Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath
On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” And Jesus answered them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” And he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
A Man with a Withered Hand
On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” And he rose and stood there. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” And after looking around at them all he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus. - Luke 6:1-11
‘(Christ’s) disciples are people who apply the Gospel to absolutely every single area of life.’ – Timothy Keller
We all have different sorts of relationships with work. In NYC, one of the biggest problems is the getting of Sabbath rest.
(1) Why do we need it?
Reaping grain was defined as work by the religious authorities at the time. Sounds legalistic, doesn’t it? But check out what Jesus has to say: “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” – in other words, He could have responded by saying, ‘That law is irrelevant’, but He’s essentially saying, “I’m all about the Sabbath. I’m all about rest.’
We are part of the greatest workaholic generation. Our relationship with work is so twisted and ‘out of wack’ to the point that we downplay rest as just not doing anything… but it has to be so much more than that, as at least one writer points out. Resting is as necessary as it does require discipline to really pull off, especially nowadays.
Thoughts: a. Job Security is as bad as it ever could be, b. People who make a lot of money are expected to work so much more in their work, and people who make less are to take more jobs. c. Technology enables us d. to work anywhere and everywhere!
In the past, we used to get our meaning in life through our family and our social role. Family used to be all what it was about. Nowadays, we are defined by what we want and how we work to get it… and that just adds even more pressure to the thought of work.
Thoughts a-c express how we have less time to rest, and d expresses how it’s harder for us to rest. That’s been bad enough, but we already have had a problem with understanding rest which was innate in us even back in the day.
Sleep experts know that it’s not just the quantity but the quality of the sleep you have. The deeper the sleep you have, the better. Consequently, the deeper your rest, the better. There is work, but there is work underneath the work, which tries to address thoughts we have such as the need to prove yourself, or the claim that what you are doing isn’t enough. This has been defined by Keller as ‘the Eternal inner murmur.’
This has to be addressed by the Sabbath rest. And that’s why we need the Sabbath rest.
(2) Where do we get it?
To the Pharisees, Jesus points out how David ate of the bread which was supposed to be for priests only (1 Samuel 21). David was on the run, and went to the Tabernacle, and went to where the ‘show bread’ was (this bread was to be used for worship), and ate it. He wasn’t punished for it. There was a definite response for each and every other sin as mentioned in the law, but why wasn’t David punished for this?
Timothy Keller pointed out that in this particular case, then the law had its provisions, only to be made obsolete by later mandates/updates – and in this case, the update was in the form of Christ Himself saying, ‘I am the Lord of the Sabbath.’ He is essentially saying, ‘I am Who the Sabbath rules point to,’ ‘I can give you the deep rest of the soul that you would need more than anything else,’ and ‘I AM the Lord of Rest!’
This points out that (1) we need to go to Christ for rest, and (2) if we have already gone to Christ and still do not have rest, then we need to really know what, and Who we have.
How is Christ the Lord of Rest?
How do we do it?
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. - Gen 1:31 - 2:2
Was God tired? What does it mean to be rested? Observe how He says something is good right after creating it. On the 7th day He says that it was.. ‘very good’. Resting is to be utterly satisfied with what has already been done. That’s good! Now you can rest!
Why is Christ the Lord of Rest?
So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Heb 4:9-10
What does it mean to be a Christian? One perspective is to be as someone who is able to look at his work, his life the same way God looks as His work. There is the satisfaction that all the work that needs to be done, has been done.
From an eternal perspective, simple leisure and even religious rituals do not help our inner need for rest. The work we have in the outside has its roots in the works we have in the spiritual. Here, again, we see how what we see is temporal, and what is unseen is what is actually real. For the stress we feel now has its roots in the stress brought upon us by condemnation and words spoken against us (by, from, and/or to ourselves) which affect our thinking in the spiritual.
Our problem is not the presence of work but the absence of deep rest. The key is to know who you are, because until we wouldn’t know, we wouldn’t have that rest, because we are constantly trying to set standards to define ourselves, to prove ourselves, to assure ourselves that we are significant. This is the world’s work underneath the work, and it’s never satisfied by our efforts! Underneath these standards, it would just be impossible for us to look at our work, and say, ‘it is good.’
Only through Jesus can we have rest.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Mat 11:28-30
Everybody is serving something, and trying to get meaning out of something, but it is only through Christ that we can look at everything and say, ‘It is finished, it is good.’
But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus. - Luke 6:11
Their scheming to kill Christ only led to really making Him the Lord of the Sabbath! On the cross, Christ was raving and calling out to God in restlessness.. it is written,
“But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.” Isa 57:20-21
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2Co 5:21
Christ experienced infinite restlessness of the cross, and before He lay down His life, He said, ‘IT IS FINISHED!’ What was finished? Everything necessary for salvation for the most exacting conscience, for the most incredibly perfectionistic inner murmur! Jesus Christ lived the life you should have lived, and died the death you should have died!
To be a Christian is to place our trust and our reliance upon Christ and His finished work! And now, as we are in Christ, and as Christ is in us, God looks at us and says, ‘IT IS GOOD!’, God looks at us and says ‘this is my beloved, in whom I am well pleased!’
In Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, God looks at you and says, ‘It is good.’
(3) How do we do it?
Christ heals a man on the Sabbath. The religious statutes at the time say that you can actually heal a man who is dying, but apparently nothing lesser.
The practice of Sabbath is still necessary, but not necessarily everything, from the number of steps to make, etc. Timothy Keller points out the following internal disciplines:
- a. The Sabbath is an act of liberation. Deuteronomy 15 states, ‘remember how you were slaves in Egypt, and now you are free.’ Slaves don’t have rest. You are no longer slaves. If you are always too busy and saying no to too much people, then you can be a slave to your company, to your work, to your obligations… understand by the discipline that you have in Christ that you find your meaning and reliance in Christ.
- b. The Sabbath is an act of trust. We’re essentially saying we are not in charge. We’re saying we’re not God and we trust in Him.
Here are external ones:
- a. Take more Sabbath time.
- b. Balance your Sabbath time – Advocational (stuff you don’t usually do, enjoy His creation), Contemplative (worship), Inactive (just thinking of whatever thought or feeling comes)
- c. Be accountable for Sabbath time. Avoid the ‘underSabbathed’ mode!
- d. Inject Sabbath time into your work. Have fewer but more substantial goals.
- e. Community – Get other people in the same job to talk about how to rest.
The only One whose eyes you should have to prove yourself to says, ‘It is good. It is finished.’ – Timothy Keller
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May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift His countenance upon you and give you His Shalom. - Numbers 6:24-26