Some years ago, while living in New England, my wife and I loaded the family into our station wagon for a road trip to visit friends who had moved to Minnesota. Two days into the journey, on a Sunday afternoon, we had crossed most of Indiana when I noticed the tank was almost empty. We pulled up at the next toll booth and asked the attendant where to find a gas station. To our surprise he responded that under “Blue Laws” in Indiana the sale of gasoline was prohibited on Sundays! (Indiana has since repealed that restriction but I’m told it’s still one of several states that prohibit the sale of automobiles on Sundays). Luckily, we had just enough gas left to limp across the state line into Illinois where they were happy to sell us gas on a Sunday!

Exodus 20:8-11 instructed the Jewish people that since God rested on the seventh day of creation they were also to keep the Sabbath holy and make it a day of rest. Truth be known, God didn’t “need” to rest after six days of creation. However, He did so to demonstrate the principle of devoting one day each week to rest for the health of man’s body, mind and soul. Sadly, Jewish leaders in the centuries before Jesus had tarnished this principle by adding numerous non-biblical prohibitions about the Sabbath. Although nothing in the Law of Moses prohibited healing someone on the Sabbath, Jewish religious authorities included this on their list of man-made restrictions. The theological term for their religious mindset is “legalism”.

Jesus repudiated this spirit of legalism and the Jewish leadership’s focus upon earthly traditions. He declared that the Sabbath was made for mankind’s benefit, not man for the Sabbath (Mk. 2:27). Jesus’ model of Sabbath “keeping” reflected his vision of bringing “life to the full” to all of God’s creation. Thus he was ready to heal the ill and infirm on any day of the week. The Pharisees were so spiritually hardened that they couldn’t celebrate a soul being healed when it broke their definition of “Sabbath laws.” Jesus’ choice to heal on the Sabbath demonstrates that everything life-giving is holy in the eyes of God.

Pray for Christian leaders at all levels in the church to choose grace over legalism, in all its forms, and affirm Christ’s vision of “life to the full” for God’s people.

Pastor Dave Korinek

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