“So the Son of man is lord even of the Sabbath.” v. 28
We’re a tired generation. I don’t have any science to back this up, but believe if you took a poll you would find that a majority of people spend most of their time in some state of weariness. I say this because nine times out of ten, when I ask people, “How ya doin’?” , especially when I ask teens, the answer is, “tired”. I watch them walk around with huge backpacks dragging behind them and try to imagine what other burdens are weighing them down. Sometimes religious people are the worst. They fight tooth and nail against the thing they need the most…rest. We see that happening in our story today. It’s, to me one of the more ironic stories in the New Testament. Here’s the short version:
Jesus and his disciples are taking a leisurely walk through a grain field one fine Sabbath day. They were at rest in God’s creation. Warmed by the sun, talking together, while the breeze caressed them. I think hanging out with Jesus on a Sunday afternoon would be pretty cool. But here’s where the irony comes in. The disciples make a religious blunder. They do what any country boy/girl would do in a grain field. They reach out and snap off a piece of grain to chomp on. How awesome it is that God made it so easy to snack on is creation. But then something happens! From out of nowhere, the “god squad” shows up – they must have been hiding in the grain waiting to catch this infraction, which I find quite humorous- then with all the fervor they can muster, begin to recite religious Sabbath regulations, “Alright, pull over. Let me see your proof of insurance and registration. You are in violation of Sabbath code 321-c, which clearly states, ‘plucking grain on the Sabbath is work.’ Why aren’t you resting… like us? you’re in big trouble with God!”
The irony here is that in the name of rest they were ruining a restful day. The religious leaders of the day had taken a simple command: “Honor the Sabbath” – so you can rest after a long week. And turned it into the most fearful and stressful day of the week! It’s ironic that in their efforts to defend the day of rest, they were out on patrol. Why weren’t they at home taking a nap? It must have taken a lot of work to go around on the Sabbath and make sure everyone is resting–kind of like being a day care worker at nap time. These glorified nannies of the faith were so busy trying to make everyone rest, that no one was able to rest, for fear of doing something . You couldn’t take a walk through a grain field, enjoy a group of friends, and feel the grain of God’s good creation pass through your fingers. What a bummer.
Religion can do that. In the name of rest it can steal your rest. Why is it that we tend to fight so hard against the things we want and need the most? We’re so busy trying to be God’s favorite and impress Him with our religious zeal and activity that we have stressed ourselves, and everyone around us, to the limits, with our own self made demands and expectations.
I remember once learning this lesson as a college freshman. I came into college with a great deal of zeal for the lord. I truly wanted to serve him with all I had. One week in particular I had reached my limit. The combination of class work and campus ministry activity had worn me out. I felt my energy running low and mistook my fatigue for some spiritual problem. I just didn’t want to do anything. In my immaturity I assumed I must be losing my love for God. I went up to the campus prayer room and sat in the floor. I prayed, “Lord I need something from you….” two hours later I was shocked to wake up from a long nap. I had fallen asleep in prayer! Oh! I was so ashamed! “How could I do something so unspiritual, as to fall asleep in prayer?!” I soon confessed my great transgression to my campus minister. I was surprised when she chuckled warmly. “Sounds like God answered your prayer.” she said. Then she said something I will never forget. She said, “Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap.”
I love how Jesus responded to the self – appointed guardians of holy nap time. Those religious experts, who are so busy talking about what you can’t do on the Lord’s day, that they ruin the rest for all of us. He said, “The Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath.” I love that! The one who said, “come to me all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”, said to these stressed out rest killers, “I’m the Lord of the rest.” If you are exhausted from serving the Lord, maybe you should go walk through a grain field, chomp on a few heads of grain, hang out with the Lord for awhile, and maybe even take a nap. Some say, with great spiritual pride, “I’d rather burn out than rust out.” But Jesus didn’t do either, and He doesn’t expect you to . Why not do what he did? Walk in step with the Spirit, move when he moves, stop when he stops. Let God set the pace for your life and let Him be Lord of the rest. You’ll be a lot better off that way, and quite honestly, so will the people who have to live and work with you. So give us all a break and take one.