29 October 2013

Christian Sabbath Keeping (A Habit for Day 29)

In the Beginning, Jesus made Sabbath

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made...He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not."  John 1:1, 2, 3, 10 (emphasis mine)

You know John is talking about Jesus, right, the world's Maker and Redeemer?  I like to think of that when I read about creation in Genesis, because Jesus is so personal and real to me through the stories of the gospel.  We could read it like this:

"In the beginning [Jesus] created the heaven and the earth..."  Genesis 1:1

Doesn't that already feel more like you're right there in the story?

"And on the seventh day [Jesus] ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made.  And [Jesus] blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made."  Genesis 2:2, 3

Right there, from the beginning, in a perfect and complete world, Jesus kept the Sabbath.  It's a thought that fills me with breathless awe.  What great things must have been shared between Jesus and His two new humans that first Sabbath, the first full day Adam and Eve are alive!  There are no problems to distract, no worries to weigh down, no joys too full to experience.

In the Desert, Jesus Reminds Israel about the Sabbath

Enslaved for many generations, the children of Israel had no idea they were worth a day of rest.  We don't completely know what their Sabbath experience was in Egypt, but when we travel with them to Sinai, Jesus simply calls them to remember it.

Keep it holy.  Don't use it for your own labors.  Don't use it for an excuse to push your burdens on anyone else--not even your animals.  I created the earth, I created you, and I created the Sabbath.  Don't forget!  Sabbath will remind you to worship Me.

It's my loose paraphrase of Exodus 20:8-11.  When we look at Deuteronomy, we can add I'm the One who brought you out of slavery.

Thus the Sabbath was to remind them of their Creator and Redeemer, two things still worth our while to remember.  Like them, we can leave our labors with Him for a day without loss.
What's more, the Israelites learned that deserts are no place to disobey any of the laws of God.  We can keep the same thing in mind whenever we go through trials.  Worshiping another in place of God will not make our trials easier to bear.  Neither will swearing, telling a little white lie, wishing we were in someone else's shoes, taking another person's belongings (or another person's life), or cheating on our spouses.

Breaking God's laws always makes life worse.

{If you're wondering how I drew the connection between Jesus and the God who spoke from Sinai, compare Exodus 3:14 with Jesus' words and the religious leaders' reaction to them in John 8:58, 59.}

While on Earth, Jesus Kept the Sabbath

 Throughout the gospels, there is a tension between the religious leaders and Jesus because of the Sabbath.  The leaders accuse Jesus of breaking it; Jesus shows that rather they are the ones who are breaking it.

For just one example, let's look at what happened in the synagogue (church) one Sabbath morning.

A man attended there whose hand was useless and withered; the religious leaders whispered among themselves ahead of time, eyes open, wondering if Jesus would heal the man on Sabbath.  They hoped He would, not because then the man would be healthy and physically restored, but because they wanted a reason to throw the death sentence at Jesus.

Jesus anticipates their reasoning with His question before the whole congregation.

"And He saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?  But they held their peace."  Mark 3:4

In answer to their silence, Jesus heals the man.  Clearly, then, it is lawful to save life on the Sabbath, and Jesus is well within the bounds of the law.

But the religious leaders?

They immediately left and called a council with Herod's men to plot a way to kill Jesus.  Sounds like a nice Sabbath afternoon activity, right?  Wrong!  Sabbath, the day to remember God as our Creator and Redeemer, has everything to do with life and nothing to do with death.

Thus in this instance, and in the other Sabbath controversies during His life on earth, Jesus showed not that Sabbath was no longer relevant, but that it had wrongly become a form behind which only selfishness reigned.  His love needed to be restored to His day, and He set the ultimate example of keeping the Sabbath.  After all, if He had not kept the Sabbath--if He had broken any of the laws of God--He would have failed at saving us from our sins.

Even in death, Jesus and His followers kept the Sabbath.  The women did not embalm Him over the Sabbath hours.  They didn't make excuses about how important He was to them; instead, they went home to observe a grief-ridden Sabbath as Jesus had done and commanded them to do.  Jesus raised up in new life after the Sabbath passed.

{Of the eight New Testament texts that mention the first day of the week, six describe the events of the day Jesus rose from the dead; one describes a meeting of believers to listen to Paul preach one more time before he leaves town; and one describes preparing ahead to bring an offering to the Lord.  None of the texts describe a change of the Sabbath from the seventh day of the week to the first day of the week.  I'd love to hear from you if you have further questions about it!}

We Still Need the Sabbath

 In a perfect world, God designed a Sabbath rest for all humans to enjoy with Him.  How much more do we, like the children of Israel in the wilderness, need Sabbath now, in a world full of trials, sins, and weariness of all kinds!

I believe with all my heart that on the day Jesus set aside from the beginning, He has blessings in store for us that we can experience on no other day.  He still calls us to lay down our burdens of labor, simply to rest in Him.  He still calls us to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, not as a life-drainer or hindrance, but as a life-giving oasis in a barren land.

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Grab button for LADDER OF MERCY (Photo by Barbara Frohne

1 comment:

  1. "In the Desert, Jesus Reminds Israel about the Sabbath". In the context of your desert theme, this has a beautiful meaning.


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