What to do on the Sabbath

John Hatcher's picture

Jesus sought to make things simple. In his day, one of the most complex things was the Sabbath. Religious insiders worked day and night churning out new rules and regulations concerning the Sabbath. The big issue concerned the definition of work because work was prohibited.

One day some religious big knockers caught Jesus healing a poor soul on the Sabbath. He healed a withered hand. In their minds, informed by various interpretations of the commandment concerning the seventh day of the week, Jesus was working by healing.

It had gotten ridiculous. By some interpretations, it was unlawful to lean back in a chair. By leaning back in a chair, the person had dug into the ground, thereby plowing, thereby working. Certainly a no, no.

When Jesus was caught healing on the Sabbath, his response was a question: should not the Sabbath be a day in which to do good? When Jesus and his disciples were caught eating corn kernels on the Sabbath, he responded with a statement: the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. By shucking an ear of corn, the disciples were harvesting, thereby working. Another no, no.

So, just what could you do on the Sabbath, according to Jesus?

He affirmed it as a day of rest. Rest for one person may be different for another person. Rest should be that which refreshes, recreates. A farmer, who works under the hot sun all week, probably does not consider it rest to “get out and dig in the dirt again.” For me, one of the most refreshing activities is to get out and work in my yard, including cutting grass. Rest should be a change of activity.

He affirmed by his own personal example that the Sabbath should be a day of worship. Worship, more than any other activity, permits us to regain perspective on life. It helps us understand that life has its origin with God and to him belongs all the glory and honor we can possibly put together. Worship acknowledges we are here on planet earth at invitation, not at our own doings.

Jesus also demonstrated that the Sabbath was a day of service. Get out and do something for someone else. I remember as a child that Sunday afternoons provided opportunity for family and friends to visit one another, thereby encouraging one another and lifting up one another. It was a time to visit the sick and the hospitalized. It was a time to cook a meal for a family in a crisis.

So, there you have it: the Sabbath and its counterpart of Sunday, is a day of rest, worship, and service. It was set aside for you and me. We were not set aside for it.

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