The Gospel of Luke

This devotional is written by Alex Perkin.

Luke 6:1-11

Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath

6 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the cornfields, and his disciples began to pick some ears of corn, rub them in their hands and eat the grain. 2 Some of the Pharisees asked, 'Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?'
3 Jesus answered them, 'Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 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.' 5 Then Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.'

6 On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shrivelled. 7 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. 8 But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shrivelled hand, 'Get up and stand in front of everyone.' So he got up and stood there.

9 Then Jesus said to them, 'I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?'

10 He looked round at them all, and then said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He did so, and his hand was completely restored. 11 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.

Reflection

To stop, rest, and chill. It's difficult to do any of those things, isn't it? Even if I wanted to, when can I? There isn't time to stop, rest, and chill because I’m busyyyy!

And yet, the need to stop, rest, and chill from the stresses of life has never been more important; for Londoners; for our society; for our own personal sanity, spiritual health, and wellbeing. To be able to have space to think, pray and spend time with friends, family, and God, and not be overshadowed by all the things that 'need' doing.

The Sabbath is part of the Jewish tradition for exactly this reason; to have a day set apart from the working week to stop work, to rest and worship, and to be kept holy before God (Ex. 20:9-11). And it's not just for you; it's for everyone's benefit. Even your donkey (should you have one), employees, and guests get to rest so they "may be refreshed" (Ex. 23:12).

Over time the Sabbath day, originally set aside to counteract the stresses of life, became increasingly focussed on not breaking rules than the original purpose of the rules. So the Pharisees, the teachers of the Jewish Law, question Jesus why his disciples were picking corn (which could be hand-picked but not cut down by a sickle on the Sabbath [Deut. 23:25]) and why he is healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. The same story is repeated in Mark (2:23-3:6) and Matthew (12:1-14), so it must be important.

In response, Jesus says, and I'm going to use Mark's account here, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (2:27). In other words, the Sabbath is for your benefit. It's not a set of rules to constrain people so they wither and shrivel (like the hand). It is designed to set our minds, soul and figurative hands free from work and "doing" and unnecessary busyness so that you can recuperate and focus on the things that matter.

The Jewish people are well known for celebrating the Sabbath's weekly, a tradition rooted in the Genesis story when "on the seventh day [God] rested from all his work" (2:2). I know you're good, but if the all-powerful God of the universe felt it important to stop then you probably should too.

To Sabbath literally means to "stop", to "cease", to "rest". So how can we learn to Sabbath (as a verb rather than as a noun; an action of stopping, resting, and ceasing)?

  • Could you diarise nothingness? For "doers" like myself, nothingness can be a killer. Itchy feet ensue. But perhaps you could be creative - baking, painting, arts and crafts, etc.? Read a book?
  • Would a board game with some mates help you to stop?
  • Could going out for dinner instead of cooking help you to cease? Or perhaps the opposite; would cooking help you switch off from the week's stresses? Lots of Jewish families do a slow-pot overnight so they don’t have to cook on the Sabbath.
  • If you're trying to keep Saturday as your Sabbath, try do all the cleaning and washing up on the Friday so you don't have to see it (or look at it) the next day.
  • You almost certainly need time away from your phone, screens and near constant FB/Whatsapp/Insta/Email comms. Could you leave you phone outside your bedroom, buy an alarm clock, leave the house with out it?!
  • Is praying, reading the bible and or listening to worship music a distant memory or nice idea? Give it a go. Don’t berate yourself if it didn’t work today; try again tomorrow.
The Jewish people are encouraged to celebrate the Sabbath - a day MADE FOR YOU to stop, rest and connect with God and each other - I think we could do with taking a leaf from their book.

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