Luke 6:1-5 (CEV)
1One Sabbath when Jesus and his disciples were walking through some wheat fields, the disciples picked some wheat. They rubbed the husks off with their hands and started eating the grain.
2 Some Pharisees said, “Why are you picking grain on the Sabbath? You’re not supposed to do that!”
3 Jesus answered, “You surely have read what David did when he and his followers were hungry. 4 He went into the house of God and took the sacred loaves of bread that only priests were supposed to eat. He not only ate some himself, but even gave some to his followers.”
5 Jesus finished by saying, “The Son of Man is Lord over the Sabbath.”
So some of you will have grown up with an idea of Sabbath. Where I grew up, my understanding of the Sabbath was “The Lord’s Day”. It was celebrated on Sunday, (because that’s when Jesus rose from the dead,) and ‘celebrated’ by spending the day quiet and solemn and at church for at least three services, with grilled cheese sandwiches and an afternoon nap in between the second and third services.
Others of you won’t have had much experience with it – it was maybe just another day off school and work, which maybe meant time to read a book, watch cartoons, ride your bike or go to Canada’s Wonderland.
But to understand one of the big arguments that Jesus has with the Pharisees we are going to have to wrap our heads a bit around this idea of Sabbath.
The Jews were originally told in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8-11) to honour the Sabbath as a day of ‘ceasing’ or ‘resting’ from their labours, and pointed to the Creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2 where God creates for six days and on the seventh day ‘ceases’ from creating. So the Jews were instructed to take one day a week and not work. But I’m the type who needs to ask, but why???
I think first that there seems to be an element of honesty and trust to all of this. The honesty comes in recognizing that God is God, and we are not. We humans have a habit of thinking that we know more than God, that we can do more than God, that we are, in a nutshell, better than God. And so I think God is saying, “take a day, guys, to spend trusting me. You’re going to suck at this, but if you regularly practice having to depend on me for your survival, then you’ll learn that I’m faithful and you might suck less at it! Regularly set aside time to stop and rest because you are not infinite, and you are not capable at going 100 miles an hour all the time. You can argue about this all you want, but I made you, so I know this to be true – you will do better at life if you are honest about who you are, honest about who I am, and honest about who’s taking care of who.”
I think there’s also an element of joyfulness in this command. The people were supposed to stop moving (they were nomadic at this point), stop carrying, stop pushing, stop jostling, stop worrying and just be still, sit around their camp, laugh, tell stories, connect and care for one another. This is important. Lots of traditions have lost sight of this ‘joyfulness’ part of the command, but joy is one of the things the Bible says we should seek after, and since it’s very difficult to be joyful when you’re exhausted and in a rush, it’s quite possible that this command to rest is also about creating space for the joy that God knows we need to have time to permeate our lives.
And finally there seems to be an element of the Sabbath that is about leveling the playing field. Throughout the Old Testament discussion on Sabbath-keeping is this idea that, “No one is to work on that day—not you, your children, your slaves, your animals, or the foreigners who live in your towns.” (Exodus 20:10) So I think this is a justice issue. All the people of the household are supposed to gather together and enjoy a meal together. On this one day of the week, there is no difference made between male or female, Jew or foreigner, slave or master, adult or child … It’s almost like it’s meant to be a foretaste of the levelling that Paul talks about Jesus bringing. (See Galatians 3:28)
Tomorrow we’re going to look at where it takes us, but today, I want us to pause here and take some time to reflect on the idea of Sabbath and the point of Sabbath for our own lives.
- What did “Sabbath” mean for you growing up?
- What does “Sabbath” mean for you today?
- Whether you regularly practice Sabbath or not, how does honesty and trust factor into your regular spiritual practice?
- Whether you regularly practice Sabbath or not, what spiritual practices do you engage in that foster rest and the joy that flows out of it?
- Whether you regularly practice Sabbath or not, what ways have you found to enter into the types of levelling situations that an Exodus Sabbath was supposed to create?
- Do you need to consider changing how you make space for the practices of “Sabbath” in your daily life?