Jesus sure could make religious people mad. He was adept at turning their ideas about sabbath upside down. Apparently He didn’t hold to the notion that rest meant being hungry and suffering (check out Matthew 12:1-21). If anything, it meant more love, more abundance, more enjoyment.
One time he went even farther, healing a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years, and then telling him to pick up his pallet and walk! The nerve! Not just healing, but then instructing someone to carry something! The religious people were so incensed, they wanted to kill Jesus. (Read the whole story in John 5)
If Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath as He claimed, then what does this story tell us about rest? Is it really just not doing things? Not working, not buying, not having too many possessions, not spending too much time on chores, just- not doing?
I think this story tells us so much more. For Jesus, sabbath was doing the healing work of the Father. For the healed man, it was doing for himself something he had never been able to do- carry his own pallet, walk. Sabbath has to do with restoration, healing, connection with the purposes of God for us.
When we long for rest, let’s look in the right place. The writer of Hebrews reminds us “…there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:9-11) The Israelites left us an example of how not to have rest- distrust God, try to figure it all out on our own, depend on our own good ideas. Instead of making our own rest, we are called to enter into the rest God provides.
What are God’s purposes for you, for me? What does He want to heal? What in our lives is waiting for restoration? What joyful bundle will we finally have the wholeness to carry? How can we be diligent to enter His rest?
My prayer for all of us is that we would seek true rest. De-stressing mechanisms may be part of the picture, but let’s not be satisfied with surface calm. Let’s enter all the way in to the rest Christ provides.