prayer can be the same. Even when praying feels pointless based on our circumstances, we pray anyway because we need more of him.

I don't know the hearts of the women on that darkest of Sabbaths. I don't know if Jesus' mom prayed for God's comfort the most fervently she ever had, or if she found her prayers hollow and cold. I don't know if the women who had followed him felt abandoned and alone, or if they leaned into faith more desperately than ever. But I do know that darkest of Sabbaths was the last day they had to endure life without tangible, certain hope in God's faithfulness. Because the next day, the Deliverer actually delivered. Jesus came back to life, bringing all of us who call on his name into resurrection life with him.

We can take heart today because our prayers never have to echo into a day as dark as the women’s did on that Sabbath day 2,000 years ago. Every day since, even our most desperate, lonely, hollow prayers have been buoyed by the truth that Jesus IS alive. We have life in him, even when our days on this earth feel dark. Our deliverer is not in the grave, he is risen. And even as these women - his closest and most dear friends, disciples, family - found enough hope to observe the Sabbath on that dark day, how much more I find resilience in the Spirit to pray to my risen Savior, even on my own dark nights.

End in Prayer

Jesus, hallelujah! You're alive! I praise you, God, my Living Hope! Holy Spirit, renew my spirit when my days are dark and my prayers feel pointless. I trust in your unfailing love, which I know has conquered the grave and defeated death for eternity. In your faithful and mighty name I pray, Amen.

Written by

Kimber Gilbert

ACF Devo Team Leader