Sabbath Time: Matthew 12:1-8


I hope you and your family had some Sabbath time this summer. Sabbath means very different things to different people.

One Sabbath, Jesus was strolling with his disciples through a field of ripe grain. Hungry, the disciples were pulling off the heads of grain and munching on them. Some Pharisees reported them to Jesus: “Your disciples are breaking the Sabbath rules!” (1-2)

Jesus had quite a discussion with his disciples, prompted by the Pharisees, around the meaning of Sabbath time. The Pharisees, of course, had a very strict interpretation of Sabbath. There’s nothing wrong with a strict interpretation as long as it brings life to your soul. Others today have very loose interpretations of Sabbath time which can mean any recreational opportunity before us. The deeper question is, does it give rest for our souls?

I hear so many people say they need to get back from vacation, so they can rest. I’ve done that myself. Sabbath time is deeper than vacation time. Real Sabbath leads to rest for the soul. The soul is more than the body, more than the mind; but rather the whole of who we are. The soul is our eternal; we know this in our bones.

Jesus once said, “What does it profit a person to gain the whole world and forfeit his/her soul?” John Ortberg writes in his new book Soul Keeping, “To lose my soul means I no longer have a healthy center that organizes and guides my life. I am a car without a steering wheel. It doesn’t matter how fast I can go, I am a crash waiting to happen.”

Matthew reports that Jesus was questioned about his disciples breaking the Sabbath rules. He replies, “There is more at stake here than religion.” In chapter 11 of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus presents these questions with this response:

“Are you tired? Burned out on religion? Come to me, get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.” Matthew 11:28

I pray that you and your family found a real rest this summer – a soul-full rest. Sabbath time for me meant reading six new books, fishing, camping, sitting at a campfire, motorcycling, meditating, prayer, worship and walking with Susan and KC (our dog). Remember, Jesus
said, “I prefer a flexible heart to an inflexible ritual.”

Might we all remember that the self, left to its own devices, is a train wreck! While the soul reminds us we are not made for ourselves, rather made for the beyond, for God, for communion with one another.

Sabbath time is a really important time! As John Wesley would say, “So how is it with YOUR soul?”