Daily Devotionals

What Does Your Sabbath Look Like?

Posted in

Scripture:  – “After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’ The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going, another steps down before me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk.’ And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.” – John 5:1-9

I feel like if this were a major theatrical production there would be a dramatic effect at the end of those last words – “Now that day was… THE SABBATH! Bum, Bum, BUMMMM!” We may even find ourselves letting out a collective sigh, shaking our heads as we read them. Jesus, why? Why the Sabbath? There are literally six other days to choose from, why THIS day?  

In fact, we later learn in verses 11-16 that it was specifically because of this Sabbath-breaking that the Jews were seeking to kill him. Now, to be fair, if not for Sabbath-breaking, the Jews probably would have found another reason to despise Jesus, but he seems to make it easy for them.

However, I think sometimes we are far more comfortable with the Sabbath-breaking Jesus than we realize. We see this dichotomy between Jesus and the Jews, between the Sabbath-breaker and the Sabbath-rule-regulators, and we find ourselves thinking that our choice needs to be between the two. We all know that the good Sunday school answer is always “Jesus,” and so we tend to find that we are far more comfortable filling even the Sabbath with thing after thing until it looks just like the rest of our lives – busy, scattered, and maybe if we are lucky, a little focus on God for a minute or two.

But maybe just maybe there is a happy middle ground. Maybe we can “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8) without becoming legalistic. Maybe we can allow the Sabbath to be different. Maybe we can be willing, at least one day a week, to say “no” to some things so that we can say “yes” to things that are life-giving and God-invoking. Maybe we can, at least one day a week, try to be present with family and neighbors without an agenda or task list.

Maybe we really do prioritize worship and make it not just a checkbox but an anticipated activity. Maybe we ask questions about what we learned or how we hear God at work in our lives. Maybe we seek to leave a few hours a week open for helping others or resting in God’s presence.

Friends, what does your Sabbath look like? Is it filled to the brim, so much that even God tends to be pushed out? Is it full of do’s and don’ts to the point that the rules become the focus? Or is there space in between to be found – space for God, rest, and remembering the holiness of our good and gracious God?

Prayer: Father, help us to rest in your presence. Help us to claim the good gift of the Sabbath. Help us to focus on you, your son, and your Holy Spirit that work in our lives in amazing ways. Thank you for your grace and mercy, and help us to live in humble appreciation. Amen. 

Submitted by Rev. Brian Marsh