Lord of the Sabbath: Where the Rest Begins
“Honey, when did you schedule that doctor appointment?”
“Um, next Wednesday.” I replied.
“But we already have three things going on that day. Where did you fit it?”
I open the calendar on my phone and quickly see that there is absolutely no more space for anything next Wednesday -- or the next month for that matter. I feel a heaviness sit down on my chest, and I force out an exhale. “I’ll try and figure it out...”
The next day I am running around with a baby on my hip looking for my shoes while I’m brushing my teeth. We have 10 minutes before we need to be walking out the door for an appointment. My phone is buzzing, and I quickly scan through the messages, one text asking me to serve in the church nursery, one text asking if I’d consider leading a bible study for young moms.
I’m weighing all these decisions in my mind while I can’t even find my Bible under a pile of to-do’s. I feel the guilt creep up the back of my neck, and a small voice inside my head begins accusing me for not being able to do it all.
We get home from our outing, and the house looks like a hurricane broke in during our absence. I feed the baby, unload the dishwasher, try to figure out what to make for dinner, and realize we have no clean clothes for the week. Plus there are suddenly like 218 house flies swarming around the kitchen because somehow the dogs pulled the back door wide open.
The baby finally falls asleep, and my husband collapses on the couch and invites me to sit next to him. But as I sit there, all I see is the enormous amount of unfinished tasks and obligations around me. My skin is crawling, “Do more. You need to do more.” My soul feels strangled.
And then the Pharisees show up.
Not literal Pharisees in their tasseled tunics (because that would have been terrifying), but Pharisaical voices coming at me from the shadows of my thoughts.
You might remember the Pharisees from this week’s study in Luke 6:1-11:
On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” And Jesus answered them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” And he said to them,“The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
I don’t know why, but this scene always makes me laugh at first. It would appear from the text that Jesus is out in the open grainfields alone with his disciples. I grew up on a farm, and the fields were always peaceful, open, and a good place to find some rest from demands. Maybe He and the disciples were having conversations with one another or maybe they were just walking together in silence eating the grain. But then BAM -- out of nowhere it seems -- the Pharisees are present like full-fledged stalkers. Their presence startles the scene.
And their voices cut to the heart:
“What are you doing?”
“You aren’t supposed to do it that way.”
“God is disappointed in you.”
“You will be judged and found guilty.”
I wonder if the disciples were as shaken as I am by their cutting words. Because these accusations are very familiar to me in my marriage, motherhood, work, and ministry. It seems that on the days I just want “rest,” the enemy accuses me of not doing enough, not knowing enough, not being enough. And the true Sabbath always slips through my fingers.
But Jesus interrupts all the unrest of their accusations and uses this moment to redefine the Sabbath for the disciples and for us.
When we took a broad look at “the Sabbath” this week, we learned that it was something God created for His people (Mark 2:27). We also looked at several cross references about why God ordered His people to observe the Sabbath, my favorites being Exodus 23:12 and Ezekiel 20:12:
“Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.”
Moreover, I [God] gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them.
During the work of creation, God modelled and invited His people into a rhythm of rest by working six days and then resting on the seventh. It was created to be a special sign between Him and His people, so that they would remember the He is the one who perfects them and makes them holy -- not their works.
As I studied this invitation into God’s refreshment and rest, I will admit that my heart sighed. Just hearing the words “refreshment and rest” made my heart thirsty for it. I want to experience the rest He offers. I want to live out of a place of refreshment instead of dry, overworked deserts. And the Pharisees of our thoughts (and the enemy of our soul) prey on that honest desire and devise a plan for us to get distracted.
To the Pharisees, observing the formality of the Sabbath became more important than resting in the reason for the Sabbath. They were obsessed with keeping the rules and working hard to follow each excessive law (some that didn’t even exist) -- and they missed what Jesus came to do and who Jesus said He was.
“The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath…” in a sense means “I am your day of rest.”
Jesus tells the disciples that the Sabbath is no longer just a day, Sabbath is a Person.
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:9-11)
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
Jesus came to fulfill the fourth commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). He did the hard work to secure God’s favor -- and now He extends to us the invitation to rest in His finished work. And praise God that this invitation is available every moment of every day, not just one day of the week.
The Sabbath exists to remind us -- to prove to us -- that our work doesn’t secure God’s favor or make us holy. But resting in the gospel of Jesus does. Rest is the sanctifier, not works. Because to rest means you absolutely believe in grace, a grace that is gentle and lowly, a grace that allows us to never be enough -- because He is enough.
This is good news that refreshes my soul. Even when I don’t feel enough, didn’t do enough, or find the end of the day to reveal that basically everything is unfinished -- I can relax and rest because He did finish the most important work. This week I have carried this truth with me into traffic, into dirty dishes, into conversations at the dinner table, into changing diapers, and into my time with Jesus.
When my soul gets hurried and worn, I hear His voice, “I am your day of rest. Come to Me.”
Let’s enjoy the refreshment of His presence this week, ladies. Let’s not work in order to prove we are/have/done enough -- but let’s relax because He is enough. That’s where the rest begins.
Kaysie Strickland is nothing fancy. Jesus found her in a mess and won her with His Words. She feels called to be a servant of the Word and His people through spending her life and words proclaiming the reckless restoration available in the gospel. She is married to her best friend on earth, drinks lots of coffee + tea, constantly rearranges the furniture in her house (God bless her husband), loves gardening and DIY projects, enjoys long conversations over coffee, and loves all the words. She and her husband just had their first son in February! You can find her on Instagram | Facebook |Twitter | Blog