Did you ever consider that a fly who comes in your house and is trapped inside could be a violation of the law?
I didn’t until last week.
The rabbi’s and Pharisees gave so much thought to what breaking the Sabbath would entail that they allowed an exception under the “Trapping” heading to allow for a fly who inadvertently came into your house and was “trapped” there was not a violation of the Sabbath law. Sabbath law prohibited trapping animals on the Sabbath.
In fact there were 39 different laws to keep the Sabbath, just to make sure they kept the Sabbath. If you’re interested, you can find them here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/39_Melachot.
After reading this list and the many nuances that were included, it is no wonder that the Pharisees were able to accuse Jesus of breaking the Sabbath law when they caught Jesus and his disciples eating heads of grain on the Sabbath. This was a form of “reaping” which was prohibited from being done on the Sabbath.
Mark 2:23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”
27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
After looking at the 39 Sabbath laws, I would have been relieved when the Sabbath was over! What a stressful environment to make sure you didn’t break the Sabbath by breaking one of the 39 laws or some nuance of it.
But this is what Jesus seeks to shift. The Sabbath was not given for man to set up a bunch of rules around it and spend the day keeping the rules. The Sabbath was given to be a day of rest physically and spiritually. God knew the bodies he created needed rest and he knows the souls that he created needed connection with him. So he gave this commandment (Exodus 20:8-11):
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
The Sabbath was a gift of God to mankind to enjoy rest. Man had turned it into a law to be obeyed.
When we turn God’s gifts into laws, we miss the blessing of the gift. This can happen today as well in the church. This week we’ll challenge ourselves with the question, “Is the church about Christ or customs?” While the answer may seem obvious and easy, the faithful practice of a focus on Christ is challenging to maintain.
Apply: Listen to the full message from Sunday (see link above). Evaluate: What customs in the Church do well to point people to Jesus and which ones do you perceive don’t. I’d love to hear your answers if you would email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prayer: Lord, help me to always keep you at the forefront of life and church so that man-made customs don’t cloud you out.
Been reading these devotions for a while and wish to dig deeper into the truths of the Bible? A new Foundations class begins Wednesday, June 9 at 7:30pm via Zoom. To register, email email@example.com for materials and link information.