Luke 6:1-11 contains two stories involving the Sabbath Day. In the first, the disciples are criticized for picking some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating the kernels on the Sabbath. Most of us have never eaten raw wheat, but Iin agrarian lands it has long been customary to chew on fresh wheat, straight from the husk. The kernels of wheat form a sort of gummy, nutty substance in the mouth; it’s akin to chewing gum. It’s called hwaychu (as in what’chu chewing?), and one writer described it as natural form of “candy” among farming children. To the Pharisees, however, it represented a Sabbath violation because it could be construed as “work.” The disciples were reaping, threshing, and preparing food on the Sabbath.
Jesus came to the defense of His disciples by pointing out that David, while fleeing from Saul, ate consecrated bread (1 Samuel 21:1-6). This would be akin to giving a hungry person the communion bread set aside for the Lord’s Supper. The point was that sometimes there is a higher good than simply the ceremonial form. And Jesus would know, since He is “Lord of the Sabbath” (v. 5).
The second story repeats the same lesson. It has to do with another Sabbath, when Jesus went into the synagogue to teach. While there healed a man with a shriveled hand. When challenged about it, He replied, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil?” Again the lesson is that sometimes there is a higher good than simply the ceremonial form; and Jesus should know, being Lord of the Sabbath.
These two stories points to our Lord’s respect for the Sabbath Day. He is Lord of the Sabbath; it’s a practical day of nourishment and service; and it’s a day for doing good. Today we have lost appreciation for the one-day-in-seven emphasis of Scripture—to our detriment physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Most people are exhausted nowadays because we have effectively lost the 1/7 pattern in our 27/7 world. The importance of the Sabbath Day predates the Mosaic Law. To appreciate the importance of the one-in-seven pattern of maintaining a day of rest, see:
- Genesis 2:1-3
- Exodus 16:21-23 and 27-30
- Exodus 20:8-11
- Nehemiah 13:15-22
- John 20:1
- John 20:19-26
- Acts 20:7
- 1 Corinthians 16:1-2
- Revelation 1:10
For many years, I routinely worked seven days a week. Even Saturday, my day off, left me exhausted as I tried to cram all my yard work and leftover ministry into the last day of the week. About four years ago, I grew convicted and tried to change. Since Sunday is a “work” day, I determined to seriously taking Saturday as a “day of rest.” It’s taken time to figure out how to do this, but I’ve made progress in the last year or so. Here is the basic rule I’ve adopted for my Sabbath: If it feels very much like work, I probably shouldn’t do it. That’s my one and only maxim, but I’ve found it very useful.
If it’s going to leave me exhausted for the next day (Sunday), I probably shouldn’t do it.
If it’s church-related, writing-related, or ministry-related, I probably shouldn’t do it. This was very hard for me. Sometimes I feel I should visit the hospital on Saturday for routine calls (emergences are different, of course. All of us are always on call in times of crisis). I especially struggled with writing. When I had a deadline or I was behind on a project, could I force myself not to write? It took enormous effort, but now I don’t think I could write a word if I had to. I’ve quickly come to realize the importance of having a one-day-in-seven break.
When possible, I avoid traveling back to Nashville on Saturdays.
If the activity is enjoyable, refreshing, relaxing, restful, I should probably do it so long as I don’t cram too many of those kinds of activities into one day. (Many of those things are family-related and hobby-related).
I should take care not to miss my devotions. Because the routine for the day is different, it’s easy to get out of step with my Quiet Time. But, of course, that would defeat the purpose of having a Sabbath to begin with.
In my case, my “Sabbath” goes roughly from sundown of Friday to sundown on Saturday, just like the historic Jewish Sabbath. Friday night is my night off, and Katrina and I use that as our “date night.” We don’t like to go out very often; we like to stay home, put on our music, fix supper together, and watch a movie. We’re leisurely the next day, but after supper on Saturday I have to get back to work, internalizing the sermon for the next morning.
I’m going on sixty, and it’s taken me all this time to figure out to take a day off. It’s harder when we’re younger and trying to establish a living and a family. But I believe it is biblical to have one day out of seven in which we say: “If it feels too much like work, I probably shouldn’t do it today.”