The Lord of the Sabbath

11 Dec

7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’you would not have condemned the innocent.8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Matthew 12:7,8

In the days of Jesus, the Sabbath was revered. It was a day where movement was restricted and certain activities outlawed.

What was supposed to be a day of rest and gladness became a burden for everyone. Yes, even for the leaders who felt they needed to ensure its adherence. But Jesus said mercy was more important to him than sacrifice. What did he mean by that?

On the Sabbath day, Jesus showed mercy by healing the sick and assisting the poor. However, the spiritual leaders focused on the law and not the people for whom it was made. Instead of at least being happy that someone’s health had been restored or pain relieved, they were more concerned that the law had been violated.

Yet, Jesus said that he was the Lord of the Sabbath. Did this mean that he was above his own law and could break it at will? Or was he saying something more important?

And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

1 John 4:21

The Spiritual leaders believed that they showed God love by obeying the law and enforcing its rules. They were probably sincere as they were punished in the past from turning away from it. However, they failed to notice that the law was in place to produce loving relationships so that the other nations would see God and grow to love Him. Indeed, God was principally concerned about how His people treated those He placed under their care.

Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. 17 Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

Isaiah 1:16,17

God’s people were responsible for washing themselves in order to become clean. This required the sacrificing of countless animals each time the individual had sinned. But thanks be to God for Jesus who came and took this burdensome requirement away. His blood was far more superior to that of bulls and sheep because it paid the ransom for all who would accept his sacrifice.

“The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.

Isaiah 1:11

The labour of love for the salvation of others is so much easier than the heavy burden to save our own souls through sacrifice.

Jesus is our peace and rest – The Lord and the Sabbath: what a beautiful union! The Sabbath is nothing without him and should not be placed above him.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Indeed, the Sabbath Day symbolizes the eternal rest to come, and our light labour should be invested in reflecting the kingdom of God here on earth. It had never been dropped nor changed, neither was it meant to be the main dish. Its main focus should be on the Lord of the Sabbath.

The one who loves our souls longs to give us rest right now. We can give this suffering world a glimpse of his Kingdom by speaking up for the harassed and oppressed, healing the sick, taking care of the orphans and widows, and showing kindness to the stranger. In fact, we show love when we focus on others instead of our desires.

Today, there are some religious groups who place a higher value on the Sabbath day than on any other commandment, and conversely, there are those who believe that it is no longer important. But our balance is Jesus, and at the end it will all be centred around him.

In Luke 21:12 and 13, Jesus told his followers that near the end of this world we will be persecuted because of his name and our testimony about him. We could end up losing out if we place emphasis on laws instead.

Therefore, let’s not set our view on the Sabbath law, but rather on lifting up the Lord of the Sabbath. If we focus on keeping laws, we will only end up failing miserably and patting ourselves on the back.

When he returns, may he find us labouring as he did, yes, especially on the Sabbath day.

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