Friday, September 21, 2012

All Shabbat

As I pull out Settings of Silver to make sure my memory is remembering the prayer and blessing rituals of the Sabbath correctly, I pause to read a little bit.  I scan over the familiar and find myself swallowing hard and my pulse beating a little faster as I read hopeful words that I don’t remember at all.

“There is saying that the Messiah will not come on Shabbat because he is already here.  The Time of the Messiah is described as one that will be “all Shabbat.”  As Shabbat departs there is hope that the Messiah will come and the Shabbat will not have to end” (126).

The time of the Messiah “all Shabbat?”  When Messiah comes Shabbat will never end?

My mind is racing. 

I begin thinking about how the central claim of the gospel is that Jesus is Messiah.  He is the fulfillment of God’s prophecies and promises to Israel and it is His resurrection that validates His authority as such. 

I think about the words on the page in front of me. 

The time of the Messiah will be “all Shabbat.”  When Messiah comes Shabbat will not have to end.

I think instead:  The time of Jesus will be “all Shabbat.”  When Jesus comes Shabbat will not have to end.

I begin to wonder about this.

In the Gospels, Jesus does a lot of healing on the Sabbath.  Jesus even calls himself “Lord of the Sabbath.”

Could there be something in the midst of all of these words that is very real and present and available to me now?

Luke writes:

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels.  Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?  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.”  Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Luke 6:1-5 NIV

In the Pharisees eyes the disciples were clearly breaking at least two of the thirty-nine categories of work.  The disciples were reaping, by picking grain.  They were, also, threshing by rubbing the grain.  The Pharisees saw them working on the Sabbath, which was a big no-no especially for the disciples of a rabbi.  So they question Jesus about it. 

Jesus responds to them in an interesting way.  He talks about David eating the consecrated bread.  In  doing so, David violated not the Sabbath law, but a different law.  Then, he goes on to tell them “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

The Son of Man is a term Jesus frequently uses of himself.  It is a phrase that is used in the Old Testament and would have had a particular connotation with the Messiah.  The prophet Daniel writes, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.  He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.  He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).  This Messiah has power and authority that has been given to him by God.

The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.

In a commentary about Luke, Leon Morris writes, “In the Gospels Son of man invariably refers to Jesus.  He is surely referring to His Messianic function.  It may be significant that this follows a reference to David’s action.  It is the Son of David who is Lord.  If David could override the law without blame, how much more could the much greater Son of David do so?” (123).

I find this very interesting.  Jesus, as the son of David, the Messiah, is claiming authority over the Sabbath. 

In Mark, the Lord of the Sabbath tells the Pharisees, “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.” 

There is a sharp contrast between the Pharisees and Jesus here.  Alan Cole writes, “[The Pharisees] had […] quite forgotten that in origin the Sabbath was God’s merciful provision for man. […]  If the Sabbath was made for man’s spiritual and physical good, and not vice versa, then the Son of man is Master of the Sabbath and can interpret its regulations with reference to need” (Commentary on Mark, 74).

By interpreting the Sabbath with reference to need,  in contrast to the way the Pharisees had determined needs, by categories of work, Jesus seems to suggest he understands need better than they.  Their way of celebrating the Sabbath creates burden.  His celebration of the Sabbath leads to blessing.  This appears to be what is important. 

Jesus heals many on the Sabbath.  Each time it raises the anger of the Pharisees.  Each time it blesses the one who is healed.  As he does so Jesus, lives as Lord of the Sabbath—each act seeming to indicate “He regarded the Sabbath as his by right.” (Commentary on Mark, 74)

All this makes me think Jesus knew something the Pharisees didn’t about rest.

In the verses just prior to calling himself Lord of the Sabbath in Matthew, Jesus says:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Jesus invites all who are tired to come and find rest.  He tells them it is by taking His yoke and learning from Him that they will find rest for their souls.  It is almost like he is saying that rest is available now.  It is through Him that rest comes.

Could it be that Jesus was saying that the time of the Messiah had come?  Was he inviting the people toward a Sabbath that will not end?  Could it be that in obedience to Christ rest is found?  Could it be that no matter where I am or what I am doing I can find rest through reliance on Him?

I think that rest from activity is important.  God has created us that way.  This is Sabbath as I usually talk about it. 

Yet, I think that there is a different kind of rest that comes when we realize that we don’t have to make the big decisions in our lives alone.  We can surrender them and find rest.  Christ will make them and we will find rest by letting him lead and following obediently.  We can begin living “all Shabbat.”

It is after I get this that the first line of the Settings of Silver quote makes sense to me.  "The Messiah will not come on Shabbat because he is already here." 

Jesus is here, ready and waiting for us to come.


Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we come to the Lord of the Sabbath seeking to live under the yoke of Christ.  May we find that when we walk in step with Him, we find rest even in the middle of the busiest of days.  May we find that Sabbath can be found in His presence.

Jessica :)

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