“Six days you shall labour, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the ploughing season and harvest you must rest.”
Sometimes there have been times when I have had to work for a period of over a week without a break. For the last two years, I worked as a Resident Tutor in a boarding house at a school, which meant that I was effectively on duty twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Sometimes there would be occasions when I would have to work through the whole weekend without any time off at all. It was physically and mentally exhausting, and I was certainly not at my best at work, and when I finally got some time off, all I wanted to do was sleep!
In our current Mark Marathon, Jesus incurs the wrath of the Pharisees for letting his disciples pick some grain. They seem to equate this with work, which, they believe, is forbidden on the Sabbath. Over the centuries, however, they have got very legalistic about this, drawing up a long list of things that must not be done on the Sabbath.
Jesus tells them, however, that the Sabbath was created for man, not man created for the Sabbath. This is groundbreaking stuff, since it suggests that keeping the Sabbath, in fact, is not a legalistic ritual, but is something that God ordained for the benefit of mankind.
Clearly God wants what is best for his people. He wants us to have a day off once a week to relax and refrain from work. I know from my own experience how not taking time out can affect a person! He also, as Matthew reminds us in his article, wants us to think about God and his act of creation, and to spend some time responding to this.
When one looks behind the rituals constructed by man, one finds a deeply loving God – a God who made us, loves us, and wants us to respect both ourselves and him. Isn’t that fantastic!