In many of his encounters with a cross-section of the public, Jesus gave us valuable lessons that have stood the test of time. His healing of a man with a deformed hand gives us a Christian perspective on the Old Testament laws around the Sabbath. The Pharisees (we considered their encounters with Jesus last week) saw Jesus’ apparent disregard for these laws as an opportunity to trap and discredit him. They came unstuck! In Mark’s account of this healing, Jesus establishes some helpful guidelines for us today: “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!” Mark 2:27, 28 (NLT)
What did this mean in practice? The Pharisees were watching closely when Jesus met this disabled man in the synagogue one Sabbath. (Jesus) turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him. 5 He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! Mark 3:4, 5
Christians through the years have struggled to understand and apply the relationship between the Old Testament Sabbath and our Sunday. (My father said, growing up, his task on Saturday evenings was to clean and polish the family’s shoes so they were ready for church next day. He was the youngest of eight siblings! The women cooked on Saturday night so the meals were ready for Sunday. Our family has not adopted these practices!)
In moving (I think rightly) away from a strict, legalistic observance of the Sabbath’s requirements, I wonder, have we lost many of the benefits and blessings God offers us through its principles? God gave us the Sabbath “to meet the needs of people.” He knows (of course he does!) our need for rest and renewal if we are to achieve our best throughout the week. Do we forget this when life becomes busy? Downtime also provides us with an opportunity to reflect and maybe reorder our priorities. Worship is a fundamental need we have, and Sunday gives us time for corporate worship with our friends. We neglect this precious gift to our detriment; physically, spiritually, emotionally and socially.
God knew what he was doing! Can we create “Sabbath moments” for relaxation, recuperation, worship, fellowship and doing good, in the course of our busy lives? Can we keep (or reinstate) Jesus in his rightful place as “Lord of the Sabbath”? Would this require some changes to your normal week? Would it bring real benefits?
I’m sure the man with the deformed hand was glad Jesus exercised his lordship that day!
PRAYER: Father, teach us what it means to make Jesus ‘Lord of the Sabbath’ in our own lives. Forgive us for times when other activities and other things crowd out those precious moments of quietness in your presence or the privilege of worshipping you with our brothers and sisters. Thank you for giving us Jesus as our example in how to live. Help us to follow his example in this we pray. Amen
Song: Times of Refreshing – https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=LKgEDYLd30E