What a week? We are living in unprecedented times, but this is an opportunity for the church to shine. We are not a people driven by fear but by faith.
This virus does not change that. If there is ever a time the world needs to see faith in action it’s now.
Throughout the Bible, God has revealed His different names to define His character. The more we know about God’s character the more we can predict His actions.
In the Old Testament God taught us about Himself through names. Here is a couple.
El Roi (el-row-HE) means the God who sees me; application, God knows us and knows our troubles.
El Shaddai means the All-sufficient one; application, our problems are not too big for God.
The names teach us about who God is and what He is capable of doing.
In Matthew 12 Jesus confronts the Pharisees on their double standard and gives us insight into His character and nature. Here He declares Himself as “The Lord of the Sabbath.” For us to understand what’s happening in Matthew 12 we need to understand the sabbath.
The principle of a sabbath is first established in Genesis 2 when we read that after God created the world and everything in it, He rested and blessed the seventh day and made it holy.
God did not need rest because as Psalm 121 says, God neither sleeps nor slumbers.
But from the beginning of time, God built a rhythm into our workweek a day of rest.
We were created to work and then rest.
- Work without rest makes us a slave to work.
- Rest without work makes us lazy.
To avoid work is to deny the rhythm of work and rest that makes us complete.
The word sabbath means cease, desist.
Sabbath means more than sleeping. It is an intentional break from your normal routine of work.
In Hebrew culture and even today, many still celebrate with prayers, family, friends, and food. This was something every devout Jewish person followed as instructed in the written law.
But there was also the oral law, which was the guideline passed down to generation to generation to aid them in following the written law.
As it pertained to the sabbath, they had rules about what you could and could not do. They stated how many steps could be taken on that day of rest, even what activities were forbidden and allowed.
Over time the rules became a burden that removed the joy out of the purpose of the sabbath. More than enjoying the sabbath you were concerned about not doing something wrong on the sabbath.
The focus of the sabbath turned into rule-keeping and not celebrating God.
So during one sabbath as Jesus and the disciples are presumably headed to the temple for the reading of the Torah and the prophets, and are accosted by the Pharisees who witnessed one of the disciples plucking a head of wheat to eat.
The Pharisees considered this as working thereby breaking the sabbath.
He says, “Have you not read,” which is the equivalent of, “you should know this,” and reminds them that there are exclusions to observing the sabbath.
David, whom all Israel revered, took the showbread, which was designated for the priest to eat only and he fed his small band of fighters.
He follows that up with pointing out how the Priest work on the sabbath, offering sacrifices for the people and cleaning up, yet no one finds them guilty of breaking the sabbath.
Jesus wasn’t challenging the practice of the sabbath nor the written law of God but the traditions and imposed rules they created for keeping the sabbath. The law of the sabbath was wrapped in mercy, which they lacked.
In the passage, just before this encounter, Jesus said, “28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me,” Matthew 11:28-29
In Hebrew culture, a yoke was a teacher or Rabbi’s way of doing things. So what Jesus is saying is, this is how you’ve been doing things but it’s only adding to your unrest.
By doing things my way you will find rest for your weary soul.
Then when Jesus claims to be the “lord of the sabbath” He is declaring that our rest does not come from following laws or rules, but from Him.
There is no rest outside of Jesus. He gives rest to your soul, which no amount of sleep can provide. He has done all the work, so you don’t have to work for your rest.
If you’re in need of rest, draw near to Jesus;
- by meditating on His word,
- being prayer
- by sitting in His presence, through worship, through serving, through giving.
Taking on Jesus’ yoke, His ways, obeying His word provides rest.