Again, he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. Mark 3:1-6
Again. And again. It happened often, repeatedly, intentionally. Jesus entered the synagogue, again. It’s easy to pass over this adverb but it is so important to Mark, his writing, to Jesus, and to us. The synagogue is a place Jesus went often, it was his “Father’s house” (Luke 2:49,19:45-47, John 2:16). He knew God made the Sabbath for man (Mark 2:27), and while he was on earth, he would honor it.
In the Old Testament, keeping Sabbath was the distinguishing mark of Israel (Isaiah 56). Their lives looked different than those around them in Egypt and in Exile because they took a day for God. It was life-giving to them individually and collectively. It set them apart. God was their God, and they were his people. It gave them identity among all the peoples of the earth. It still does.
From the New Testament, on this side of Jesus’ resurrection, spending time with God is life-giving and identity forming. Jesus gave us his example to follow (Mark 3:7, 13, 6:46). In this story Jesus is life-giving by healing the man on the Sabbath. Yet the religious establishment didn’t see who he was and turned against him for what they thought was breaking the Sabbath. Then, instead of honoring the spirit of Sabbath themselves, the Pharisees break an even worse law on the Sabbath by plotting to kill Jesus with their enemies!
Whatever day of the week, or however many hours at a time, make time to commune with your Father God. You could get away to spend time with God on a mountain, a garden, a library or private space. Talk, pray, read, study, worship, just be with God.
People will recognize your character from time spent with him.
The “Sabbath” (set apart time with God) is an opportunity to be open and receptive to God. It’s a spiritual practice for you to be restored and filled by him. Look at the pattern of Sabbath in the rhythm of your life. Can you look back and search through what the restorative gift of time with God has done for you? Ask God to give you insight. What can you do in the future to take steps toward receiving even more of this gift of a day of rest and connection to him? Take some time now to just be with God.
By Donna Burns