Today's Reading: 2 Kings 24-25; John 5:1-24
Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk." And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath. The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, "It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” John 5: 8-9
God established the last day of the week—sundown Friday to sundown Saturday—as a day of rest. God said in Exodus 31:13-17 that in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth. On the seventh day, he rested and was refreshed. The Israelites were to observe the Sabbath as a covenant with God. They were to put aside their normal business of sowing, reaping, treading the wine press, carrying burdens and unnecessary travel. They were to call the Sabbath a delight, a holy day of the Lord (Isaiah 58:13).
The Sabbath was created so that the people could rest from the busyness of life and find refreshment and restoration in the worship of God. He did not restrict the deeds of necessity (like eating), service to God (the priests’ roles) or acts of mercy (kindness to others including helping animals). God did not say He stopped working in helping, healing, saving or doing good deeds. Even the Jews agreed that God was "working" because the universe remained intact.
A common saying among the Jews was that God did not stop creating or judging on the Sabbath. And so the Jewish religious leaders felt the liberty to become good at judging on the Sabbath also. The Jews wrote volumes of books to define the limitations of work, yet created more burdens in the process. However, the real burden was that they had taken the Sabbath, God's gift to man, and had transformed it from a day of rest to a day of rules, regulations and restrictions.
Jesus came to set us free and to restore the Sabbath to what it was meant to be. Jesus defined the Sabbath differently. Jesus said in Mark 2:27 that "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." The Sabbath was given so man would rest. The Sabbath was not given for man to worship the day of rest, but to rest in the worship of the Lord, by stopping his everyday work. Jesus got the religious leaders’ attention by continuing to heal and touch lives on the Sabbath. He healed an invalid of 38 years on the Sabbath. The Jewish leaders scorned the newly healed man for following Jesus' instructions by carrying the mat he had laid on for 38 years. This man's burden was the sin that bound him, not the mat he carried on the Sabbath.
Because of Jesus' work, we entered into rest spiritually (Hebrews 4). We no longer need to try to keep laws and rituals seeking God's approval. We are saved by grace. Jesus has done it all. Take your Sabbath and spend time with the Lord and let Him give you rest.
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