The Sabbath Commandment

Each of the readings this week talks about Sabbath. It is important to remember the events that transpired in order for God to implement and incorporate Sabbath into our weekly schedule.

Going back deep into our faith history, when the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, there was no such thing as a weekend let alone a day off. Both people and livestock worked from sunup to sundown every day. Once God and Moses brought the people out of bondage and into the desert, God sets up a new kind of community based on relationships and general wellness. Rules like “do not steal” and “do not kill” help create a safe communal environment, but adding in an intentional time of rest in order to have a break and build on our relationship with God is equally important.

The institution of Sabbath helped create the foundations of a religious culture and leadership, but by the time Jesus comes on to the scene, the religious hierarchy has created rules on top of rules which ultimately prevented important elements of life - like healing - from taking place. Jesus changes the people’s perspective. Furthermore, Jesus is trying to emphasis that while following the rules of Sabbath is important, there has to be a rule above all other rules and that is the law of love. If someone is in need of care, and you or I have the opportunity to help, then the law of love is our greatest commandment.

More specifically to the Jesus story today, there is a woman who is in bondage to a physical ailment. Jesus, who is not supposed to be working on the Sabbath, follows the law of love to free the woman from her bondage. And what does the woman do; she stands up, stretches out and praises God.

The challenge for us today is to be aware of 1) the ways our world tries to prevent us from taking the breaks and rest we need, 2) the big and small ways others are in bondage in this life (could be to a substance, in debt, a relationship or other unhealthy situation), and 3) the times and places we can move out of our comfort zone by acting on the law of love for those we see in need.

To take a step back and look at the bigger picture, Jesus ultimately comes into the world to free all of us from our past and what we call the bondage to sin. He does this out of love as a gift at a great price. As disciples of Jesus, it is now our turn to honor and celebrate this gift, but to also share its life changing consequences with others.