Joseph of Arimathea…was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took [Jesus’] body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen….At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb…they laid Jesus there. (John 19:38-42)
Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea had a lot in common. Both were members of the Sanhedrin—the religious governing body that had just played a role in crucifying Jesus (see Mark 14:53-65). Both men, most scholars agree, were likely very wealthy. And both men were secret followers of Jesus…up until Good Friday, that is.
Something about Jesus’s death compelled these two men to go public with their faith,...
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane…and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:36-38)
Peter and “the two sons of Zebedee” (James and John) had a broad vocation to follow Jesus. But on the night before their rabbi’s crucifixion, they were given a more specific job: Simply to stay awake while Jesus went away to pray.
As they were all walking into the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus “began to be sorrowful and troubled.” He was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”
What’s going on here? In his phenomenal sermon The Dark Garden, Tim Keller explained Jesus’s sorrow this way: “Jesus…got all of his power…and his love from his relationship with the Father, and therefore...as he was walking to [Gethsemane], he would have started...
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:28-33)
I began this series by asking you two questions:
We’ve already explored two of the most common answers to that first question: performance and avoidance. Today, we look at one...
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)
We’re in a four-week series exploring the work beneath our work—in other words, the ultimate why underneath what we do.
Now, if you are subscribed to my devotionals, part of your motivation for your work is undoubtedly to leverage your vocation for the glory of God and the good of others. But if you find yourself consistently overworking—if you find that you’re unable to rest and “turn your brain off” at home—it’s worth asking whether there are deeper motivations for your work that are less than God-honoring.
Then the eyes of [Adam and Eve] were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. (Genesis 3:7)
Last week, I asked you this: What is the work beneath your work? In other words, why are you working so hard?
Over the next three weeks, we’ll explore three of the most common answers to that question. And while this will be far from an exhaustive list, I’m confident it will be a helpful one.
Here’s the first: Performance, or using your work to earn the respect, love, and acceptance of others.
For the first few years of my career, this was the primary work beneath my work. I wasn’t working primarily for the glory of God and the good of others. I was working to impress you.
And so I would not-so-subtly name-drop big brands I had worked for and impressive people I knew—not to facilitate great conversation, but to make you think I had the most impressive LinkedIn profile in the room.
Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah….When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” (Genesis 29:30-32)
In today’s passage, we find one of the best biblical case studies for what Tim Keller calls "the work beneath [our] work.” On the surface, Leah’s work was that of childbearing. But her real work—the true why underneath all of her labor—was the exhausting work of winning Jacob’s love.
After her first son Reuben was born, Leah said, “Surely my husband will love me now” (v. 32).
But evidently, he didn’t, because Leah said the Lord gave her a second child, “Because…I am not loved” (v. 33).
Maybe the third son would be the...
When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.” Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good.” (Exodus 18:14-17)
Moses’s father-in-law Jethro was blunt. But he was also profoundly helpful. So much so that Exodus 18:24 tells us that “Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said.”
What did Jethro tell Moses to do? In short, delegate the work of governing Israel. Exodus 18:13-26 gives us a front-row seat to the masterclass Jethro taught Moses on delegation. Today, I want to turn your attention to five...
On the sixth day, [the Israelites] gathered twice as much [manna]—two omers for each person—and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. He said to them, “This is what the Lord commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest.’” (Exodus 16:22-23)
This is the first time Sabbath rest is offered to human beings in the Bible. Contrary to the Israelites’ ruthless Egyptian masters who offered them no rest for 400 years, their perfect Heavenly Master offered them the gift of rest once every seven days. And he promised to provide the manna they needed for two days so that they could rest without worry!
The announcement of this gift undoubtedly led to great jubilation. And yet, Exodus 16:27 tells us that “some of the people went out on the seventh day,” to work. In her terrific study on Exodus, Jen Wilkin explains why, saying that while God had gotten his people out of slavery, he had yet to get the slavery out of...
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. (Exodus 8:1 ESV)
A few weeks ago, we saw that it was the horrific working conditions of the Israelites that was the impetus for their exodus from Egypt. But if we’re not careful, we can mistakenly believe that God freed his people so that they could spend all their time worshiping him through song and sacrifices in the wilderness.
But that’s not at all what we see. Seven times between Exodus 4:23 and 10:3, the Lord states his purpose for delivering his people. Over and over again he declares, “Let my people go, that they may serve me.” Commenting on this passage, one theologian says that “God did not deliver Israel from work. He set Israel free for work.” But work as he had originally intended it.
This sets up a theme we see throughout Scripture: Salvation isn’t an end in itself. It is a means...
Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. You are to say everything I command you” (Exodus 7:1-2)
God could have set the Israelites free all on his own. He could have taken human form, walked straight into Pharaoh’s palace, and led the Israelites out of Egypt for good.
But that wasn’t his strategy as today’s passage makes clear. The Lord said to Moses, “I have made you like God to Pharaoh.” In other words, while God could have done this work on his own, he chose to do it through Moses and Aaron.
Why? Was it because God had more important things to do? No. It’s simply because this is how God has always chosen to operate. All throughout Scripture, we see that while God is perfectly capable of working on his own, more often than not, he chooses to work in this world through human beings.
That was true with Moses thousands of years ago, and...