Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

  Sabbath leads to fullness of Creation

St. Luke 6: 1-10
Vs.5: Then Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." 
Sabbath which means 'to rest' is the fourth commandment given to the Israelites. The Gospel portion that we read today deals with the keeping of the Sabbath. 

While the Pharisees were adept at keeping the Sabbath, they added interpretations and specific details with regard to the acts that were permitted and not permitted on the day of the Sabbath. For the Pharisees, observation of the Sabbath took the following forms:
  • Sabbath was a form of legalism or external adherence to law to the extent of ignoring humanitarian considerations.
  • Keeping the Sabbath became a source of pride for the Pharisees.
  • Sabbath became a weapon to criticize and condemn others.
Jesus poses three questions so that the Pharisees and those around him self-reflect on why Sabbath was given to man:
Is the Sabbath given to make a man miserable, or as a source of blessing?
Is the Sabbath given for Man's blessing or to be a burden?
Is the Sabbath for doing good or for doing evil?

What was the original purpose for which Sabbath was asked to be observed?
1) Sabbath - an attitude of submission towards God: Sabbath symbolizes a day of rest similar to the rest that God took after engaging in 6 days of creation. In traditional agriculture, land which has been under cultivation was left without cultivation every 7th year. The purpose was to help the land regain its natural nutrients and not become barren. Similarly, God instructed man to take a day of rest in order to rejuvenate himself where we do not toil for our earthly survival. It is a day when we are required to spend time in self-reflection, constructive thoughts, acts of kindness, and strengthening each other in faith. It was meant to be done with an attitude of complete submission to God.

On the contrary, Sabbath took the form of extreme legalism for the Pharisees thus becoming a hindrance to their submission to God. Even we Christians tend to hold on to too much legalism while missing out on God's original design. In this passage, Jesus is condemning the Pharisees telling them that their strict observance of the law is distancing them from doing the necessary and important aspects in the eyes of God. 

2) Sabbath - freedom from slavery and the promise of rest: In ancient times, slaves were required to work on all days and only the rich were allowed a day of rest. While Israelites were slaves in the land of Egypt imagine the struggle, they had to go through with not a single day of rest. By freeing them from slavery, God gave them the hope of a promised land where they could rest. This promise of entering God's rest is for everyone who believes in Lord Jesus Christ. But this rest is available to those who live in obedience to God. 

While every day we strive to follow many rules and regulations, we need to also self-reflect if we are falling short in obeying God's law by murmuring against God and God's people. When we start following God's commandments, we reach a stage of self-righteousness where we are not able to tolerate even the slightest of mistakes of those around us. We become faultfinders trying to remove the speck out of the eyes of our brothers even before we see the log in our own eyes. We start acting exactly like the Pharisees. For those of us who act in a self-righteous way, finding fault in everything and everyone around us, we shall never be able to enter the rest promised by God. In fact, by becoming faultfinders we even hinder the spiritual growth of those around us. So, we need to be careful as Christians never to imitate the Pharisees or the Israelites who murmured against God.

3) Jesus - the Lord of the Sabbath: There is one more strong message communicated in this passage by Lord Jesus Christ. The reply that Jesus gives to the Pharisees is to recollect the incident where David himself broke the law and ate the consecrated bread. Thus, Jesus is proclaiming that if David was forgiven for breaking the law, the Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath who has the power to make or break the law. Those who are trying to interpret and observe the law are not above the one who has created the Law. Hence no one has the right to judge Jesus and condemn Him with regard to the law.

We as Christians need to observe the Sabbath with an attitude of submission to God so that we are freed from slavery and enter into God's rest.
Dear Lord, help us to enter into your rest. Help us to direct every action of ours in submission to your will. Help us so that we do not become self-righteous as we live in obedience to your commandments. Help us to do everything in love. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
Rev. Johnson P. Abraham
The Mar Thoma Church, Staten Island

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