Understanding The Sabbath Rest
“But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.” Luke 13:14 NKJV
It is amazing that the ruler was not celebrating with the woman who had just received a miraculous healing from Jesus. He was so concerned with the religious boundaries he lived under that He couldn’t rejoice with this woman. Further, reading his words demonstrates he did not understand the Sabbath He was working so hard to protect. He showed his ignorance concerning spiritual things and we can learn from his misguided religious mindset.
This ruler was offended because Jesus healed on the Sabbath. According to the law, the Sabbath was to be a day of rest. Over the generations, the wisdom of religious men had made that law to indicate that rest meant you could do not work. To the ruler the action of Jesus healing was “work” and as such was an offense to God. He failed to comprehend the purpose of the Sabbath rest – to direct us to rest in God and totally trust Him. It was to demonstrate their faith in God to provide for all their needs.
Consider that throughout history people had to work the land 7 days a week simply to be able to provide for the daily needs of survival. Every day was a scramble to provide and sustain life. To take a day off defied logic. Your family would suffer the consequences and go without. However, this is what God required, that they rest in Him every 7th day and thus trust Him to provide supernaturally, by granting increase the other 6 days of the week.
It is the very reason that the Jewish people went into captivity in the Old Testament. The same philosophy was applied to their years as to their days. They were to work their fields for 6 years and then on the 7th year allow the fields to rest. This was ridiculous in the natural, how could you survive without providing food for your family for an entire year. But the whole point of the Sabbath rest was to trust God for the impossible, and for every area of your life. If you let your land rest then God would provide enough in the years leading up to the year of rest, that there would be such surplus that it would sustain them through the year of rest as well as the following year until the fields once more produced a harvest. Because they did not honor this command they went into captivity, one year for every seventh year that they did not allow the land to rest. God expected them to honor the command and to trust Him. He did not intend that they would pervert it to mean that you could not work. He certainly never intended for it to mean that miracles He intended to bless people with, could not be performed on that day. In fact in Colossians 2:17 He gives a clear indication of the intention of His heart. Regarding things like the Sabbath, He says this: “which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”
The Sabbath was a shadow of what was coming in Jesus, who would become the redeemer who provides for our every need according to His Word. The Sabbath had meant to rest in and rely upon God. Under the New Covenant, it means to rest in and rely upon Jesus Christ to meet our every need in this life. We need to learn from the ruler and understand what the Sabbath means for us.
J Todd Hostetler