I write this an hour before the Easter Vigil. It is saturday, also known as the seventh day. It is the sabbath.
If one reads John's Gospel, Jesus is crucified on Friday. That is the same day man is created in Genesis. The creation of man is the ultimate act of creative activity. What follows next is God's judgment that "it is very good" and the next day He rests. On Friday (called Good Friday) Jesus is brought before Pilate. Pilate, claiming Jesus is innocent, decides to have him beaten instead. There is a tortured logic in all this, an effort to please the crowds, on the one hand, balanced by the need to face the facts that this man does not deserve to die. So, why not beat Him? At any rate, when Jesus stumbles out Pilate utters the words , "ecce homo" (Latin for Behold the Man). It does not take much to hear an echo of Genesis in this: Adam/man and Jesus/man. In the Greek the word is anthropos which means both a man and human beings. Jesus is the New Adam.
On the Cross (tree), Jesus is hung to die. John makes a point that Jesus carried His own cross, negating the claim that Simon of Cyrene had helped (or done it for Jesus). Perhaps John is making a theological point here. I do not know. What I do know is John believes that Jesus is the Master of this process (recall the troops fall before Him in the Garden prior to the arrest). The cross, for John, is Glorification. There are no words of despair (My God, My God, why???). Thus a theological reading of John is true to his writings. The Lord Jesus is arrested in a Garden (see Eden) and is hung on a tree (see Eden 's trees). Jesus recapitulates our human history and successfully faces the temptation to disobey God (forbidden fruit) and embraces the tree of life (also in Eden). The tree of life, of course, is embraced by His death. It is the blood of Jesus which undoes the curse of Adam and unleashes life into the world.
As He dies, Jesus cries out, "It is finished" (Greek word, teleo also means to bring to a close, to execute, to complete, to fulfill). He has accomplished His task. He is done, in many senses of the word (just the way John likes it). Then Jesus gives up the ghost/spirit. This handing over the spirit can be seen at many levels, too. He is dying. It is also John's Pentecost event. Jesus gives His Spirit into the world when He dies. In His death God unleashes the fullness of life. The spirit (breath/wind) recalls Genesis and creation. The Spirit over the chaos is duplicated here, with Jesus's breath/spirit unleashed into a world of sin and chaos. (Which leads to the question, how awesome is salvation?!?!!)
Jesus lays dead. It is the sabbath. All is quiet and at rest. The eternal rest of God, the rest of His Son. The rest of death. The sabbath (in the tomb) is the seventh day. Death is the end of this creation. All will die eventually. Death is the last word. Quiet rest in death. But death is only the last word in this week. It is only the last word in creation. A new creation stands ready, a new creation where sin and sorrow and death are no more. A new creation, on a new day one.
So John begins the next chapter. Early on the morning of the first day and there is no need to be blind to what this says, the first day. So creation is made new. Jesus is the first fruit of the new creation. Jesus risen from the rest of the tomb on Sabbath, Jesus the first born of many. In the new creation it is The Man Who is created first. Human first, not last, and once the Man is created then all things can be made new. All creation moans for humanity to be recreated, and then it will burst from its curse in recreated glory.
That is our destiny. It is the promise of our God. In Jesus the new creation has begun. The Good News is it is already at work among us: to forgive and reconcile, to heal and renew, to free and make strong. Already we see God's new creation. The Great News, is the best is yet to come. We have every reason to trust God, look at Jesus risen and see God's faithfulness. Trusting, we can be happy and joyful. We can pause to think of someday, when King Jesus rules unopposed. May the light and life of resurrection be your hope and joy today and always. May it give you power to walk away from your sins and give up your fear and doubt. May it make you generous, merciful and kind to others. May it bring you to your knees in worship. And may it make your mind and heart new!