Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28)
There were a number of Sabbath controversies that followed Jesus throughout His ministry. In short, the Pharisees and other teachers of the law expected Him to adhere to rules regulating the practice of the Sabbath.
God actually established some rules of His own regarding the Sabbath, in order to define its fundamental purpose. The Sabbath was an opportunity to rest in God’s presence, restoring one’s soul. For this to take place it was necessary for people to stop working long enough to refocus their lives. Many of the rules God put in place enforced this behavior. Yet, in all of this, God gave man the Sabbath for his own good.
Today’s kingdom scripture followed an incident where Jesus’ disciples grabbed some grain from stalks while walking through a field on the Sabbath. At other times Jesus healed on the Sabbath, and was sharply criticized. Why did He do these things? Because He knew when God communicated His rules to govern the Sabbath He wanted His people to take the day off to restore their souls. He didn’t want them to neglect critical physical needs.
Of course, there was always the possibility some would abuse the Sabbath, but it was just as wrong to condemn others who were receiving a blessing from God as it was to engage in work. It is hard to imagine how the Pharisees and teachers of the law came to a place where they hated Jesus for healing the sick on the Sabbath. They had clearly lost sight of the heart of God.
Now, lest we misunderstand this kingdom principle, I should clarify that Jesus was talking about true needs. I fear we sometimes err on the other side of spiritual rest by filling our lives with so many activities we don’t have time to worship God. When we continually put other priorities in front of worshipping God, we are indeed breaking the principle of the Sabbath. We are “crowding out” the Lord.
So, on one hand, we should make worship and spiritual reflection a part of our lives. We should take time to worship with others, as the Bible tells believers not to neglect meeting together.
But on the other hand, we must remember that Sabbath rest (which for the Christian is defined as our journey with God as we are clothed with His grace) cannot be regulated. It is a heart issue…a hunger and thirst for the One who loved us and saved us through His Son Jesus.
Maybe if we get this straight in our minds our misplaced Sabbath won’t necessarily leave us feeling guilty, but rather empty. Why would we not want to fill up our lives with the One who gave His life for us?
To be honest, I am a lot more concerned about any lack of passion I have for worshipping the Lord than a rule that says I must do so. Either way, if I am neglecting Him, I need to seriously evaluate my spiritual pulse.
Dear God, teach me how to rest in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.