Lord of the Sabbath
"For the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!"
The Sabbath was ordained by God in creation. It's importance was codified in the Ten Commandments. God intended the Sabbath as a gift for human beings, and as a special duty and privilege for Israel. By the time of Jesus, however, some Jews had made Sabbath observance a matter of nit-picking legalities. The freedom and joy of Sabbath-keeping was lost in myriad oral laws that made it impossible for the average Jew to measure up.
Jesus clarified the purpose of the Sabbath by noting that it was a matter of God's mercy (v. 7). Thus, if a person was hungry on the Sabbath, it wasn't wrong for that person to eat a few grains from a field. More significantly, Jesus clarified his authority over the Sabbath as "the Son of Man" (v. 8). "Son of Man" was a messianic title Jesus often used for himself. It suggested his central role in the coming of God's kingdom.
Christians have rightly understood that Jesus overturned a legalistic, merciless keeping of the Sabbath. But, in recent times, we have wrongly neglected God's gift of Sabbath. Few Christians actually set apart regular time in their week for rest. Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, offers to each of us the refreshment of frequent, recurring rest. The exact time of week doesn't matter. But God has created us for weekly rest, and most people I know desperately need to unwrap the gift of the Sabbath.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Do you set aside regular time each week for intentional rest? Why or why not? Have you ever experienced the joy of Sabbath rest in your life?
PRAYER: Lord of the Sabbath, you have the authority to decide what should or should not happen on the Sabbath. And by your own actions, you have made it clear that the Sabbath is a day for healing, for prayer, for fellowship, and for receiving your mercy afresh. Thank you for the gift of Sabbath!
But you know, Lord, that many of us are uncertain about the Sabbath. In fact, we often don't even think about it. There is so much we need to learn. So we ask you to teach us the true meaning of the Sabbath. Help us discover how we can enjoy your gift of Sabbath today, without getting caught in a smothering legalism. May we experience the Sabbath as an occasion of mercy, as a day permeated by your grace. Amen.