Jesus and the Sabbath _ an article my dad wrote on how Jesus thought of and taught about the sabbath…

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In light of our current teaching emphasis on “scripturing” and priorities and pondering “is sabbath a priority?,” I asked my dad to pen some thoughts about what Jesus thought about and taught about the Sabbath. Here is what he wrote. I love this guy!!! So grateful for my pop. :-)
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Jesus and the Sabbath
by Dr. Jimmy Dukes

How did Jesus react to the Sabbath? He was a Jew who honored the Law, but how was his reaction to the Sabbath different from the reaction of the Jewish leaders of his day? Mark gives us a great contrast between Jesus’ approach to the Sabbath Law and the Jewish leaders’ approach in two incidents from the ministry of Jesus in Mark 2:23-3:5.

Two simple stories. A walk through a grain field and a healing of a man in need.

The first involves Jesus and his disciples walking through a grain field on a Sabbath. Jesus said nothing here until after the Jewish leaders had spoken in criticism of the disciples. The disciples were doing nothing wrong in spite of the accusation of the Jewish leaders that they were acting unlawfully. They interpreted the plucking of grain and the rubbing of it to remove the husks as harvesting and threshing. The disciples’ action was allowed under the law, but was not generally acceptable in the tradition of the elders on the Sabbath. Jesus was not criticizing the law. He did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. He reinterpreted the Law in the light of who he was and in the light of his relationship to the Father, the Giver of the Sabbath.

So what was the problem? The Jewish leaders had become so focused on the law itself as something to be revered and protected that they ignored the Person who was to be revered and protected. God had made clear from the Garden of Eden that his desire was to have a relationship with his people. All of the Law, including the Sabbath law was given in the context of that relationship. He gave it to make life better for his people. That is why Jesus made the key statement in 2:27-28:

“Jesus said to them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

With his response to the criticism of the Jewish leaders and the healing of the man on the Sabbath, Jesus was teaching three things. First, he was making his Lordship clear. That authority extends to the Sabbath, which was given by God to his people to strengthen their relationship and to make their lives more abundant and productive. Second, Jesus was teaching that men cannot understand their relationship to the law properly if they do not understand their relation to the Giver of the Law. Third, he was teaching that man does not owe blind obedience to the law but he does owe obedience to the Lord of the Sabbath to live out the relationship with the Lord and with his people.

Jesus used two examples to confirm his relational approach to the law. The first was David. He was fleeing with some of his men and they were hungry. They went to the priest and took away the Bread of the Presence, which legally only the priests could eat. David took the bread and shared it with his hungry men. The moral is clear. Meeting the genuine needs of people is more important than legal principles.

The second example is even clearer (3:1-5). Jesus, in the course of his ministry encountered a man with a withered hand. Coincidentally the encounter was on the Sabbath. The man could have waited another day to be healed, but Jesus was there on that day. He healed the man to demonstrate the importance of taking the opportunity to meet a need when it presented itself and to teach the principle that ministry to people is more important than legalistic rules. Here he affirmed his truth by contrasting a man in need and animals in need. (Man is more important than animals).

What can we learn?

A man so bound by tradition he ignores the needs of others is far off track from the purpose of God. If we have a relationship with the Giver of the Law we must demonstrate it as Jesus did by being obedient to the purpose of God. If tradition is more important than people, the purpose of God is violated. It always comes back to the purpose of God.

How are we working with Him to accomplish his purpose by meeting the needs he puts before us???

Eugene Peterson suggests that sabbath is the most important as well as most ignored function of the church today, for from this restful, trustworthy connection life comes.

The following is a summary from my notes of Eugene Peterson’s conversation with Gabe Lyons in Manhattan in February, 2012. One of the topics of conversation was SABBATH. Peterson had much wisdom to share on the matter.

:: a definition of “sabbath”

>> shut up and show up.

:: don’t try to be like God
It does not start with understanding sabbath but with looking at and understanding God from the beginning…when we don’t keep the sabbath, we are trying to be like gods.

:: when we started keeping a sabbath as a family
We didn’t start out doing sabbath in Maryland. However, I wasn’t working out of obedience but out of fear. Then, we would get away for a month as a family somewhere and just be together.

By the time I started working out of obedience rather than fear, we structured our sabbath for every Monday. I made lunch since Jan did the rest of the week. She prayed since I tended to the rest of the week. The kids would be in school. Jan would read a Psalm and we would be quiet and walk. Then we would come back and just debrief. Kids would come home from school and take part, too. First thing we noticed was the kids loved it because no one had to do work that day. We would do nothing we HAD to do.

I wrote our congregation a letter every year “why your pastor keeps a sabbath” in order to invite them to help us keep it. You can’t keep the sabbath alone. People took it seriously. And after 10 years or so, many of them began to keep one, too. And we helped each other. The most important thing we did was asking our congregation to help us keep it.

:: not just a cessation of work
Sabbath is not a cessation of work, but rather a contemplation of work. Non-sabbath keeping is a desecration of work, not honoring the real gift that our work is. When we do this, the work of man has inflated importance, rather than the work of God being honored most.

:: rest
Living in a rhythm of sabbath allows for restful living rather than guilty, busy, driven living.

:: evangelism may not be the primary work of the church…
I think evangelism may not be the primary work of the church, but rather sabbath-keeping. Because it puts us in the rhythm of stopping to listen to God and then responding and doing what he says. We try to do so much without being in this sabbath rhythm. Without it, how can we evangelize?

:: Jesus highlighted the importance of living in a listening rhythm with Him:

“I assure you: Anyone who doesn’t enter the sheep pen by the door but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. The doorkeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice. They will never follow a stranger; instead they will run away from him, because they don’t recognize the voice of strangers.” Jesus gave them this illustration, but they did not understand what He was telling them. So Jesus said again, “I assure you: I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.
(John 10:1-10 HCSB)

THE BOTTOM LINE:
Sabbath is a practical, merciful, intentional command. May we take it seriously. May it become a rhythm of our lives. May it be a priority.