The Sabbath is for us

Daily Readings: Joshua 15-16, Mark 2, Psalm 62

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Mark 2:23-28

Throughout the entire gospel we see a running theme of religious leaders struggling to grapple with the faith they have grown up embracing that was based on black and white rules that needed to be followed at all cost and the type of faith that Jesus spoke of. Religious leaders were most comfortable with a concrete checklist of things to do and things to avoid. Jesus went after the heart. Jesus came with a message of relationship with God. Jesus came to help people understand that God did not simply desire legalism and a group of followers that followed the religious laws to perfection, but followers that understood God’s desires for their lives and what they were called to do with their time here on earth.

Almost the entirety of Mark 2 follows this theme. Jesus heals a paralyzed man, but the religious leaders feel he blasphemed by saying, “Your sins are forgiven.” Jesus goes to eat with the sinners so that they may come to faith and the religious leaders grumble their disapproval. And finally they see Jesus and his followers simply picking a couple heads of grain as they walk and blow everything out of proportion.

I love the response Jesus gives.

The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 

I chuckled when I read this passage this morning.

The Sabbath is for us.

The almighty God of the Universe, creator of everything that was, that is, and that is to come is not having his day ruined by us knocking out some work on a Sunday afternoon. The Sabbath is not for him. The Sabbath is for us.

I desperately need the Sabbath. I need a day every week where I unplug, spend time with family, friends, and the body of Christ. I need to reenergize, fill my cup back up, and re-center myself on God.

The Sabbath is for us.

I imagine this applies to a lot of God’s laws throughout the Bible. So often we think of God’s laws and view them as a list of things that are inconvenient to follow and resent that we are “unable, as a follower of God, to just do what we want!” like an immature teenager that thinks their parents are so stupid for all of the rules they put in place until they reach their mid-20’s and realize, “Maybe mom and dad knew a thing of two back then…”

God wants us to live a rich, full, and meaningful life throughout the time we are blessed with here on earth. God want the best for his children. When my wife and I set rules for our kids it is not to try to restrain their fun or make life less enjoyable, they are always made with their best interest at heart. We are imperfect human parents and may occasionally make decisions with our children that we look back on and wish we could have over. Our father in Heaven is perfect.

Following all of God’s word does not guarantee an easy life for us. That is not what we are promised as followers of Christ. However, if we truly seek after the father’s will through studying his word and seeking to live it out, it does draw us closer to him. It does give us peace and perspective. It does keep us away from self-created adversity!

We all have some commands from God that we find incredibly difficult to follow. We all have a portion of his law that we push back against over and over again despite knowing that we shouldn’t. We are flawed and fallen human beings, which is why Jesus came in the first place. However, when we acknowledge that God has so much more for us when we embrace that his laws are perfect and lead us to a better life in the present, not just for eternity, they do become easier to follow.

Start with the Sabbath. It is almost impossible to follow any of other of God’s decrees when burned out and not centered on God. Give yourself that recharge. Have a day that is actually devoted to God and not knocking out an endless to-do list and catching up on things you fell behind on this week.

The Sabbath was made for you.

Thought to ponder

How could I do a better job of guarding the Sabbath?

Whitewashed tombs

Daily Readings: Exodus 15-16, Psalm 24, Matthew 23

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous.  And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!”

-Matthew 23:23-26, 29-32

Jesus did not mince words when it came to rebuking the religious establishment of the day. He came out swinging.

It really hit me today when he challenged how they thought that they would have approached the past. “And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets…”

It is so easy to look back in time and think, “I would have never acted that way!” That is certainly how I feel about the Pharisees we read about today.

What would Jesus say to the church today? If he was speaking to the American Evangelical Church, what would his message be?

I believe that many churches are doing an incredible job of fighting for justice, mercy, and faithfulness, the way Jesus described in this passage. However, there are so many instances where, I believe, Jesus would compare the American Church to whitewashed tombs. More worried about external appearance than mission.

This is also a powerful thought for each of us individually to spend time considering. It is never fun to be confronted with areas in our lives where we are more concerned with how we appear on the outside than what is happening inside, and yet we all have them. Part of being human is constantly fighting the urge to simply wash the outside of the cup.

My prayer today is that God would show me those areas of my life. My prayer is that Jesus would convict me in the truth of my motives in different areas and expose any that are not in line with his will. I want to walk more and more closely with Christ every single day, even if that means he occasionally needs to say to me, “Woe to you, Aaron, you hypocrite!”

When these moments do come, it is important to choose joy over shame. I am so thankful that the God of the universe cares enough about me to show me my blind spots! I want to grow and get better! I want a stronger relationship with him! Therefore I am thankful for his occasional loving rebuke.

Thought to ponder

Where are areas of my life where I am like the Pharisees?

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