Times were so much simpler back in the good old days. Many remember a time when all the stores were closed on Sunday, churches were filled with worshipers and Sunday afternoon brought with it a large family gathering at Grandma’s house for dinner. Yes, those were the days. No work! Sunday was a day for worship and a day of rest, just as the Pharisees said it should be. Wait a minute! Just as the Pharisees said it should be? Can that be right?
As Jesus and his disciples walked through a field of grain, they plucked the heads from some stalks, rubbed them in their hands and ate. The Pharisees, who were never far away, took great exception to their reaping and threshing on the Sabbath. According to their interpretation, no work was to be done. The Pharisees imposed strict observances for the people of God to follow in most aspects of life. It would seem the Pharisees also appointed themselves as guardians of the Sabbath. Jesus, however, corrects their teaching with authoritative teaching of his own.
Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” It is God’s desire that humans take a proper amount of time to rest from daily work. But such rest is not meant to be a burden. Even today, people have differing opinions on what this must look like. “It’s not right to mow your lawn on Sunday.” “You shouldn’t work on your car or repair your home.” “This is a day of rest and we should keep it just as we did in the good old days.” The problem is, as we consider the good old days we do so from our own view point.
As people fill the church for worship, we fail to understand that often, preaching is quite labor intensive. Church music directors arrive early to rehearse musicians and choirs. Sunday school teachers must work in order to present a lesson where, in their hearing, students receive God’s Word joyfully. And let’s not forget Grandma as she must hurry home and prepare the meal for the family then clean up afterwards. Truthfully, there is much work that happens on the Sabbath.
When Jesus says the Sabbath was made for man, he is saying that it is to be a day of relief. It is not to be a day of burden filled with expectations, duties and restrictions. The Sabbath is a time to observe the goodness of being God’s children, to gather with the faithful for worship, share in the fellowship of friends and family. The Sabbath is a day in which we can forget the worries of the week and remove ourselves from the stresses of the world. For some, that means working in the garden or cutting the grass.
We all have our opinions on what keeping the Sabbath is supposed to look like. We all also have different ways in which we relieve ourselves from worldly stress. Jesus reminds us that God wants his people to remember the Sabbath and keep it set apart from the rest of the week. Certainly, this begins with worship. And as we go about the rest of the Sabbath Day’s activities, we do so as children of God, giving him glory, honor and thanks for the many blessings in our lives.