Day 5

Lord of the Sabbath

from the John reading plan


John 5:1-47, Exodus 20:8-11, Luke 6:5, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

It seems as though the religious elite in Jesus’ day had really come to misunderstand the meaning of “rest.” Somewhere between Exodus 20 and John 5, Israel’s leaders and scholars had begun to interpret the Sabbath so strictly that they’d lost their bearings on the matter altogether. In an effort to protect the Sabbath and keep it holy, they turned God’s day of worship into the worship of God’s day.

Instead of being a day of growing in wholeness and closeness to God, rest-oration, it had become an undue burden on God’s people—a day full or rules, codes, and classifications. This was never God’s intent, but as is often the case, humanity took God’s careful and loving Law and distorted it into something it was never meant to be.

Sabbath is not merely a state of passivity. It is the state of settling deeper into wholeness through God’s divinely bestowed love.

We can see this so clearly in John 5. Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, does not seem to worry about the established customs of the day. Rather, He goes directly to a man who needs rest the most. Jesus honors the Sabbath that He created by bringing physical and spiritual healing to a lame man in great need. In so doing, Jesus not only restored the man’s physicality, but also his spirituality. An unclean person, like the crippled man, would’ve never been welcomed to the temple in Jesus’ day. By healing this man, Jesus restored a sense of wholeness and closeness to God in a matter of moments.

Rest, true rest, comes with healing. It may not be experienced right away, but we all know that it’s difficult to enter a true and complete rest when you’re in a state of suffering and pain. Our Sabbath days are markers and mileposts along this life journey. They are moments to stop, reflect, worship, receive new strength, become intimately closer with God, and regain the energy we need to persevere a little further.

We are meant to cease our work, not out of rule or obligation, but rather out of opportunity to create space in our lives for God to move. Much like the still, small voice who spoke to the prophet, God’s restoration in our lives comes frequently in an unobtrusive and undemanding manner. He shows up when we make room in the quiet.

God does not call us to seek passivity on the Sabbath, but wholeness—the type of wholeness that can only be found in Him. From that place and from that posture we go out into the world, bringing a healing and comfort that naturally emanates from our rested and spiritually reinvigorated souls.

Jesus didn’t heal on the Sabbath purely to make a statement (though He certainly did drive a pretty significant stake pertaining to His divinity that day). Rather, He did it to offer a glimpse of the wholeness and rest that His coming has inaugurated. It is not complete yet. His Kingdom has not completely come, but we’ve been given a foretaste. And we get a new foretaste each week when we lean into our God, Lord of the Sabbath.

Written By Andrew Stoddard

Post Comments (7)

7 thoughts on "Lord of the Sabbath"

  1. Phil says:

    Just wanted to start off today’s reflection, saying thank you to all the men who are choosing to faithfully take time to do these devotionals and get intimately closer with God along with me. Thank you for your public reflections as well, I love reading each one; it is awesome seeing how God’s word can reach each person differently and then give even more meaning and understanding to a single passage.

    39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

    If we just memorize more scripture or quote more scripture to others that will make us more holy, or righteous, right? Wrong. If we just make more rules and judge others for their sins, that will make us more holy, or righteous, right? Wrong.

    So many people today, even the Jewish leaders of that day, think that this whole thing of being “holy” or “righteous” was about memorizing scripture and adding more rules to the already infinitely long list of rules they had created, and to adhere to each one… And while learning scripture is good, and following rules is what’s right, many miss the entire mark.

    What is memorizing scripture, if you can’t apply the scripture to your life, or use it to benefit and aid others; or to even just understanding its actual meaning? What is the point of constantly creating more rules for your “religion” when Christ has already laid out every rule, and more importantly laid down His life for us? There is nothing we can do that will be more than the cross, so why is it that we keep trying to outdo it? The cross was, and always will be enough. No rule, no scripture, no good deed will ever outdo our Christ, laying down His life, for you and me.

    Be in the word, but take it slow, ask God for clarity, wisdom, and understanding when you read it. Don’t just try to rush through like the “bible in a year” challenge prescribes. The Bible isn’t meant to just be a book to blow through and sit back on the shelf; it is a intimate love letter directly from God, each chapter having its own meaning and background, filled with history and intricacies that often get brushed over. God will bless a willing and open heart. I pray that I have an open heart willing to follow Him where ever He chooses to lead me this year, and to not shy from whatever lies ahead, but rather, to charge into the darkness knowing full well that He will be my light.

  2. Justin Rigdon says:

    My days and weeks are so unbalanced. I struggle with true rest and feeling rejuvenated. This passage reminds me that there is work to be done–in my household, in my job and in my city. I idle time away on meaningless things and wonder why I never have time to accomplish everything I want/need to do. Time to restructure.

  3. Joel Hanley says:

    This is a great reminder for myself, being an athlete and always on the road it is extremely tough to rest. The sabbath is so important for our body and souls. I don’t think Jesus just randomly created the heavens and earth in 6 days. He knew and planned to use the 7th day, the day of rest to allow us to regenerate and rest. A lot of times when I am in season, I miss some Sundays because of our schedules. Always traveling and moving. At times my day of rest isn’t always a Sunday, however, this is a great reminder that it isn’t about rules or regulations, it’s about becoming close with Jesus and being whole. Church and community is so important as well. So my next sabbath and day of rest, I will take time to reflect, get to know Jesus more and fully rest in his presence.

  4. Forrest says:

    Seek wholeness in God on the Sabbath – not passivity

  5. Kevin says:

    Interesting to learn about how the sabbath can have things going on, but it’s meant to give us time and rest in the quiet to find the lord. We can find him elsewhere and that’s okay. The crazy rules they had on the sabbath are not meant to be there. God is gracious and shows that, but also perfect. In that his way is the way. The right and wise way. Thank you God for a grace I don’t deserve and a guidance I surely need.

  6. Nate widow says:

    I find it so great that on the 7th day we are not to sit around and be lazy; but to sit with God and make room for him. Through him we can heal with rest, it may not be right away but it will surely come. Jesus’s action to heal the crippled man on Sabbath day was something to read, he not only did it for the man but also for the man to be whole.

  7. Ben says:

    Somewhere along the way we lost the real meaning of the Sabbath. Sure, we all want to take a break from work, but a lot of us forget there are two parts to that. Yes taking a break from work is good, but the other half of that is focusing on God’s goodness and His work in our life, thanking Him for that. Without God, we would not be able to work in our own lives, so why can’t we turn just one-seventh of our week into a complete worship of him?

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