I’ve been pondering the Sabbath a lot lately, as God Himself unquestionably places so high a priority on the concept and essence of that event.
Sabbath was created, and modeled by God Himself, on Day 7 OF CREATION – quite a long time prior to the law of Moses, the Mosaic being a shadow of things to come.
4 For if He (we’re talking about Jesus here) were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law;
5 who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “ See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”
6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
EARLY BUNNY TRAIL: I (along with others) have some strong opinions regarding the millenniums and the general season for the Lord’s return, particularly in light of the facts that:
A. The concept of Sabbath figures so prominently into all of Scripture (including the Isaiah 58 blessing – which we will get to); AND
B. Peter, writing about the return of Jesus, warns us that in the latter times folks would be offsetting the timing of the Lord’s imminent return, as if it might happen so far down a long road of time as to be unimportant and off our radar. Peter warns us of this potential, and then reveals what might be an interesting timing key:
2 Peter 3:8 (I recommend you read the entire chapter)
8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
THAT said, one might be inclined to wonder whether a 1,000 year period, subsequent to the Lord’s return, might prove itself as being an exemplary Sabbath for our Age (a seventh day, if you will), during which time the majority of people will be ceasing from their own works (ceasing from doing it “their way”) and instead coming to grips with the fact that the reigning, now-visible, in-Jerusalem Lord has a better way, a way that works. This leads us into this writing.
The writer of Hebrews, addressing Jewish believers in Y’Shua, clearly goes after the concept of what a real Sabbath might be – the writer knowing that the as-observed Jewish adherence of the day, including all of their traditional legalistic restrictions, was NOT the perfect solution envisioned by God, who had made the Sabbath for man, as opposed to vice versa:
9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.
10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.
This takes us to Matthew 11 and 12. Please remember that Jesus did not speak in chapters and verses, nor did the writers of the original text organize their thoughts in chapters and verses, with sub-headings and paragraphical breaks. Those text tools work fine for organization and biblical referral, but often we would be more enlightened were we to read through those literary stops.
OK – HERE WE GO: Matthew 11 – Jesus tells His disciples about the indisputable and eventual accountability of the earth’s inhabitants for their wickedness (Matt 11:20-24). Then He prays for His disciples (that would include us) to the Father, and then proceeds to tell His listeners (that would be us, again) they are blessed.
25 At that time Jesus answered and said, “ I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.
26 Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.
27 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.
And now Jesus determines it’s time to address and confront the Sabbath matter, head on – and I believe He was/is determined to NOT simply make a three-verse statement and then go on with a new chapter of events for Matthew to memorialize:
28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Jesus is revealing to His followers that in their voluntarily taking upon themselves the yoke of Spirit-led service to God, they would be discovering and coming into true rest. True Sabbath.
I’d bet no ox ever looked at a yoke and declared: “Cool! I’ll put that on, and I will find rest”. But we are not oxen. We are sons of God, invited into His service – the only place of true rest.
The revelation here is that the yoke of our Lord is our Sabbath. In fact, anything else (even including religious good-intention of us not having to do anything) is a waste of precious time and thought, and in fact contradictory to biblical text.
Once again – Matthew didn’t write in chapters. To that point, chapter 12 begins with the words: “AT THAT TIME” (which also is stated prior to Matt 11:28, above. It is all one event – our Lord is going after the Sabbath by means of consecutive events).
The Greek word translated to “AT THAT TIME” is Kairos – a set appointment. An occasion. Matthew was relating to us that at that same time as our Lord was concluding what we accept as chapter 11, Jesus (knowing all things), was addressing in what we accept as chapter 12 (once again, the entire chapter makes for a most logical read):
1. end times judgment,
2. what Sabbath was and was not, AND He
3. physically models (Holy Spirit street theater, if you will) an intentional provocation and confrontation with the religious order by leading His disciples through a cornfield, on Saturday (Sabbath).
1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.
2 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “ Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”
3 But He said to them, “ Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him:
4 how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?
5 Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?
6 Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple.
7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice, ’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.
8 For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.
From Matt 11:28 and on we have an invitation to cease from doing things our way and placing the yoke of rest upon our shoulders to discover what the Sabbath truly is – being in the perfect will of God. Immediately (at that same occasion) we see the disciples being condemned by the religious order for plucking grain and eating, something specifically NOT PROHIBITED in Torah, but PROHIBITED in Talmud (which the Jews exalted to an equal position with God’s laws).
And now we see Jesus going further still – healing on the Sabbath. The Lord of the Sabbath was taking the Sabbath back into ownership by God (I believe we’re invited into that same campaign).
CONTINUING IN Matthew 12:9-14
9 Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue.
10 And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”— that they might accuse Him.
11 Then He said to them, “ What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?
12 Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
13 Then He said to the man, “ Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other.
14 Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.
There’s so much more for us all to dig into, to understand and embrace, regarding Sabbath. I believe it is an invitation from the Holy Spirit – for us to prayerfully weigh how this might look in our individual lives.
I believe the more we truly understand, the happier we will be. I believe we will get to the place of Isa 58:13, where the enormous blessing is offered by a gracious and loving God, who in this portion of promise, functionally makes a vow to us – “The mouth of the Lord has spoken”:
13 “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,
From doing your pleasure on My holy day,
And call the Sabbath a delight,
The holy day of the Lord honorable,
And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways,
Nor finding your own pleasure,
Nor speaking your own words,
14 Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord;
And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,
And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.
The mouth of the Lord has spoken.
All Scripture NKJV