Jesus said, the Sabbath is made for man, then He quickly added, “not man for the Sabbath.” (Mk 2:27)
Would you believe our religious traditions actually set us up to be made for the Sabbath! We unknowingly negate what Jesus said and have made the Sabbath all about man.
In fact, I submit to you that man is lord of the Sabbath! Gasp! How can that be? Consider the meaning of ‘lord’ – a person who has authority, control, or power over others, a master, chief, or ruler. If man is lord of the Sabbath he would be in a position of power and control. He would determine what it looks like, what should happen, and even influence results.
Think about it. Sabbath or Sunday church cannot happen without man doing it and being in control. The Greek meaning of made (in Mk 2:27) helps elaborate my point of man’s self determined controlling role – i.e., man was ‘to become, to come into existence, to begin to be’ for the Sabbath.” By our religious traditions and actions we show man is in charge of it, so it stands to reason, man is made for the Sabbath. How did we stray so far from Jesus’ re-definition of the Sabbath?
Historically this began way back in the 3rd century when man maneuvered to be in charge of the church by organizing it and developing a hierarchical system. So we have a long heritage of man being made for the Sabbath. The very opposite of what Jesus said!
Man shows he is lord of the Sabbath and that he was made for the Sabbath when:
- he is bound to and perpetuates religious tradition
- he insists the Sabbath is on a certain day
- he determines time limits for it
- he interprets, establishes, and promotes certain rituals for it
- he plans agendas and programs for it
- he uses performance, personal charisma, specialized training, special effects
- he needs hierarchical leadership to make it happen
C. Peter Wagner’s phrase (from his book “Church Quake”) “the routinization of Christianity” aptly sums up my point that man is really good at being lord of the Sabbath. Have you ever thought about how much routine goes on in the traditional church? Man is the initiator and doer of all that routine. By man’s own abilities, gifting, good ideas, projects, and agendas – the Sabbath happens every Sunday or, for some, Saturday. How then can Jesus possibly be Lord of the Sabbath since we have determined what it looks like? Actually, Jesus does not want to be Lord of OUR Sabbath. Now, He might presence Himself, sometimes powerfully, on man’s Sabbath – but it is not because He affirms man’s routine. He loves people and will touch them in spite of all our good intentions and hard work.
Have you ever thought of how much time and thought goes into planning the whole Sabbath Sunday, our traditional day of rest? How much time did the pastor spend figuring out what to preach? How much time went into planning and practicing the songs that would be sung? How about coordinating the lighting and sound effects? What about the planning of ‘specials’ and announcements? Then there is the timing of fitting it all within an hour or more. Is it planned down to the minute?
Religious tradition has set up a system where it is necessary for man to be made for the Sabbath – otherwise there would be no Sunday church! Gasp! Have you ever wondered what church would look like if no one was in charge and no one planned a service? What if only Jesus was in charge of the gathering? What if He was the only Head of His church when it gathered?
Here’s a thought! What if persecution came to our land? What if we no longer had the certain building, the special service, the ‘anointed’ preacher, the beautiful music, the comfortable chairs? Would we still have His Sabbath, His rest? That kind of seemingly unrealistic possibility of life threatening persecution makes it easy to dismiss. But, what if – would we stop being lord of the Sabbath because we want to or because we have to? However, we don’t have to wait for difficult persecution to come in order to know the true Sabbath.
With man being made for the Sabbath does that affect our rest on Sunday Sabbath? Truly not everyone rests on the traditional routinized Sabbath day. Obviously the flock/the congregation/the laity come for refreshing, nourishment, encouragement, and some rest. But those in charge of the service, those who make it happen – do they rest? Is that what God intended?
What about those who feel called of the Lord to minister to His people? Has the religious system trapped them into an expected-to-meet-everyone’s-needs environment? One sad result is pastor burnout. Of course the congregation expects those called to ministry to meet all their needs. Is the congregation trapped too? When we keep looking to a man to give us Sabbath rest, all suffer loss. Is the church deceived and being kept from the true Sabbath?
One more dynamic of man being made for the Sabbath. There are a few who really do like being lord of the Sabbath. What!? They like the attention and special honor, they know they are ‘gifted’ in persuasive words or abilities, they like to be in control, they like being needed. Unfortunately there are some flocks who cannot see this in their spiritual leaders By their support they unknowingly perpetuate these needy leaders’ position of influence. Grievously there is no true rest and there is no fullness for all involved. Please know that Jesus wants to heal and free all involved in this kind of sick dynamic.
If you go to church on Sunday, fine, but please don’t assume this is the Sabbath rest God designed for you. His rest is way beyond and high above a building, a system, a man, a day, a service, and programs. His Sabbath is directly connected to vibrant relationship with Him.
Do you know who He really is? He wants you to. I sure want to. Decades ago this stirring and puzzling quote crossed my path – A.W. Tozer said, “God is the most winsome of all beings, delightful beyond telling. He dwells with His redeemed ones in an easy and uninhibited manner that is restful and healing to the soul.” Upon reading, I didn’t get it, but I wanted to. Over the last several years He is revealing the depths of this truth to me. I am so thankful! May you also grab hold of Tozer’s insight and let Him show you who He really is. Your rest and much else will be impacted by it.
I wonder if Tozer had come into experiential revelation of Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-29 and then expounded on them. Grab hold of these life-giving words too – “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and over burdened, and I will cause you to rest – I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls…for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest – relief, ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet – for your souls.” (AMP) Enter into the fullness of His rest. The Sabbath really was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
- May the Lord give us revelation of the weakness of our well intended abilities to help out God. May He lift veils of deception that would have us believe we are doing Sunday Sabbath right and doing it best.
- Is man lord of your Sabbath? Do you actually like man being lord of the Sabbath?
- His Sabbath has nothing to do with effort. Break free from all the routine of Christian effort. Rest is waiting for you.