SABBATH AND FLOURISHING
Thank you, Holy Spirit, for making the gospel truth for me. Each day, as I study the Bible, I look to you to deepen my understanding of God’s love, my faith in Jesus, and my commitment to living the gospel.
Read LUKE 6:1-11
Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath
6 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. 2 Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
3 Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 5 Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
6 On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. 7 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. 8 But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there.
9 Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”
10 He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. 11 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘A life built upon Sabbath is contented because in rhythms of rest we discover our time is full of the holiness of God.’1
Luke’s next two episodes focus on what work is permitted on the Sabbath. In neither does Luke suggest that Jesus is fundamentally questioning the institution of the Sabbath as a good gift of God to his people Israel. Rather, he is reminding his listeners of the foundational purpose of the Sabbath: to promote human flourishing. Feeding the hungry and restoring the broken are clearly aligned with this overarching purpose and Jesus claims that activity such as this should not only be permitted but advocated on the Sabbath. This assertion is scandalous to the Jewish leaders, who have become more focused on what is prohibited on this day of rest.
Views of the Sabbath understandably vary in the church today, for this debate is rooted in complicated questions about hermeneutical approaches to the Law. Jesus never discards the Sabbath: I suggest that neither should we. Yet Jesus subtly redefines Sabbath, linking it to doing good (v 9), rather than the complex prohibitions and regulations with which it had become associated. Anything that aligns with the overarching goal of helping people flourish is surely a useful aspect of Sabbath observance.
Many people wear busyness and fatigue as a badge of honor. In such a context, Sabbath practices are significantly countercultural. I have found that the disciplined observance of weekly Sabbath is an act of trust and faith, acknowledging that God holds all things together, not me. I have learned that I require a rhythm of weekly Sabbath, along with consistent sabbaticals of extended rest.
The antidote to workaholism and self-reliance is Sabbath rest. Time spent in prayer and reflection allows us to flourish. How can you incorporate this regular rhythm in your life?
Father, help me to follow Jesus’ example; to spend my Sabbaths in ways that please you. Use me to invite others to know and enjoy rest in you.
1 Shelly Miller, Rhythms of Rest, Bethany House, 2016
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.
© 2023 Scripture Union U.S.A. All rights reserved. Reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents without written permission is prohibited.
Encounter with God is published in the USA under license from Scripture Union England and Wales, Trinity House, Opal Court, Opal Drive, Fox Milne, Milton Keynes, MK15 0DF.