July 22, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 6:1-5 (NRSV)
One sabbath while Jesus was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?” Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”
God has designed you for work and rest. God has given to all of us – including you – the gift of Sabbath, a day for refreshment and renewal. Jesus claims to be Lord of the Sabbath, and this means he is Lord over your Sabbath. He wants you to experience renewing rest. He is glad to help you discover what this means in your life.
This devotion is part of the series: Following Jesus Today.
Yesterday, I began looking at Luke 6:1-5, a story about the Sabbath and the authority of Jesus. That story ended with Jesus making a shocking claim: “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath” (Luke 6:5). Jesus, adopting the Jewish title “Son of Man” for himself, claimed to have primary authority over the Sabbath, that is, over the day of weekly rest. He had the right to determine the purpose of the Sabbath and to stipulate what kinds of behavior were appropriate and inappropriate on the Sabbath.
Some Christians believe that Jesus abolished the Sabbath. This is certainly a misreading of Jesus’s actions and teaching with regard to the weekly day of rest. Though he rejected many of the legalisms of the Pharisees with respect to Sabbath observance, Jesus did not abolish God’s intentions that humankind should set aside one day a week for rest. Jesus claimed to be Lord of the Sabbath, not its destroyer. In the Gospel of Mark, he made it clear that “the sabbath was made for humankind” (Mark 2:27). In other words, God created the Sabbath for our benefit. It is a gift for us, an opportunity for rest, refreshment, and renewal. The Sabbath is a time for us to refocus on God and God’s purposes, as well as to enjoy God’s many blessings. Jesus, as Lord of the Sabbath, will help us learn to delight in this special day (Isaiah 58:13).
Jesus claimed to be the Lord of the Sabbath. So I have question for you: Is Jesus the Lord of your Sabbath? I could ask more broadly: Is Jesus the Lord of how you spend your time? But I’m wondering especially about whether you have built into your life God-designed times of regular rest?
Throughout the centuries Christians have differed about what it means to honor the Sabbath. Some argue for a complete day of rest. Others allow for partial days. Some believe that rest should happen on the seventh day of the week (Saturday). Others support Sunday as the best time for rest and celebration of Jesus’s resurrection. There have been seemingly endless debates about what Christians should do and not do on the Sabbath. I am amused by the fact that some Christians have argued that the Sabbath was only for the worship of God, and therefore a Christian should not take a nap on the Lord’s Day. Somewhere along the line they seemed to have missed the part about rest.
I expect followers of Jesus will always differ on the details when it comes to the Sabbath. But what concerns me today is how common it is for followers of Jesus to have no interest in or commitment to a regular rhythm of work and rest. For many of us, every day of the week is equally a day of work. Or, if we take a break from paid work, we fill our time with a flurry of activities. Many Christians have very little experience of anything that might be called Sabbath.
If this hits home for you, let me say that I’m not trying to make you feel guilty. From my own experience, I know how hard it can be to make time for regular rest. My point isn’t to make you feel bad, but rather to remind you that God has designed you for work and rest. God has given to all of us – including you – the gift of Sabbath. Jesus claims to be Lord, not only over the Sabbath, but also over your Sabbath. He wants you to experience renewing rest and he is glad to help you discover what this means in your life.
As you think about your life past and present, what experience do you have with intentional Sabbath observance?
Do you set aside time each week for rest? If so, why? If not, why not?
What would it take for you to let Jesus be the Lord over your Sabbath observance?
Talk with your small group or with a wise friend about your experiences of Sabbath. Come up with specific practices that you want to build into your life. Find ways to support each other as you seek to experience the gift of Sabbath.
Jesus, you are indeed the Lord of the Sabbath. And this means you are also rightly the Lord over my Sabbath. Teach me what the Sabbath means for my life. May I seek your guidance for how I might experience a regular rhythm of work and rest. May I find others who can walk with me on this path of discovery. Help me, Lord, to receive your gift of Sabbath with delight. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. An article on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: How Rest is Restored – Sabbath & Jesus’ Redemption in the New Testament
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.