“The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath!” (Matt 12:8). This declaration comes from Jesus on the occasion of his disciples failing to observe Jewish rules about Sabbath keeping. Not the only time there was tension around the doings of Jesus and his disciples on the Sabbath, it becomes the moment of a bewildering claim by which Jesus asserts his identity as Sovereign Lord and Creator! His opponents have inserted themselves into Jesus’ ministry as those in charge of enforcing Jewish Sabbath rules. Yet Jesus stands among them as the very Lord of the Sabbath. He remonstrates with them in relative small talk, stating that Israel’s leaders, didn’t keep their rules. Hadn’t they noticed?! And this, while the simply astounding claim to His dominion of the Sabbath passes them by undetected!
Given Jesus’ identity, how can it be that there were people right there with him – on the Sabbath – who remained excluded from Sabbath? And that, even while keeping all the rules! Their regard for him was contaminated with self-importance, and infected with a fundamental miscalculation that they were in charge. This self-appointment pitted them in direct conflict with the One who was and is in charge, the Lord of Sabbath. Their arrogant blundering and posturing leads them down the way of deciding on the holy Sabbath day itself to destroy the Lord who gave them Sabbath.
At the same, in the very same place those who are with Jesus, seem to have entered something of the freedom of Sabbath quite unwittingly. These are the disciples who frolic in the fields harvesting handfuls of grain to their heart’s content. And the man with the withered hand who has come to the synagogue oblivious to the power of God that awaits him there. Standing before the Lord, and responding in simple obedience to the impossible command of Jesus, finds himself re-created in wholeness. So on the one hand there are those enforcing a man-controlled Sabbath who end up plotting to destroy the Giver of Sabbath, and on the other hand, there are those who are yielded to the Lord of Sabbath who get swept up in the coming of the Kingdom.
There is, in the end, no Sabbath without Jesus. Those who inhabit the Sabbath must do it in company with him – with childlike faith in him and with the kind of abandoned obedience that would make one with a withered hand stretch it out. These are the ones who participate in the rest over which Jesus is Lord.
Dr. Jeremy Stefano serves with Leadership Transformations in the role of minister of spiritual formation. Spiritual direction has proved to be pivotal in his own life and is foundational to his pastoral ministry. In addition to offering spiritual direction, Jeremy leads retreats, and teaches classes in spiritual formation. The heartbeat of Jeremy’s calling is to encourage Christian leaders in the cultivation of their relationship with God. He has served churches as local pastor, interim pastor and as a visiting Bible teacher in Southern Africa and North America. He and Bethany, his wife of 27 years, have been blessed with eight children and make their home in Massachusetts.
For more information on the Selah Certificate Program in Spiritual Direction from Leadership Transformations, click here.