When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ.
At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
In our society, we measure the day officially from midnight to midnight, and in practice from the time we wake up in the morning to the time we go to bed at night. That is, the day runs from morning through evening; our ‘standard’ working day being 9am-5pm.
In the biblical worldview, the day runs from evening through morning, each new day beginning at around 6pm. The story of creation, in Genesis chapter 1, is recorded in the pattern: “God created x; and it was evening, and it was morning: the first day. God created y; and it was evening, and it was morning: the second day. God created z; and it was evening, and it was morning: the third day...” That is, the act of creating each new thing, of giving light or earth or plants or animals permission to flourish, begins in the evening.
Each day begins in the evening, and we see in Genesis chapter 3 that, for the man and the woman, each day began with time spent just hanging out with God, walking together in the cool of the day; followed by sleep; and only then, the work of caring for the garden in which they had been placed.
That is why the Jewish Sabbath, even to this day, begins at around 6pm on Friday evening, and ends at around 6pm on Saturday evening.
The events of Luke 4:40-44 begin with the start of a new day – “when the sun was setting” – the day following the Sabbath. And people who had been brought up being told that it was not permissible to heal on the Sabbath (though Jesus himself ignored that human rule), now that the Sabbath was over, felt free to come to Jesus for healing.
It is the start of a new day, and, for the first time since Adam and Eve in the garden, people get to start their day walking with God, person-to-person (because Jesus is fully God, as well as fully human). Jesus is reversing the curse of separation between humanity and God. And as he does so, the consequences of that curse begin to be reversed too, as people are healed of illness, set free from demonic oppression.
The next thing that happens (implied, not stated) is that Jesus (who is fully human, as well as fully God) sleeps. We need to sleep for about 8 hours in 24, or a third of the day. Jesus spent a third of his ministry asleep. If the traditional calculations are correct in saying that Jesus’ earthly ministry lasted 3 years, then he spent a year of that time sleeping. And although that is mostly implied, we do have one story of Jesus sleeping, in a boat in a storm.
Only “at daybreak,” after starting the day by resting – God walking with people; sleeping – is Jesus ready to do the thing for which he was sent, to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God.
Biblically, work flows from rest. For God, the ‘work’ of creation flows out of the ‘rest’ of eternity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit spending time in each other’s company. For humanity – made to be in unbroken relationship with God - the ‘work’ of stewarding creation for God flows out of the ‘rest’ of spending time ‘hanging out with’ God.
Interestingly, if we get the priority of rest right, if we place rest before work, then the kingdom of God is revealed through our resting as much as it is revealed through our working. You see, God holds the two in perfect paradox: it is true to say of God that he is always at work (John 5:17), and it is true to say of God that he is always at rest (Hebrews 4:3). So the consequence of Jesus walking with people in the cool of the day is healing and deliverance; so the consequence of Jesus sleeping in the boat is that the storm, despite appearances, was never going to overwhelm the boat.
If, on the other hand, we save ‘rest’ until ‘work’ is done, we discover that work is never done, and, un-rested, the return on our labours grows less and less; our lives become decreasingly fruitful.
If I want to be fruitful, I must prioritise rest.
How do I spend my evenings?
Are they filled with doing things for God, or just spending time in his presence?
If we want to introduce people to God, do we take them to meetings, or invite them to hang out with us?
Am I getting enough sleep?