“Then Jesus said to [the Pharisees], ‘The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of the people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.’” Mark 2:27 (New Living Translation)
“Then Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘The Sabbath day was made to help people; they were not made to be ruled by the Sabbath day.’” (New Century Version)
God created. Land, sea, stars, moon, trees, flowers, animals, humans. After a survey of the work of His hands, He found it all to be very good. He heaved a holy sigh of contentment and took a day off – to appreciate His workmanship. To enjoy His surroundings. To reinvigorate His creative energy. To rest.
And He calls us to do the same.
Forever looking to discredit this Rabbi of the rabble, the Pharisees seem to have spent a good deal of time and energy following Jesus around. On this day, they watched as the motley crew of twelve snacked on ripe heads of grain while walking through a field. It was the Sabbath – God’s day of rest. Jesus and His disciples were traveling on foot, presumably outside of any town (hence the fields of grain), and yet here were those overly-zealous Pharisees, in hot pursuit. On the Sabbath. When they should have been at home, resting. (Shame on them.)
Dedicated to keeping the entire Law of God (and ensuring that others did, too), these legalistic purists managed to find fault with Jesus everywhere He went. On this day, they were themselves breaking the Sabbath in order to catch Jesus doing the same.
In their passion for the letter of the Law, these religion fanatics managed to do more damage than good in their time and culture, as evidenced by the great number of times that Jesus is found responding to their veiled threats and vile efforts to entrap Him on a violation of God’s commands. Somehow, what started as a faithful attempt to get it right ended up becoming a frightful adventure in missing the point, and here we find the Pharisees getting it BACKWARDS. Again.
We are each in danger of following suit with the Pharisees when we take God’s commands into our own hands. There really is a fine line between our best efforts to do life God’s way and trying to fit God’s ways into our best efforts at doing life. When the Pharisees set out to ‘keep’ the Sabbath, somehow it became an issue of ‘ownership’. Jesus follows up His words in Mark 2:27 with a comment that must have stung like salt in the open wounds of their injured egos – He said ‘The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath day.’ (Mark 2:28)
Whether it’s the commands of God regarding Sabbath rest or any other teaching in scripture, the moment I presume to take ownership of it, I’m no different than the Pharisees. God’s words and God’s ways are just that… GOD’S. When I choose to follow and obey His teachings, I no more ‘own’ them than the Pharisees ‘owned’ the Sabbath. They literally chose to ‘keep’ the Sabbath for themselves, failing to realize that the invitation was never one of possession, but of participation with God in celebration of creativity and the work of our collective hands.
I set out to write this blog during the season of Lent, and this is our final week together. On the evening before each Literal 4 Lent post has been ‘due’, I have diligently completed the necessary steps to have L4L ready for you to read the next day. Until last night.
I was halfway into this text when it hit me that I am not so different than the Pharisees. God has given me a gift and an invitation to use it in His world – I love to write! I especially love to write about Him. But when my response to His invitation begins to look like ‘ownership’, I find myself getting it BACKWARDS. And I found myself in that place last night – convicted by Jesus’ Lordship over everything in my life.
So, instead of cranking out today’s blog on time, I yielded to the Lord of the Sabbath. This post, while ‘late’, has literally served to remind me that this work of mine isn’t mine, but His. The day I possess these gifts of God in my life is the day they become mine to manipulate – to withhold or dispense on my own schedule rather than God’s.
Today I choose to participate in the large work of the Lord rather than attempt to possess the small work I am capable of producing on my own.
Instead of getting it SDRAWKCAB – again – I resolve not to be ruled by the interpretation of God’s Word, but by the literal Word Himself.