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  • Writer's pictureMatt Beaney

#920. What is the Sabbath? (16/10/20)

This week, we continue in our series, Luke - Exploring who Jesus is.

‘One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” (Luke 6:1-2)

This week, we’ll be considering what the Sabbath is and our approach to the Sabbath. Today I simply want us to understand what it is.

You can listen to this devotional at:

As in Jesus’ day, and in the text we are looking at this week, the Sabbath continues to create division and unease in some consciences. My experience of Christian teaching and behaviour regarding the Sabbath is that there are a variety of approaches to it. Some think of keeping one day in six as special is very important. Others have never given it much thought although it is such an important Biblical institution! Too often it’s reduced to should I work, buy petrol, put my washing out on a Sunday! Too often it’s about not wanting to upset the church community to which someone belongs.

What is the Sabbath?

We read of the institution of the Sabbath in The Ten Commandments:

‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.’ (Exodus 20:8-11)

The Jewish Sabbath - on the seventh day - begins on Friday evening at sunset and ends on Saturday evening at sunset. So, immediately we must see, that even if we do ‘keep Sunday special’, this is a massive change from God’s original command!

The word ‘Sabbath’ derives from the Hebrew, ‘shabbat’ and means to cease, to end, to rest. The Sabbath was patterned after God’s ‘resting’ after His creation of the world. In the book of Genesis we read (Note that word ‘rested’ is Sabbath (‘shabath’):

‘By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.’ (Genesis 2:2-3)

It is to be a holy day that’s set apart for the Lord. Yes, this is about rest, but, more importantly, it’s about doing and not doing the things that God commands for the day. The Sabbath was to be kept ‘holy’. That is, it was to be set apart from ordinary tasks in order to serve God in a more focussed way. Of course, all days were to be holy, but in reference to the Sabbath, this simply meant that they were to use it as God instructed.


Today, I simply want us to understand that the Sabbath, in the Old Testament, was the sixth day and was to be used as God directed. It was a day of special devotion to rest and worship. It’s this understanding that likely motivated the religious teachers' consternation at Jesus' apparent disregard for the Sabbath regulations as they saw them. They were driven by good motives but they failed to listen to Jesus and so gain a right perspective on what it means to obey God. Tomorrow we’ll continue on this theme of the Sabbath by asking, do Christians have a Sabbath?



1. Notices

It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.

2. Icebreaker How has God been speaking to you from His Word this week and how has this helped you?

3. Study and pray together

This week we continued in our Luke series looking at Luke 6:1-11.

Please read Luke 6:1-11.

At the end of chapter 5, Jesus gave a parable about 'new cloth', 'new wine' and 'new wineskins. This parable was given to teach that we are in a new era - a New Covenant. In this era - after the death and resurrection of Jesus - we have to learn to handle the Old Testament and The Sabbath in a new way.

In essence, for Christians, rather than keeping a day holy, we understand that the Sabbath was pointing our our rest in Christ. The author to the Hebrews writes:

‘Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it…Now we who have believed enter that rest…There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.’ (Hebrews 4:1,3, 9-10)

Discussion and prayer

  • What were the religious leaders so upset about?

  • What do these two Sabbath day accounts teach us about what it was permissible to do on the Sabbath?

  • What was meant by Jesus' words: “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."?

  • How are Christians to rest in Christ (See Hebrews 4:1)?

  • How are we to 'do good' and 'save life' (See v.9)?

  • How would a true keeping of the Sabbath help to glorify Jesus in our community?

  • Do you have any encouraging stories of how you've been serving, investing and inviting?

  • Let's pray for ourselves and our community together. Let's pray for the particular people that God is putting on your heart. Lets pray for the Holy Spirit to empower and direct us in how to Serve, invest and invite.

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