October 5, 2008
The Jewish leaders did not get mad at the lame man because he was carrying his mat, nor did they get mad at Jesus for healing the man. They got mad because of when the man was carrying the mat and when Jesus healed the man. These things occurred on the Sabbath, and broke the laws that the Jewish leaders had established to make sure that people did not work on the Sabbath. In Jesus’ day (and our day as well) many people were confused about what they should do on the Sabbath.
The story of the Sabbath begins in Genesis 2:1-3, where God provides a model for us as he rests on the seventh day. He blessed this day and set it apart from the other days. When man rests on the seventh day, he does so remembering that God rested and will one day provide us with eternal rest in him. During our time on earth, our lives are not be characterized by endless toil, but our lives are to stop periodically so that we can consider the goal of our lives, to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
Of course, the most important passage of scripture concerning the Sabbath can be found in Exodus 20:7-11. Here, the Israelites are to “remember” the Sabbath which God established during creation (vs. 11), and they are to make the observance of Sabbath a defining characteristic of themselves as God’s people. Likewise, we as God’s people should make Sabbath observance a defining characteristic of our lives.
So why do we worship on the first day of the week (Sunday) rather than the seventh day of the week (Saturday)? The answer comes by understanding the radical implications of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus was raised from the dead on the first day of the week, rather than the last day. He rose from the dead, and all who are united with him will also rise from the dead. In light of the resurrection, it is appropriate that the people of God worship on Sunday. We do not labor for six days and hope for a time of rest in the future, but rather we begin our weeks embracing the eternal rest that has already come in Christ. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, we already have eternal life now. It is appropriate that we worship on Sundays, rejoicing in Christ’s victory over death. His resurrection reminds us of that we have eternal life even now, and that one day our bodies will rise from the grave just like his.
So what are we to do on the Lord’s Day, since we are not spending the day working? To be sure, we should engage in a celebration of worship together and fellowship together with other believers (Heb 10:25). Jesus healed people on the Sabbath, and so we should also follow his example by doing acts of kindness and mercy. And, of course, it is a day in which we should rest, enjoying God.