"On the Morrow after the Sabbath"
Notes of an address on Leviticus 23:11
I want “the morrow after the Sabbath” to sing its joyful song to your hearts, and to teach you its triumphant lesson. I do not suppose that the children of Israel understood its blessed import; probably even Moses had but a feeble conception of what it involved, for the greatest day in the week to them was the Sabbath, a Sabbath that could only be attained to after a week of toil; and because all their labour was faulty, because they were sinners all, and by no labour of their hands could they remove their guilt, they never truly enjoyed a Sabbath, and the morrow after the Sabbath could only mean to them, unless they possessed faith’s vision, the beginning of another weary round of futile toil. But on this special morrow after the Sabbath of which our Scripture speaks, they had to bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of the harvest unto the Lord. Ah, we may now rejoice in that which they did not understand. The morrow after the Sabbath was the first day of the week, and that day was the resurrection day; it was the Lord’s Day, and the sheaf that was waved before the Lord was typical of Christ Himself, the First-begotten from the dead.
The work is done. “It is finished.” Wonderful words! Wonderful moment when they broke from the lips of our Lord Jesus before He bowed His head in death! May we not reverently say that all heaven would be thrilled by that cry; that to the utmost bounds of those celestial realms it would be carried, and that with it would go a deeper joy than had ever before been known even in those joyful regions? Then followed the Sabbath, the day in which the Lord lay in the sealed tomb. We do not know how heaven was occupied during that day when the Lord of life lay in death, but we do know that His disciples on earth spent the hours in mourning and in weeping, for so Mark tells us. But the morrow after the Sabbath changed everything. They were able on that day to look into the tomb without fear, for their Lord had come out of it. He had vanquished death and broken the dominion of Satan, and gained a great victory for God and for His people. The morrow after the Sabbath speaks of life out of death, of a vast harvest for God from even death itself; for Christ is the Firstfruits, and afterwards they that are Christ’s at His coming. It is the beginning of a new creation in which all who believe the glad news have their part, and in that new creation they begin with rest and peace that they could never have secured by their own labours.
“Not the labour of my hands
Can fulfil Thy law’s demands.”
Nor could our tears and regrets, nor even our repentance, have cleared us from guilt before God’s holy throne. But the finished work and the precious blood have done it, and here we rest. Yes, we find our Sabbath our rest in what Christ has done. Every question that could cause us to shrink away in sinful fear from God was answered upon the cross for the glory of God, and we have rest and peace in consequence. But the morrow after the Sabbath gave a definite and undeniable proof of this, and more, it gave us back our Lord, alive from the dead. So that we have more than a finished work for the salvation of our souls, we have also a living Saviour for the satisfaction of our hearts. “Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord.”
The morrow after the Sabbath was the day of the Lord’s victory. On that day the infernal hosts, the powers of darkness, shrank back defeated into their native night. No longer did the devil hold the power of death. Our Lord has triumphed over him and annulled his power to deliver those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. The keys of death and hell are in the hands of Him who died, but lives again for evermore.
The morrow after the Sabbath was the day of the Lord’s vindication. He had been scorned and rejected by men His words had been the subject of their jests. They awarded Him a malefactor’s cross, but God raised Him from the dead. Thus did Peter in the power of the Holy Ghost urge the truth upon the guilty Jews. “You crucified Him,” he cried, “but God has raised Him.” And His resurrection was His vindication. It was God’s answer to the way that men treated Him.
Because of the morrow after the Sabbath we live and have a living hope. All who sleep through Jesus will rise again, of this we are assured in God’s infallible Word. “If we believe that JESUS DIED AND ROSE AGAIN, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the Word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:14-17). With this hope in our souls we can say exultingly, “Thanks be unto God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Yes, the morrow after the Sabbath was a joyful day, and the triumph and gladness of it abide for us to this day; and it lifts up our eyes to the future, when in eternity the whole universe will rejoice in the results of the victory of Christ, and the eighth day—the eternal day—shall be a Sabbath (Lev. 23:39), an unbroken day of eternal rest.