Rest. It’s a nice concept. . . in theory. I hear about it and talk about how important it is and yet the reality of it sometimes escapes me.
I’ve been working through the Matthew 12 passage dealing with subject of Sabbath. This was extremely important to the Pharisees. They knew their Bible back in the day and realized Ex 20 recorded those 10 commandments, and one of them was ‘remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.’ There was a reason for that, the example that God created the world in 6 days and on the 7th he “rested.” So, you didn’t do any work on that day.
The problem was that they couldn’t leave that admonition alone, but instead created hundreds of other little laws to protect the Big Ten so that there would no chance one of the Decalogue would be broken. It created a system of legalism and weighted down the people with rules and regulations. The Pharisees were especially good at citing infractions to their system of law and didn’t hesitate to condemn people for it.
Jesus’ disciples were hungry and, walking through some field, picked the heads of the grain. Then they rubbed their hands together and ate the remains. The Pharisees saw this and criticized for doing what was unlawful on the Sabbath and told Jesus about it. Rather than rebuke the disciples, Jesus used four arguments to offset the Pharisees. He related to Scripture on three issues and then said that “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
The text continues with Jesus entering the synagogue to see a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees pounced on this moment to see whether it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. Jesus used the sheep in the ditch story, which silenced them but nevertheless infuriated them enough to plot to kill him after Jesus healed the man. Yes, they plotted to kill Jesus on the Sabbath. It is lawful to do GOOD on the Sabbath, Jesus said, but certainly the behavior of the Pharisees didn’t relate to that position.
We don’t see things the same way. This of course is the basis for many of our disagreements. But, until we are able to recognize the things that Jesus saw as important, we won’t be able to make any lasting impression for the Kingdom. The Pharisees saw the disciples “breaking the law” but did not see that they were hungry. The Pharisees saw the man had a withered hand and were concerned about breaking the Sabbath law. But, they did not see that the man was hurting and needed healing.
It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. And other days too for that matter. Let us be about doing the good things on our Sabbath, which is Sunday. We ought not be legalistic about the day, but neither should we treat it like any other day of the week. We ought not allow church things burden us to the point that we are worn out and dread the day rather than enjoy it as a day of worship and celebration. Church types can busy ourselves and become blinded to the truly important matters in life relating to mercy and justice.
Jesus tells us to follow him and take on his burden and find rest. The only peace and rest is found in Christ and viewing the events around us through his eyes as recorded in Scripture. That’s what I want to do. That’s what I want for others too.
I showed the Ethics Daily DVD “Beneath the Skin: Baptists and Racism” last Wednesday night. It allowed for stories and testimonies of those who lived through the Civil Rights struggle. It also included passages of Scripture that had been used by Baptists to support and condone slavery, segregation, hatred, and violence. Baptists haven’t had the greatest track record in this area. One of the more moving images of the video included the “Colored Only, Whites Only” bathrooms. It’s hard to explain to millennials how this could happen in America. It’s difficult to understand how the patterns of prejudice and bigotry continue to exist in a variety of ways.
If there is going to lasting change in the world, it has to begin with me and the world around me. May God forgive us and help us seek genuine community with those who are unlike us and need it most. We could all use the rest.