Fundamental: The Sabbath
The group of men, led by Jesus, sang as they walked along a narrow path through a grain field ready for harvest.
Jesus was enjoying the song and the fresh morning air so much that it took some time for him to notice the disciples were falling behind. Suddenly, he realized he was singing a solo. Reaching a clearing, he spun around and watched the twelve gradually approach. He saw immediately what was slowing their progress. They were breaking the heads off the wheat and eating the grain.
“Come on guys,” Jesus shouted to them, “we’ll be late for worship at the synagogue if we keep going this slowly.”
Andrew got to Jesus first. He had a handful of harvested grain. Jesus held out his hand and Andrew gave him some. Jesus studied the grain until the rest of the group gathered around. He held up the wheat, “Unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels.” He swung his hand across the wheat fields in the distance, reinforcing his point: “a plentiful harvest of new lives.”
The disciples nodded, waiting for the punch line. Jesus loved these teaching moments. He continued, “Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it—for eternity.”
“That’s exactly what we’ve done!” Peter said proudly. “We’ve left our normal everyday lives to follow you.”
Jesus patted Peter on the shoulder and finished, “Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.”
The disciples all nodded and smiled. They liked these stories that gave them hope for the future. They started to walk again, following Jesus. The harvesting of grain continued.
At the next clearing their progress was blocked by a group of religious leaders. They were whispering to themselves. Then one of them stepped forward and pointed at Peter as he stuffed a big handful of grain into his mouth. “Look, your disciples are breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.”
Peter spun Jesus around by the shoulder, blowing a mouthful of dry grain onto Jesus’ tunic, “Tell them the dying wheat story!”
Jesus laughed, wiping the wheat chaff off his clothes. He turned, showed his empty palms to the Pharisees and asked, “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God, and he and his companions broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat.”
The men looked shocked. Their spokesman opened his mouth to speak but Jesus continued, “And haven’t you read in the Law of Moses that the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath? I tell you, there is one here who is even greater than the Temple! But you would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”
The Pharisees shook their heads and rushed off huffing and puffing through the wheat field, heading to the Synagogue. Jesus walked through the wake of waving wheat, then through the city gates and to the steps of the synagogue.
As Jesus and his Disciples entered the synagogue, some Pharisees approached. One of them pointed to a man with a shriveled hand, The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath?”
Matthew spoke over Jesus’ shoulder, “It’s a trap, Jesus! There’s some trick.”
“Of course there is,” Jesus whispered. “They would never allow a deformed person in their precious temple. I’m tired of them using people!”
Jesus turned to the Pharisees and answered, “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course you would. And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.”
Jesus spoke to the crippled man, “Stretch your hand toward me.” The man reached out to Jesus and watched in amazement as his fingers unfurled for the first time in his life. He was whole! He was healed! Oh, glorious Sabbath!
Imagine you were one of Jesus’ disciples who walked and talked with him on the day in this story. What would have been your favorite part of the day? Why?
What is the best Sabbath you can remember in your life? Who was with you? Where was it? What made it a special Sabbath?
The Sabbath is a promise given to humanity from God during creation week. What do the following verses tell us the Sabbath assures us of? What does this mean to you?
Exodus 20:8-11 ~ So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.
Isaiah 56:5-6 ~ I will give them—within the walls of my house—a memorial and a name far greater than sons and daughters could give. For the name I give them is an everlasting one. It will never disappear! “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant.
Ezekiel 20:12 ~ And I gave them my Sabbath days of rest as a sign between them and me. It was to remind them that I am the Lord, who had set them apart to be holy.
Just as the Sabbath is a day reminding us of God’s presence and promise in our lives, it is also a day that speaks to the world around us through the way we honour it as special and unique. What special treatment are God’s people to give the Sabbath?
Isaiah 58:13 ~ “Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly.
Luke 4:16 ~ When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures.
Ezekiel 20:20 ~Keep my Sabbath days holy, for they are a sign to remind you that I am the Lord your God.
At the end of a job well done, God took a day off. More than that, He set up the Sabbath as a memorial of His creative power. Those who participate in this memorial day will experience His recreative power in their lives. Consider the following verses. What effect might the consistent lifestyle of taking a Sabbath rest have on the world around God’s obedient people?
Genesis 2:1-3 ~ So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.
Exodus 31:13, 16-17 ~ “Tell the people of Israel: ‘Be careful to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you from generation to generation. It is given so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy. . . . The people of Israel must keep the Sabbath day by observing it from generation to generation. This is a covenant obligation for all time. It is a permanent sign of my covenant with the people of Israel. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day he stopped working and was refreshed.’”
The following statement is the 20th of the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Review the doctrine and then write a personal response. What difference does this make to your life?
The beneficent Creator, after the six days of Creation, rested on the seventh day and instituted the Sabbath for all people as a memorial of Creation. The fourth commandment of God’s unchangeable law requires the observance of this seventh-day Sabbath as the day of rest, worship, and ministry in harmony with the teaching and practice of Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a day of delightful communion with God and one another. It is a symbol of our redemption in Christ, a sign of our sanctification, a token of our allegiance, and a foretaste of our eternal future in God’s kingdom. The Sabbath is God’s perpetual sign of His eternal covenant between Him and His people. Joyful observance of this holy time from evening to evening, sunset to sunset, is a celebration of God’s creative and redemptive acts.
The story of Jesus on the Sabbath can be found in Matthew 12.
Hebrews 4:1-11; Mark 1:32