By John Ulrich, Senior Pastor
March 15, 2015
In Exodus 20:9-11, God’s fourth commandment to the Israelites is to “remember the Sabbath” by resting from work, and later in Ex. 10 and Lev. 25, He even extends that rest to a whole Sabbath year every seven years.
In first story in Mark 2:23-27 of Jesus’ interaction with the Old Testament Sabbath, we see hungry disciples picking ripe grain from the fields. The Pharisees pointed out that it would be unlawful to harvest/prepare this grain to eat on the Sabbath.
Jesus answered the Pharisees first with an example that the hungry, on the run, King David had set aside the Sabbath law to eat sacred bread from the Tabernacle (II Sam.). Then Jesus addressed the Pharisees directly that “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk. 2: 27). Jesus claimed boldly to be the “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mk. 2:27).
In the second story in Mark of Jesus’ interaction with the Sabbath, the Pharisees watched to see if Jesus would violate the Sabbath laws by practicing medicine for healing on the Sabbath, when the problem was not life threatening (Mark 3: 1-6). Jesus’ response was simply asking the man to stretch out his shriveled hand, and the healing took place by itself with Jesus saying nothing else.
Principles in These Two Stories Concerning the Sabbath for Us:
1. The invitation to real rest is for us.
“The Sabbath was made for man”; it was made for us to have rest. Sabbath is a remarkable gift, not a burden or source of condemnation. God desires us to cease work and remember Him. The word “Shabbat” means cease, stop from our striving and be restored by God.
2. Sabbath is the recognition that God owns everything, controls everything, and that He can be trusted to provide even when we rest. “Lord of the Sabbath” suggests authority.
Most of us kind of abuse the Sabbath by making too little of it, versus the Pharisees making too much of it with their extensive laws. We live “Sabbath-less” lives and wear it as a badge of honor, reading, “I’m too busy to stop.” Evidence of this removal of Sabbath from our lives would be in such examples as: long work schedules, lack of sleep, our 24×7 accessibility enabled by technology, our fast pace which keeps ramping up, our constant drive to “measure up” to others, our competitiveness, our worry. One reason we skip honoring the Sabbath is that we fear we will miss out on something.
We need to stop and think about what we are doing and building in our lives. Many of us know we have these issues but are unable to stop. Some of us may be so out of control and overwhelmed with demands that we might need help, such as a Stephen minister. No guilt is involved here.
For most of us, our abuse of Sabbath rest is self imposed. We do not understand the source of it. Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath, the source of rest, not because He can interpret the Law (as do the Pharisees) but because as the Giver of the Law, He has the authority to set it aside and ignore it when He sees fit.
Yet Jesus’ claim is even larger: As inventor of the Sabbath, He is the only source of the Sabbath’s rest. Just as God rested after Creation (Genesis), Jesus did God’s redemptive work of salvation here on earth, and when it was completed, He rested in His Father’s love, even on the Cross.
As Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus not only commands us to rest, but provides that rest. He provides us our true calling, fulfillment, and meaning/purpose in life. Our invitation is to rest, and to trust God that He will provide for us what we need on a daily basis. If we find ourselves worn down from trying to “measure up” to our expectations of others, and ourselves, we need to cease from our strivings and remember that Jesus Christ has all the forgiveness we need.
Where in our lives do each of us need Sabbath rest? Where are we wearing ourselves out trying to achieve, control, or measure up? Only in the Son of God will we find our approval, love, and rest.