Sabbath and Trust

People typically think of the Sabbath as a command not to work. It really went deeper than that. The point was, if they weren’t working and things were provided for they realized that God was still at work in their lives. That requires trust. No matter how talented or amazing we think we are there is nothing in this life we can claim as our own personal 100% accomplishment. The reality is, all things really do depend on God whether we realize it or not. The question is, will we reflect that in our life, actions and attitudes or not? God gave the Israelites two reasons for the Sabbath in Exodus 20:2. The first was that God was the one who brought them out of Egypt. They had to rely on God in the past. Will they rely on God in the future? The second was that even God rested after 6 days of creating the universe.

Do you trust God enough to take a break from all the hustle and bustle of life and just rest at peace in His presence? Trust is a big word. Trust is learned by experience, that is why God brought up His past saving actions in Exodus 20 in order to motivate them to trust God with more things in the future. Trust is learned by repeated, successful, events and is typically formed over a lengthy period of time. But trust can be broken in an instant. God has never given us a reason to break trust with us and yet we have given Him plenty.

As we ready ourselves for spending more time with God, making Him more of a priority in our lives it is important that we realize God can be trusted. We also have to realize that God really is at work in the world and that no matter how hard we pull ourselves by our own bootstraps in the end it all really does depend on Him. If you trust God, spend time with Him and rest in His presence. If you rarely or never find rest in God and time alone with Him then maybe you should reevaluate how much you really trust God so you can find places in your life to let God in more and more.


Our Need for Downtime

I have been working on some lessons on rest over the last week or so and one of the things that hit me was how messed up our view of rest is. Rest is punishment. When you are a kid and don’t do your chores you get grounded. When you are an adult and do poorly at work you get fired. If you commit a crime you go to jail. Rest is punishment. It is important that we don’t let our culture poison the importance of rest.

One of the points scripture makes about Sabbath rest is that it reflects an underlying reliance on God. If we trust God will take care of us we don’t have to work ourselves to death in the rat race of life. Rest also gets our priorities in line and allows us to enjoy some things that are hard to enjoy when you are working (family, time with God, etc). Rest can also be taken to an extreme but I doubt too many of us suffer from that problem. We need downtime. We need the recognition that not everything in life is dependent upon our abilities to get it done.

Did Jesus Break the Sabbath? John 5:18

So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. 17Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.’ 18For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”

-John 5:16-18

In a recent post called “The Naughty Lists” a discussion developed about whether or not Jesus broke the Sabbath based on John 5:18. My understanding of this verse is that Jesus was breaking the Sabbath traditions (considered on level with the law itself by the Pharisees) and not actually breaking the Law of Moses (the 4th commandment).

What Jesus is doing in this passage is using the Sabbath to teach them something about himself. You cannot separate these verses from the broader theology of John and what John is setting out to do. Jesus is not teaching us about the Sabbath, as we typically hear on these stories of Sabbath healings. Jesus is teaching us something about himself. I can say that with confidence because it is all over this story. Jesus makes the point that God works on the Sabbath (and no one is calling God a law breaker – 5:17), so when Jesus works on the Sabbath he is not breaking the Law of Moses because He and God are the same. So Jesus is not a Law breaker. Jesus point is not about the Sabbath. Jesus is using the Sabbath as an opportunity to teach them something about his identity. We are not called to have faith in the Sabbath but faith in Christ. We often miss the forest for the trees on this one and get all caught up on the Sabbath rather than on the Lord of the Sabbath. Often this point is entirely missed because we are unaware or unconcerned with the broader theology of the Gospel of John that this fits so well into.

Last, I wanted to point out a really good article online that is helpful and brief on this topic that I found really helpful. I went through a dozen commentaries trying to find anything helpful on this phrase but came up empty. So if this interests you, have a read – Is Jesus Breaking the Sabbath?

Gospel of Mark – A Day in the Life of Jesus (Mark 1:21-34)

The number of people change following Jesus’ call of his disciples by the Sea of Galilee. Prior to this point it was Jesus going here and there, Jesus being baptized, Jesus walking by the Sea. In Mark 1:21, “They went to Capernaum.” It was the Sabbath. Probably being in his early 30s Jesus had authority to teach in the synagogue. What did he teach? We don’t know but in the best possibility is found from his previous preaching, “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15).

Jesus was there to usher in the kingdom of God. The powers that be would reject that message. The religious leaders of their day and the keepers of the religious and political status quo would not want their power challenged. The same is true with the spiritual forces that were at work among the people, holding people hostage by demonic power. Confronted by Jesus teachings in that Capernaum synagogue, an evil spirit inside a man present began to shout, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-the Holy One of God!

The spirit calls out Jesus name, probably in an effort to gain some advantage over him. Another interesting thing is the evil spirit refers to “us”? Does the man have more than one demon? In other places people have more than one demon. It is impossible to say but it may be that this spirit is referring to all the other evil spirits out there working to cripple people and be a road block to repentance and to the inbreaking kingdom of God, which Jesus was preaching. Synagogue rules said a disrupter in the synagogue was to be cast out of the synagogue. Jesus doesn’t cast the man from the synagogue. He casts the demon from the man. Not only did Jesus teach with authority. He also showed his authority over the spiritual realm. “‘Be quiet!’ said Jesus sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.” (1:25-26). For the second time the people there were amazed over the fact that Jesus teaches something new and teaches it with authority, even authority to drive out demons. Jesus didn’t have to talk about what this or that Rabbi said. He spoke on behalf of God. He didn’t have to go into long discourses on who interpreted this or that verse in certain ways. He taught with authority because he came from God and ultimately was in fact God.

So what happened the rest of the day? Jesus and his disciples go to Simon and Andrew’s house. They find Simon’s mother sick with a fever.  Jesus heals her and she begins waiting on them. When evening came the Sabbath was over. That allowed people who had heard the news of what Jesus was doing (1:28) to travel greater distances because the Sabbath restrictions on travel would be lifted after evening. Drove of people come to Jesus. In fact, the whole town of Capernaum gathered there and Jesus healed all kinds of diseases and drove out many demons.

All this points to the fact that something new was happening. The kingdom of God was near and that meant things would never be the same again. Change is a funny thing. We live in a culture of change. Those who have power fear change. Those who seek power relish change. Jesus was bringing change. The sick and demon possessed were certainly appreciative of it. Those who realized they were sinners certainly appreciated it. But those who were the powers of their day feared it and that fear ultimately drove them to nail this radical change agent and usher of the kingdom of God to a cross.

The question for us then is this, “What ideas, presuppositions, behaviors, and attitudes would keep us from recognizing who Jesus is if he came today?” What in our lives would make us want to resist it? What positions and powers that we possess would insist that we not let go and give in to the new thing God is doing in our midst?

Mike Cope Reflects on Sabbatical

Something about this quote by Mike Cope about the new addition of a regular sabbatical to his ministry really resonated with me for some reason.

“For 25 years I’ve written, preached, taught, edited, traveled, and blogged. Now I’m going to be silent and listen. I’m going to seek God with all my heart.” – Mike Cope at his blog Preacher Mike.

Coming from someone who has so many good things to say I thought it really said a lot about the importance of rest and listening. Jesus was the ultimate person who had good things to say and even he saw the need for a break from the crowds from time to time. I think this statement says something about Mike Cope’s humility to recognize his need for seeking God and being in tune with what God wants him to hear.

Thanks for such a refreshing statement!