The scripture Luke 13:10-17 finds Jesus healing a woman on the Sabbath. The Pharisees are adamant that there should be no work on the Sabbath and that it should be a day of rest. Jesus responds by healing the woman. Then He reminds the Pharisees that they tend to their livestock on the Sabbath and then follows by asking them if a woman should not be healed on this Holy day.
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The passage has raised questions on if Christians should keep the Sabbath. If so, then how should the Sabbath be kept. It also raises the question of what is work and what isn't.
In answer to the first question, the answer is yes. People should respect the Sabbath and keep it Holy. We need look no farther than Exodus 16:29 to receive this instruction.
Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.”
The command is reiterated in Hebrews 4:9-10.
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.
How the Sabbath should be kept is open to some debate. In truth, the answer may be slightly different for each of us. Certainly, Jesus gave us instruction in Matthew 12:12.
“How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
But what does it mean to keep the Sabbath? Just what is doing good?
Healing is the obvious answer and it's one that we like. Many of us recognize Sunday as a day of rest for ourselves. We use Sunday morning as a time to come together to worship with others. It's a special day that we set aside so that we may take a break from the daily grind.
Yet, even as we set aside this period of devotion there sometimes are people who keep an eye on their watches. Tick. Tick. Tick. The minutes slowly slide by. “Hurry up, preacher.” is the thought. “I can't wait to get out of here to get to the restaurant!”
We go and enjoy our day out but we enjoy the fruits of those who labor on the Sabbath.
Let's face it. There are people whom we actually want to have working on the Sabbath. The list isn't restricted to restaurant workers. How would we feel if doctors or nurses took the day off? What about the convenience store clerk who sold us gas this morning, the pharmacist behind the counter, or the person who delivers the Sunday paper?
In this day and age, more people are working on Sunday than ever before. If we are honest with ourselves, we have to face it that most of us like it when at least some people work on the Sabbath.
The complexities of our lives pull us away from the Sabbath. We are drawn into the secular work more and more. Life encourages us to be active. We are encouraged to get more done and to be on the go at all times. The problem is that we can't go 100 miles and hour without a break.
So, how can we keep a Sabbath day of rest? What does it look like?
Before we can answer that we have to understand that the Sabbath was created for us and not the other way around. It is a gift that we were given so that we would have time to worship God. It is a day to rest from our labors and to recharge for the days that lie ahead.
As Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees, there is work that we sometimes must do on the Sabbath. It's very difficult to keep a day off without cooking or doing some kind of work. In general, there are five ways that we can set time apart from the rat race and catch our breath. Keeping a Sabbath may look different depending on your work or family obligations.These are just ideas.
This is a non-negotiable part of the Sabbath. I have already mentioned that we come together on Sunday for a time of corporate worship (may also be called community worship). Sometimes we hold a special worship on Wednesday nights as a Bible study or youth group meeting.
If church isn't holding services, then it is acceptable to have a time of personal devotion or study. People sometimes prefer to spend the morning of their day off (Sabbath day) in devotion. The time you choose is less important than the act of being in worship. This is what keeps the day Holy.
2. Reading Christian material
How many of us have time to read anymore? The Sabbath is the perfect time to do just that. Reading Christian material will help keep us focused on God.
3. Listen to Christian music
Whether it's contemporary, Southern Gospel or Christian rock, listening to Christian music can keep us in a worship frame of mind.
4. Enjoy God's creation
Tell your stress to take a hike – literally! Go for a hike in the mountains and enjoy the beauty around you. Can't get to the mountains? Take a walk around your neighborhood. Soak in the sunshine. Listen to the rain on the umbrella if it's raining outside. Pay attention to the trees, the sky and all of God's creation.
5. Do good
Jesus tells us that it is okay to do good on a Sabbath. Why not spend some time helping others? Serve in a soup kitchen, become a hospital volunteer, take a meal to a neighbor, phone someone who needs it.
Then afterward, when you come home, spend a few minutes reflecting on your Sabbath. Spend time in prayer thanking God for your day.
There are many other ways to observe the sabbath. Which one will you choose?