TO CHEW ON: " ' For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.' " Matthew 12:8 NIV
We don't make much of Sabbath-keeping (or Sunday-keeping) in our church culture, let alone in society at large. How much that has changed even in the last several hundred years was brought home to me when I read the Puritan Jonathan Edwards' 73 Resolutions and came across #38:
"Resolved never to speak anything that is ridiculous, sportive or matter of laughter on the Lords Day" - from "The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards in Categories."
In our reading today the Pharisees twice confront Jesus about his non-keeping of their Sabbath rules. First they butt heads over whether it is okay to do the work of harvesting heads of grain to feed themselves (Matthew 12:1-8). Then later, in the synagogue when Jesus heals the man with a withered hand, that act steels the Pharisees' determination to destroy Him (Matthew 12:9-14).
So what is appropriate Lord's Day-keeping behaviour? Should we as 21st century Christians be concerned at all with Sabbath/Sunday/Lord's Day-keeping? Here are some principles we find as we look at Scripture:
- God set aside one day in seven as a day of rest as early as creation (Genesis 2:2).
- God told the Israelites the Sabbath was to be a day they kept holy or separate from work (Exodus 31:15) and to Him (Deuteronomy 5:12).'
- A heart-felt keeping of the Sabbath came with the promise of a rich reward (Isaiah 58:13,14).
- Jesus and Paul observed the Sabbath by attending places of worship (Luke 4:16; Acts 17:2).
- Some of the activities that happened at "church" on the Sabbath were:
- Prayer (Acts 16:13).
- Getting acquainted with fellow believers (Acts 16:13).
- Reading Scripture (Luke 4:16).
- Teaching (Matthew 6:2).
- Apologetic reasoning from the Scripture with the goal of persuading people to put their faith in Christ (Acts 17:2; 18:4).
- Doing good on the Sabbath is allowed. Jesus lived His statement, "Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath" (Matthew 12:12 NIV). when He:
- healed a man with a withered hand.
- healed a man with a 38-year sickness (John 5:1-9).
- healed a man of blindness (John 9:6,16).
Jesus' statement here: " ' For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath' " makes me aware of ways Jesus' observance of Sabbath differed from the Pharisees' observance. While theirs was limited to keeping a minutiae of laws and interpretations of laws about what work on the Sabbath meant, Jesus' observance was more directed by the two great commandments, to love God with all that we have and are, and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39).
So we too can look at Sabbath/Sunday/Lord's Day-keeping not as a burdensome, rule-generated obligation but as a privilege and benefit to do something that pleases God and shows love to our neighbor.
- It is permission to relax from work. God did.
- It is a day to nourish relationships with people.
- It gives us an entire day to focus on God—the highest and best.
- It is an opportunity to demonstrate, by our lifestyle, our devotion and loyalty to God.
PRAYER: Dear God, I have not been strict with myself about observing one day in seven as holy to You. Help me to view doing this as a privilege and benefit. Amen.
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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.