The Priority of Rest

By: Dr. Michael Chung

In a previous article, I made the argument that rest is crucial for long-term success and without it, disaster would occur. In this article, I want to explore Jesus’s final 10 days of life to see His priority of rest. One glaring issue that stands out is His commitment to rest despite only having ten days left before His mission would be finished, and three will be taken up by the cross and the resurrection.

The journey of life requires rest from weariness. Whether it is work, school, or any day-to-day matter that depletes the soul, we need rest. Jesus arrived in Bethany before sundown Friday and spent the Sabbath with his friends.

John does not record Jesus’s Sabbath activities but we can infer that he went to a nearby synagogue to teach from the Scriptures (Luke 4:16–20, 31–32; 6:6; 13:10, 18–21), or exorcised a demon, or healed someone who was sick (Luke 4:33–39; 6:7–11; 13:11–17). Doing miracles on the Sabbath was nothing new; the New Testament records Jesus performing seven. Luke records five (Luke 4:33–38; 6:6–11; 13:10– 17; 14:1–4) while John records two more Sabbath healings (John 5:1–15; 9:1–34), but even if Jesus did these things, he would have rested.

What else did Jesus do on the Sabbath? He probably had a simple meal in the afternoon, like the one with a Pharisee in Luke 14:1–24. The food would have been prepared the day before. Jesus may have also spent the time in prayer, teaching, discipling, and studying Scripture. The writer of John does not give the details but we can infer from the evidence found in other gospels. Regardless of what Jesus did, he tried to rest, and would be ready to face the most important week of his life. Human history will be in his hands. The world would never be the same.

Rest, at it essence, is a removal from work. The writer of Mark highlights Jesus’s “alone times” away from teaching, preaching and ministering to physical and spiritual infirmities. During this alone time with the disciples, Jesus instructed, explaining to his disciples the meaning of parables (Mark 4:10, 34). He took three disciples to witness the transfiguration (Mark 9:2–8). He took disciples from work to answer questions and explain what they did wrong (Mark 9:28–29).

Jesus himself cultivated the discipline of spending time alone for prayer before work (Mark 1:35–39). He knew he needed it due to the great amount of labor he faced. No longer could he enter into a town openly but needed to stay outside in lonely places (Mark 1:45).  Jesus had so much work that it made him extremely tired; a deep storm could not wake him from sleep (Mark 4:35–41). Rest was valued.

Many of us use a busy, tiring schedule as a “red badge of significance,” importance can be tied to exhaustion and an overtaxing schedule. Dr. Brené Brown writes in The Gifts of Imperfection, “If we want to live a wholehearted life, we have to become intentional about cultivating rest and play, and we must work to let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.” Though Jesus knew he would finish His mission within 10 days, He still took time to rest.

On Saturday, he is finishing his rest and about to eat a meal with the disciples and Bethany friends. One week from today, his body would rest in a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea while his spirit was in heaven before the Father (Heb 8:1—10:18). Before the most important week of Jesus’s life where he would fulfill his mission and finish paying for humanities’ sins, he took time to rest. If we are feeling burned out, tired, and careworn, we should schedule rest like Jesus did.

Jesus likely rested twice during his last ten days. Shabbat HaGadol,the Sabbath before Passover, also known as the Great Sabbath, is celebrated during Passover.  This highlights even more the primacy of rest. With the end in site, Jesus still took time to rest.

How would you live if you knew you only had ten days left? Jesus did do significant work but it was not at the expense of his relationships. He spent significant time with those he loved and rested twice. Could you take two days to rest? Jesus did and so should we.

Note: For more insights into Jesus’s final 10 days, read THE LAST KING OF ISRAEL, which focuses exclusively on Jesus’s final ten days.


Dr. Michael Chung has been an adjunct professor of Bible and Theology at Houston Baptist University and adjunct professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, Houston extension. He is the author of The Last King of Israel: Lessons From Jesus’s Final Ten Days. He can be reached at mikechung330@gmail.com.