Meditations on the Psalms
I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. (Psalm 3:5 ESV)
In the midst of a battle, a life and death struggle, the Psalmist knows of rest in the One He trust. He is under attack, facing death. His enemies taunt Him, saying God will not save Him, or cannot save Him. In His agony He cries out to God, who answers Him with rest.
When the Psalmist, who is Jesus speaking through King David, says “I lay down and slept”what does He mean? To lay down means just that, to be placed in a physically prone position. Sleptmay just be to sleep, as in taking a rest at night, to store up for the next day. Yet, the word is also a euphemism for death (see Psalm 13:3). When Moses was told he would die, God said “behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers” (Deuteronomy 31:16 ESV). Both Jesus and Paul refer to sleep as death (see John 11:11-14). “That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died (sleep)” (1 Corinthians 11:30 ESV).
Jesus did not swoon while on the cross. When He was laid in the tomb, He was not unconscious or resting in a coma. The physical trauma inflicted upon Him by the Roman soldiers ended His life. He died. Too many people who knew death saw Him dead and handled His dead body.
Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. (Mark 15:43-46 ESV)
Jesus did not stay dead. He spoke to His disciples beforehand about His death and about His resurrection. “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised”(Luke 9:22 ESV; see also Luke 18:34, see Mark 8:31, 9:32, 10:33-34, 16:21, Luke 24:7). Jesus’ death and resurrection did not surprise Him and should not have surprised His disciples.
After laying down to sleep, after dying, the Psalmist says I woke again, which means to rouse from sleep, to abruptly awaken, but is also a euphemism for the resurrection. Job uses the word woke, or awake, to show once death has taken hold there is no rousing from it. “As waters fail from a lake and a river wastes away and dries up, so a man lies down and rises not again; till the heavens are no more he will not awake or be roused out of his sleep”(Job 14:11-12 ESV). Daniel prophecies that those who sleep will awake (woke)to judgment. “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt”(Daniel 12:2 ESV).
Jesus’ resurrection is foundational to faith for the Christian. It is reasonable, intellectually stimulating and sound, supported by substantial evidence, and shows the love of God for His people. For Jesus, the resurrection was accomplished from eternity. Nothing could hinder the Son of God from completing that which He decided from before the sin of Adam and before the creation of the world.
We need to understand God sustained Him throughout His earthly ministry and passion. The word sustained means to support, put, uphold, lean upon, brace oneself, refresh, revive. God kept Him for Himself and nothing the Deceiver would do, nothing the world could do, no temptation or torture would remove Him from God. Jesus knew intimately throughout His physical life, during the process of dying and in the tomb, that God sustained Him.
Here is the rub. That which God has done for His Son He will do for those who are in His Son, who are identified with Him because of His work. Faith is the conduit though which God delivers to the Christian that which the Christian needs to live for God in an ungodly world. The object of faith must be God and His Son. We rest in Him.