Therefore since we have a great high priest how has passed through the heavens – Jesus the Son of God – let us hold fast to the confession.
After Christ was buried and the sun set on Friday, except for a statement about the priests stationing a guard around the tomb, the story of Jesus’ death is silent until Sunday morning. Luke mentions that the disciples rested since it was the Sabbath, and Christ also rested from His work. For the second time in history God had finished completing a work on Friday and rested on the Sabbath. The first Sabbath rest of God was at creation, after six days of creative work God rested on the Sabbath (Genesis 2:2). He rested not out of fatigue and exhaustion, but because His work of creation had been completed. We may say that He rested out of respect for His creation that He had brought into existence.
Now following the crucifixion we see again that God the Son is resting on the Sabbath from His work completed on Friday. As on the cross Christ cried, “It is finished!” He announced that the sacrifice had been paid in full, His earthly mission completed. And He rested from His work. One may argue that Christ was exhausted, that was how crucifixion brought about death, but after death Christ was no longer tired, just as we believers will not be tired after our own deaths. The Sabbath Day following the death of Christ serves in a similar way to the Sabbath of creation – to call attention to the completed work of Christ for our salvation, to come to a full stop, we might say, so that it can be recognized that the payment was made in full. It seems that for just a few hours all of heaven looked at the sacrifice of Christ and recognized in unison that it was sufficient for our salvation.
The Apostles’ Creed states that Christ descended into hell, taking a hint from Ephesians 4:9, and intricate theologies have been framed around the necessity of Christ also suffering in the fires of hell for our sins. Apart from the Ephesians passage, however, except for an equally difficult passage to understand, 1 Peter 3:18-20, about Him preaching to those who died in the days of Noah, the Bible remains silent on the matter. If it was necessary for Christ to suffer in hell for our sins then that is where He went. All that was required He accomplished.
But the transaction had an end to it. His suffering came to an end. Christ paid the price in full, and rested from His work for our salvation. If you have ever made the last payment on something you know the relief that comes with having done so. Accounts are settled, nothing more is due.
What confidence this gives to the confessor. We come now boldly before the throne of God, not in our own name, nor in our own payment of atonements, not in our good works or our promises of better performance in the future, not even in the name of our sorrow, but in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, crucified for our sins. He is the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, and this means ours, yours and mine.
Think of the most difficult matters of your life for God to forgive. The “seven deadly sins” give us a simple panoramic view of our typical weaknesses: pride, gluttony, sloth, lust, envy, wrath, and greed. We can let the Spirit search us entirely for there is an answer from God for every need we have for cleansing and for growth: the cross of Christ.
Let God search you this evening. Let His Spirit examine your heart and your soul, not just your actions but your values and inner thoughts. Let the blood of Christ be applied wherever you have failed. Humbly accept that this is the only way you can be acceptable to God: through your faith in the sacrificial death of Christ Jesus for your sins. Agree with the Spirit about whatever He points out to you and with the conviction He will bring assurance that you can be completely forgiven and cleansed.
Lord, we come before You both boldly and humbly, admitting our weaknesses, confessing our faults, and trusting that on Calvary the price was paid for our sins. Amen.