One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. – Mark 2:23-3:6
Touchy, touchy, touchy! Why are you so touchy about this? Ever been asked that question? It might be asked by someone who is rather thoughtless and insensitive to your heart. It might be asked by someone who is dedicated to her own agenda and must destroy any objection you would offer. It might be because he who says it really doesn’t realize what he’s said, and sincerely wonders why he has hurt you.
For the Pharisees the issue of the Sabbath was a BIG DEAL. In fact among Orthodox Jews Sabbath is still a big deal. The most dedicated will do no work of any kind. They will observe every facet of the Sabbath Laws. For to them it’s a big deal.
Let’s say that it is a big deal. Sabbath is one of ten commandments. It’s up there – if you’re honest with the text – with murder, adultery, stealing, and using God’s name in vain. It’s part of the First Table of the Law: those commandments that explain what it means to love God with your whole being. That makes it a big deal.
But Sabbath is also made for man according to Jesus. It’s not something to prove our religious rigor. It’s not given to take away our joy. It’s given to make us better aligned with God’s place in the world.
Observing Sabbath is a big deal because observing Sabbath requires that we lay aside the crazy notion that we must run the world, keep the plates spinning, and make sure things are working as they are. In fact Sabbath is an exercise of faith and trust in God. He can actually run the universe and every aspect of it without our help.
Sabbath is an invitation to rest in trust of God and in anticipation of the eternal rest in the life of the world to come where everything is perfectly in balance and all is right and good and peace. Whenever we are able to tap into that we should. Once a week sounds about right to me. After all God rested on the Sabbath. Maybe his children can too. We can stop our striving. We can enjoy his presence. We can breathe. And that’s a big deal!