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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Balmer

Sabbath for us

This is a sermon preview for the first week of our Downtime: Entering God’s Rest series. 

Visit FBCM’s Church Center Channel to view video live stream (live) or audio version of sermon (published week after).

“Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.’” - from Mark 2:23-28

"The solution to an overbusy life is not more time. It’s to slow down and simplify our lives around what really matters.” - John Mark Comer, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry

Rest is a command in the Bible. It’s one of the ten commandments. God wants his people to rest. 

And, being the people we are, we’re good at turning good gifts into achievements we can use to trumpeted as signs of own accomplishments. 

There is a comic where there are two characters: one relaxed, one high-strung. The relaxed one sees the other rushing around: “Woah woah woah. Slow down friend. Dont'cha know that sometimes you have to stop and smell the flowers?" 

The high-strung character, with a manic look on its face, inhales a dozen flowers, sniffing them as if his nose were a vacuum cleaner — to the alarm of the relaxed character. He then produces a comical trophy that looks like a gold nose sniffing golden flowers, lifting it up in victory. The trophy’s inscription reads: “flower smelling champion.”

That’s us. “Flower smelling champions.”
"Sabbath" isn't just stopping to smell the roses. It's not an experience you buy, or something you achieve. It's something you observe and remember. Its reminder of God's goodness is still powerful for us today.

We have multibillion dollar industries on stress relief. Rest becomes a consumer product, a luxury experience. We work really hard for rest: to the point that our rest is too often not something which serves us, but which we serve. We can’t just rest. We have to put a photo up on Instagram showing we’re resting better than everyone.

The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word to stop: to stop work, to stop from wanting, to stop from our labors and our worries. All the advertisements (and we see so many of those) promise us this rest, but Sabbath rest is not an accomplishment or a commodity. It’s not something you achieve or something you buy. 

It’s simply stopping: stopping, specifically, to worship and to rest. Stopping to enjoy and trust in the goodness of God. That is what entering the rest of God entails.

Jesus’s claim to be Lord of the Sabbath is one of his boldest claims. After all, stopping is an imitation of God who created the Sabbath. It’s a reminder of both the Lord’s stopping his work on the seventh day in the story of Creation. It’s a reminder of his deliverance of his people from Egypt, the house of slavery (Exodus 20:1,8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15). If Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath, he’s claiming for himself a title which belongs, rightly, to God!

And that’s not all: Jesus’ words, “Have you not read?” (v. 25) are insulting to the Pharisees who meticulously study the Bible. The Pharisees were ardent believers in the Torah, and often argued among themselves about what was legal to do on the Sabbath. But they missed the point. Jesus takes the bigger view. God didn’t create humans for the Sabbath. He created the Sabbath for humans. The Sabbath is for our good. It’s a gift. 

If the Pharisees served the Sabbath and forgot the point of the Sabbath, we have the opposite problem. We never stop working, and we don’t trust God will provide when we do. We think rest is a reward for our achievement. Both the Pharisees and modern people miss that God made intentional times of rest and worship for us and our enjoyment of God. Sabbath is a gift God made for us.

Resting in God, stopping our labors, is for our good.

What it isn't is a tool for making us more productive the other six days of the week. 

“Sabbath” is not a tool to optimize our lives. It’s not a cool life hack. It won’t get you promoted at work. Sabbath won’t stop your kids from misbehaving. It won’t fix all the problems in your marriage. It won’t make the Joneses realize they could never keep up with the likes of you. 

Sabbath exists because we have a longing in our lives that only an infinite God could meet. It’s a reminder that he exists, and we live not by our own achievements and efforts but by his grace.

There are no Sabbath champions. But there are those who remember and observe the goodness of God in the Sabbath.

I'm not trying to accuse anyone, and I've just said it's not a competition, but this dog is probably better at resting than you.


Reflection Questions

  1. Do you take a day of rest regularly? Note: this is not simply a day off where you do all your household chores. I mean: is there a day when you do not work. If not regularly, when is this last time this has happened?

  2. How would your life have to change to truly spend time resting in God? Remember, we cannot add more hours in a day. As John Mark Comer says: “The solution to an overbusy life is not more time. It’s to slow down and simplify our lives around what really matters.” What would need to be eliminated to make rest possible?

  3. We do the opposite of the Pharisees. We are not meticulous Sabbath keepers. How do we still miss the point, even if we miss it differently than Jesus’s critics in this passage?


John Mark Comer, author of The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, speaks on the practice of Sabbath.


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