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Sabbath People

• Seth McCoy

The Lord Jesus was truly a Master Teacher to his disciples. Using his unique wisdom in the midst of tense and controversial situations brought on by the Pharisees, he was able to teach people deep truths about God…even without them knowing it. In Luke 6:1-5, we have an account where Jesus is doing just this very thing. Jesus and his disciples were being confronted by some of the Pharisaic religious leaders for picking grain on a Sabbath day, a religious offense that warranted serious punishment. He responded to them by mentioning how King David once did the same thing. Jesus further went on to say that he was, in fact, the Lord of the Sabbath.

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The Lord Jesus was truly a Master Teacher to his disciples. Using his unique wisdom in the midst of tense and controversial situations brought on by the Pharisees, he was able to teach people deep truths about God…even without them knowing it. In Luke 6:1-5, we have an account where Jesus is doing just this very thing. Jesus and his disciples were being confronted by some of the Pharisaic religious leaders for picking grain on a Sabbath day, a religious offense that warranted serious punishment. He responded to them by mentioning how King David once did the same thing. Jesus further went on to say that he was, in fact, the Lord of the Sabbath.

The Jewish Sabbath is a concept that first originated within the Creation stories of the Bible. After God completed his work of Creation, the Scriptures tell us that God “rested.” Some people have tried to interpret God’s rest as meaning that God was exhausted from all of his work. However, the more likely interpretation of God’s rest is simple: God was resting because he had completed everything He needed to do. The creative Work was completed. From Creation, a pattern emerged whenever we look at how the Sabbath theme has been applied. Not only was there a Sabbath day set aside for remembering what the Lord had done in Creation, and for remembering freedom from Egyptian slavery (Deuteronomy 5:15), but there was also a Sabbath year where no one was to tend to their land and all grains that grew from the lands were “free game” to anyone. This was a strong reminder to Israel about God’s gracious provision to his chosen people and his loving concern towards all. There was also another Sabbath occasion called “Jubilee”. This was a special time every fifty years when all debts were cancelled and all slaves were freed. The “Jubilee” was a time when the Israelites would remember the power and activity of their God and to enjoy his blessings. From the pattern of Israel’s Sabbath, it is clear that it was intended to be a time of remembering God holistically and, in remembering God, living out freedom, peace, and justice to others.

In his ministry, Jesus took the symbols and conventional understandings of the Jewish Sabbath and brought a deeper understanding of the true meaning of Sabbath. In the Luke 6:1-5 passage, Jesus brought attention to himself and his activities by talking about King David and his unlawful taking of the consecrated bread. The Jewish Messiah was understood to have come from the lineage of David…and Jesus was effectively revealing that he was indeed that Messiah. Jesus also referred to himself as the Lord of the Sabbath. It is Jesus who actually fulfilled what all of the Sabbath rites of the Old Covenant were trying to point towards. It is only Jesus that can truly bring about the “rest” that God was trying to give to his people. Today as we take the “yoke” of Jesus, we learn how to cultivate a life of peace, freedom, and justice that demonstrates the Kingdom of God to the world around us. Jesus does this through his “yoke” of teaching, instruction, and commandments. Jesus’ way of interpreting all of life as holy unto God empowers us to live in the ways of God not just for one day or one particular year…but for every day of our lives.

People who follow Jesus are meant to be a “Sabbath People.” We are a people who look to Jesus, his teachings, and his ultimate sacrifice to find the rest of God. The Body of Christ is not meant to only practice the remembrance of God on specific days and special times, though this is allowable. Ultimately, as members of Christ’s Body, we are to choose to live in God’s ways of living every moment of every day. There isn’t a special time to only live in forgiveness and justice. There isn’t a special time to only live in right-relatedness and dependence upon God. Rather, we can take every moment to live empowered with Christ’s Spirit. When we, the disciples of Jesus, display this reality with our lives, then we truly demonstrate that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath.

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Topics: Discipleship, Forgiveness, Justice


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Focus Scripture:

  • Luke 6:1-5

    One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?"

    Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

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