One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:23-28)
Last week, we saw how Jesus reframed the idea of Sabbath-rest as a gift to be enjoyed, rather than a law to be obeyed. So, if Sabbath was, in the words of Jesus, “made for man,” (Mark 2:27), the question becomes, what does man need? As we saw in the first week of this series, we need an antidote to restlessness, namely regularly exchanging life-sucking things for life-giving things, practicing thankfulness, and reminding ourselves of how Jesus’s work on the cross frees us from the pressure to work ourselves into the ground.
How and when we go about doing these things is going to look different from person to person. With Jesus as the new covenant, we are no longer locked in to a particular day of the week to rest from our restlessness. You can “Sabbath” or rest every night after you lay your kids down for bed, or on an annual summer vacation, or, as tradition would have it, on a set day each week.
My family and I embrace the gift of a Sabbath-like rest every Sunday, when we attempt to only do things that are “life-giving” and try as best as we can to cease all striving and productivity. For us, that looks like staying off of our phones, eating our favorite foods, spending more time in God’s Word, and enjoying time with our closest family and friends. But the most restful thing for me is that for one day, we intentionally suspend any productive conversation. That means no talking out ideas for my next book, no planning our next vacation, and no discussing calendars for the upcoming week. For one day, as best as we can, we simply rest and appreciate the good things, work, and people God has given us—not striving for anything more.
As my wife and I began to practice Sabbath a few years ago, it quickly became clear why Jesus said the Sabbath is for man and not the other way around. The Sabbath is an opportunity to rest from the relentless pressure of the world to constantly be accomplishing, solving, entertaining, spending, posting, and doing. It is a day to look at our life, our work, and the cross and say with great contentment, “This is enough!”
This type of rest doesn’t come easy for me. Not even close. But the more I practice these regular breaks, the less restless and anxious I become. If you’re restless like me, I’d encourage you to hear Jesus telling you that Sabbath-like rest is for you. It is no longer a legalistic command. It is a gift that is more relevant today than ever before. I pray you will embrace it.