The Creator Tells Us How To Use Creation
Normal people feel tired at the end of the day. We are supposed to! Even Jesus did in His human body (Mark 4:38). Despite the corporate eagerness to outdo colleagues in how long they stay at work, we are not designed to be perpetual motion machines. Only God can carry on for ever with the same energy and accuracy. So, thinking that we can - amounts to idolatry. Although Jesus was being criticised for breaking the petty, man-made religious rules which surrounded the Sabbath in Jesus' day (Mark 2:18-3:5), He spoke into the heart of God's intention when He set aside one day in seven for rest and worship (Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 20:8-11). The word 'sabbath' means 'stop'.
Jesus made two big statements in this passage: about the purpose of God's rules, and who has the right to define what is right. The sabbath was God's idea; one day in the week which was to be holy to the Lord. In Nehemiah's day, after God had helped the returning exiles to rebuild Jerusalem, some people wanted to use the Sabbath to increase their trade or pleasure. They were thoroughly rebuked. Do read Nehemiah 13:15-22 - it will be a helpful caution against exploiting your rest time. Secularists may think that God is trying to spoil everybody's fun. Religionists may think such spoilt-fun is a payment to earn God's favour. But Christians know, or should know, that when God speaks, He does so for our good - because He loves us. Working 24/7 is neither God honouring nor productive in the long run. One day off in seven for worship and rest is God's way to keep us healthy. Ignore this and suffer (as will others close to you).
The bigger statement was that Jesus claimed to be Lord of the Sabbath. This was both a claim to be the Creator, who instituted the Sabbath (Genesis 2:2-3) and the God to whom all human beings are accountable (2 Corinthians 5:10). When powerful religious leaders tried to control the people with rules God had never intended, Jesus brought them back to the loving purpose of God in creation and His commands. Jesus had the right to define His own instructions - and also to refute the false interpretations so loved by those who were missing the point (Mark 3:4).
That is why the gospel narratives are so good at cutting though the mists of philosophy and religion. How about challenging a friend this week to read one of the Gospels with you? Mark's Gospel is a refreshing view of how Jesus is good news to a world that is weary of intellectual theory and religious manipulation (Mark 1:1). Let Jesus speak for Himself in the pages of this gospel. Do not be afraid of the questions which will come; they are a necessary part of your friends dismantling the flimsy arguments they have put up as barriers to the truth. At the same time do not be afraid to ask yourself if you take the God-prescribed time to stop for a day and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).
© Dr Paul Adams