What is the Sabbath for? The word really means rest. So how are we to rest on the Sabbath (what we know as Sunday)? A day for sleeping in. Play a round of golf. A relaxing morning with coffee cup in hand. Watch the ball game. Attend a church service. Eat brunch at a favorite restaurant. A day to refrain from working. What is the Sabbath for? In the Ten Commandments we are told to ‘remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.’ Once more, what is the Sabbath for? The reading from Luke has Jesus giving a whole new spin on the Sabbath.
A spirit has left a woman crippled for the past eighteen years leaving her bent over and and unable to stand up straight. Jesus releases her from the infirmity. Set free, she stands up for the first time in eighteen years and praises God. Jesus was in trouble with the leader of the synagogue because this was the Sabbath. Why? The Sabbath was for rest and not for work. Jesus could have done the healing on a different day instead of violating the Sabbath’s command. However, Jesus called the leader and all on their hypocrisy. On the Sabbath, animals are led to water to be freed from their thirst and this is work. Shouldn’t she, a daughter of Abraham, be set free from Satan’s bondage? Now we are getting to Jesus’ point on the Sabbath.
Deuteronomy 5 directly connects observing the Sabbath to liberation from slavery in Egypt. The Sabbath was for liberating all from slave, servant, immigrant to animal from labor so they may find rest as God found rest from the work of creation on the seventh day. Jesus was living this out as he set the woman free and now fully free she could worship and give praise to God.
We are like this woman. A spirit seems to have crippled us. We are unable to fully observe the Sabbath. How? We are crippled by our refusal to recognize our pollution, waste and damage to God’s amazing creation. We are crippled by our prejudice and hate. We are crippled by our economics that reward only a few. We are crippled by our demand for power over others. We are all crippled and under bondage unable to fully praise the One who is our maker.
So how do we observe the Sabbath? Repentance is a good start. A repentance from the ways we keep those who also share in the image of God and the rest of creation under bondage. A repentance that admits we are in bondage to a spirit that keeps us all from being fully human and fully able to worship God. As Jesus was pointing out, the Sabbath is for all to know the liberation that allows all creation to be fully alive to sing the praises of God. This is what the Sabbath is for.