In Matthew 12, Jesus tackles both the Pharisees misunderstanding of the law and the Sabbath.
Keeping the Sabbath holy was one of the Jewish laws that was taken very seriously. And an easy target for the Pharisees to use against Jesus, as He was performing miracles on the Sabbath. Read through this chapter – do you wonder if Jesus had any sarcasm in his tone? Or were His responses simple and straightforward?
John MacArthur delivered a sermon in 1986 that has stuck with me the past 20 years since I first read the transcript. The focus of the sermon is making decisions when things may be gray. In the intro he shares a humorous story from his youth:
There are people who think that if you do anything on Sunday other than sit and read the Bible, you have entered into sin. When I was a little guy growing up, I can remember when you were not allowed to do anything on Sunday that even remotely resembled recreation. We came home in our Little Lord Fauntleroy suits, with the little stiff collar, and a little tie, and sat on the couch all day. Couldn’t read the funny papers, couldn’t read the sports page, couldn’t look at television, couldn’t go out in the yard and play catch, couldn’t take a walk. We sat. The only sin we could commit, and we could commit that sin all we wanted, was the sin of gluttony. We could literally gorge ourselves on Sunday. And, of course, most of the women spent all morning cooking up this massive meal by which we sinned all afternoon, but couldn’t – but couldn’t run it off. And so we were stuck with the consequence of our evil. But that sin was tolerable.
When we read Matthew 12 (or even John MacArthur’s experience) we may scratch our heads and think “come on, Pharisees, WAKE UP”! You’re missing the spirit of the law by focusing on the letter of the law! Jesus came to fulfill the law – what is so hard about this to understand!
But when we start to examine our own hearts and even the modern church, we can still find ourselves in a place of judgement and missing the intent of God’s ways. As much as we want to be everything but a Pharisee, our perfection-seeking, works-based theologies can lead us to the heart of a Pharisee.
This past spring I was in the thick of a marathon training cycle, filled with Sunday morning long runs. I love my time on the road – time to think, pray, meditate, sing, focus, oh…and RUN! At the same time, these runs left Sunday mornings a scramble between getting my family to church on time, not being exhausted the rest of the day, etc. While I love the run, it did make my Sundays “fuller” than I would prefer. I mean, nothing says rest like a 20 miler before 9am church! In this same cycle, my training “rest days” of no activity for muscle recovery were Fridays. For some reason, Fridays were anything but restful. While I wouldn’t be pounding the pavement, the days were full of other responsibilities that were anything but restful.
I left the training cycle with an idea.
As much as we try to protect our Sundays as a Sabbath and day to rest in the Lord, oftentimes it’s just NOT. Between the rush to church, serving others at church, prep for the week ahead, and other commitments, it’s never a true and full day of Sabbathing.
Idea: What if our family had one day set aside as a full and complete true Sabbath day. No commitments, school, sports, activities, training. No place to go, no chores, no laundry, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Not even church. Technology free. Meals prepped, clothes laid out, ready to Sabbath. Just people spending time with the Lord, doing whatever the day brought with time praying, listening for promptings from the Holy Spirit, dreaming, sharing. Doesn’t that sound so wonderful!? We have a Saturday selected this fall and we are going to make it happen!! I don’t want to wait for a vacation away for a true full day of resting in the Lord.
Do you have any ideas on creating a Sabbath experience in your world? Here are some additional passages about the Sabbath:
Genesis 2:2-3, Exodus 20:8-11, Leviticus 23:3, Mark 2:27, Hebrews 4:9, Romans 14:5, Colossians 2:16-17