Sabbath Rest

Lent IV

by Dcn. Ron Christolear

Exodus 31

 “You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.”   Exodus 31:14–15

The Sabbath. Some see it as a great day to go golfing, watch sports, or spend time with the family.  And while all these activities have value in their proper place, they can never be allowed to supplant the time and relationship we are to cultivate with the Triune God. For the Israelite, the Sabbath was a day of rest from all physical labor.  The Jewish believer would spend six days working to gain God’s favor and approval. The idea of a Sabbath or day of rest was to give God’s people the opportunity to cease their work and to rest in Yahweh.  It should be understood that faith, not works, has always been the key word in one’s relationship to God.

For the disciple of Jesus, the idea of Sabbath has both a physical and spiritual meaning.  God still desires us to take a day of rest, but this day of rest is not intended to be merely a chance to catch up on missed sleep or watching T.V.  For the Christian, this day is intended to be an opportunity for both communal and private devotion to God.  That includes Bible study, prayer, worship, fellowship, and outreach. For the disciple of Jesus, however, Sabbath means more than just a specific day each week.  It is a way of life.  Jesus tells us that he is the Lord of the Sabbath. Both Matthew and Mark recount the confrontation Jesus had with the Pharisees when he picked heads of grain to eat on the Sabbath.  When questioned about his actions, Jesus replies, “For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:8 and Mark 2:27,28)

The writer of Hebrews tells us the good news of a future rest in Hebrews 4, that Jesus is not only the giver of rest, but he is our Sabbath rest.  While the writer of Hebrews had in mind a future rest brought about by the return of Christ, we have confidence that we can, even now, share in that rest in the present life.

Whereas the Sabbath day of rest comes only once a week, the rest Jesus gives us is seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day.  It is a rest that never ends.  It is a rest that reminds us that we need not work ourselves to the bone trying to earn God’s favor and love.  In Christ, we are loved as much now as we will ever be.

So how do we enter into Christ’s rest?  We enter into this rest by recognizing the completed work of Jesus Christ on the cross and Christ’s completed work of redeeming us from sin.  This season of Lent, let us rest fully knowing that God has completed this work in us.

Dcn. Ron ministers at Trinity Anglican Church

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