An Unconstrained Sabbath
Teaching on Matthew 12:1-14 this past weekend, Pastor Erik taught us that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath and, therefore, the ultimate interpreter of the law. In the passage, the religious leaders, Pharisees, are angry with Jesus because He heals a man and allows His disciples to pick grain on the Sabbath—both of which they had prohibited. Jesus’ response is simple: “It is lawful to do what is good on the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:12). While the Pharisees knew all the rules people had created for the Sabbath, they had completely missed the reason behind why God tells His people to rest.
So why did God ask Israel to keep the Sabbath? To start with, observing a time of rest reminds us that we are dependent on God. It requires us to take a break and gives us a chance to remember that everything we have as a result of our work is really a gift from God. Additionally, resting from our work is an expression of trust in Him—we recognize that He is our provider and know that He will take care of us as we rest.
But for those of us who believe in Christ as our Savior, Sabbath rest is not constrained to one day a week. Recall what Jesus said to a crowd in Matthew 11:28:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Jesus promises to be our rest every day, not just on the Sabbath. He has already completed the greatest work we could never accomplish for ourselves: making us right with God. Hebrews tells us that for all who believe, “They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (3:24).
As a result of Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross, we no longer have to work to win God’s acceptance (not that we could have ever earned it in the first place!). Jesus takes the work that should be ours, gives us His perfect record, and gives us rest. Rather than agonize over our deeds trying to earn God’s love, the Sabbath rest He gives allows us to serve Him from a peaceful and joyful heart. We know He has already done everything we need, so we serve Him because we want to show Him our gratitude and love.
However, Jesus being our Sabbath does not mean there isn’t wisdom in setting apart specific time for rest. In fact, the work Jesus did on the cross shows us that the Sabbath is much more than just a ritual—it’s a renewed way of life.
Want some practical tips on how to Sabbath well? Check out this article: 7 Principles of Sabbath Rest. By designating time for physical rest, you might just increase your faith in the One who promises ultimate, eternal rest.
“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God rested from His.” - Hebrews 4:9-10
Rachael Heinsen is a recent graduate of UCI with a degree in English. She loves hiking, reading, and all things chocolate. Rachael feels called to higher education, but is currently in a season of rest, excited for all Jesus has for her.