“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work.” – Exodus 20:8-10
The Sabbath day was supposed to be a special day. God had commanded that it remain as a “holy” day amongst days. Does this mean that the other six days of the week were supposed to be unholy and filthy? No, there are things that are understood in the statement “keep it holy.” It was supposed to be a day set apart and special. It was a day that the Israelites could take a break from work and rest, but this break was not to be a pointless and purposeless break. It was supposed to be a rest used to focus on God and remind the people of His holiness, drawing them into the same.
As they moved through the daily routine of life the holiness of God could be forgotten because of busyness or distraction. So God told them to set apart a day, and “remember…to keep it holy.” He wanted them to stop thinking about their work, and start thinking about God’s goodness to them; to stop chasing after the paycheck, and start pursuing the treasures that are eternal. God wanted His people to recalibrate on the Sabbath and meditate on the fact that He was truly spectacular and praiseworthy.
For 38 years, his identity was “lame man” now that Jesus had come as the Great Physician, we find a new identity, “cured man.” This was truly a dramatic day, it was a day to remember. But the religious elites passed by the cured man carrying his bed. It was their custom to police all things sacred, so immediately they reproved him for carrying his bed. With the narrow-mindedness of fools, they looked past the event that had forever changed this man’s life to overplay a nuance that they themselves had created in regards to God’s law. In their eyes, carrying his bed was work. God was to be reverenced and worshipped, and people carrying their beds could not worship God because they were working.
They had completely missed the purpose of the Sabbath. It was a day to remind the people of God’s goodness and holiness. If there was one individual who had been brought to the point of worshipping God in all of Jerusalem it was the man who had his matted, old bed roll tucked under his arm. This was the most holy Sabbath that this man had ever been a part of. It was the first time in 38 years that he had been able to walk. The power of God had healed him. To him, this was the most holy Sabbath, but to the Jewish leaders who only thought about control and abuse of power, he was out of line and needed to be instructed in how to really worship God.
Like the Jewish leaders, modern American Christians can fall into the trap of holding other people to extra-biblical standards. Where God is explicit, we should expect precise obedience, but where God has left off, we should not presume to pick up and fill in the blanks. Christianity itself had spread to three different continents within a couple years of the ascension of Jesus. There was without a doubt quite a bit of cultural difference between the First Century churches of Africa, Asia, and Europe. Lest we become like the sinful, self-appointed, religious police, we should constantly check our expectations of other believers against the revealed words of God and make certain that we don’t presume where He has not commanded.
Food For Thought: In verse 14, where did Jesus find the cured man, indicating that this truly was a “holy” experience for Him? What are some ways that we might impose our rules on others like the Jews did?