Contemplating Jesus


Posted on by Lucinda M. Vardey

The Jewish Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday and finishes sundown on Saturday.  Bequeathed by God to Moses and the Israelites, it is called the “solemn rest” from 6 days of labor, a day when pursuits of one’s own affairs and serving self-interest, cease.  It is considered a holy day, a day for prayer and praise, a day to renew self and relationships. 

Not optional in Jesus’ time, dismissing the Sabbath carried the threat of death.  In the Old Testament Book of Nehemiah, a man was killed by stoning for gathering sticks on the Sabbath. And so Jesus took great risks in his ministry towards the significance, and consequences, of the Sabbath.   It was certainly a major contributor in the evidence garnered against him when he healed the man with the withered hand, and the woman with the curvature of the spine.  Jesus openly declared that saving life took precedence over rules for rest.  He echoed these sentiments as his disciples plucked grain from the fields – that if you are hungry you go ahead and eat what’s available on the Sabbath.  Jesus proclaimed, “The Sabbath was made for people, and not people for the Sabbath,”  (Mark 2:28).

As the way, the truth and the life itself, Jesus pronounced himself “Lord of the Sabbath.”    By calling himself thus, he introduced his counter-culture to the prevailing stringency: that as human and Divine he would, naturally, heal and restore life whenever there was a need on whatever day of the week.  Suggesting hypocrisy, he posited that if anyone’s child or ox fell down a well on the Sabbath, they would, without question or hesitation, be compelled to the rescue. (Luke 14.3).  What Jesus showed was that life supercedes traditional rituals and laws, and that compassion takes precedence under any circumstance.    Flexibility of heart was vital, spontaneity of life was to be enjoyed.  The  Sabbath was not a day to exclude others, but a day to bring humanity together under the merciful, loving and generous embrace of God.

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