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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Today’s Reading | Luke 6:1–11

One sabbath while Jesus was going through the cornfields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?” Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”

On another sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him. Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” He got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?” After looking around at all of them, he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus. (NRSV)

Repetition in the Bible is not accidental, and we find stories of Jesus healing on the sabbath in every Gospel account. This is God’s way of calling our attention to an important point.

The sabbath commandment was to cease working, yet Jesus healed people on this day of rest. So, in the most literal sense, Jesus was breaking the commandment. He was, after all, doing the healing “work” of a physician. But he did so in order to redefine how we view both the sabbath commandment and work.

Work. Adam was cursed by God to live a life of hard labor that produced a fruitless crop—thorns and thistles—and we’ve had a troubled relationship with work ever since. We tend to trust our work more than we trust God, and this work focus tends to define the sabbath day of rest as meaning “the cessation of labor,” and nothing else. But Jesus shows it means more by his words and actions.

When Jesus was healing on the sabbath, in the power of God, it was God who was doing the work. This fruitful abiding in God is the definition of rest, as Jesus makes clear elsewhere. For instance, when he calls us to come to him for rest, he also commands us to take his yoke. For when we are yoked to God, it is God who is performing the work, while his creation finds its fulfillment in this realization of the seventh day of rest.

Heavenly Father, you have work for every one of us to perform. If we do not know what this work is, then may you reveal it to us, and anoint us that we may fulfill this work through your power, for your glory, and thereby attain the perfection of resting in you. Amen.

Written by Tom Payne, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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