The subject of rest fascinates Pharisees. Sort of like frog gigging fascinates boys.
As you may know, Pharisees are religious people who, by virtue of being so religious, set an example for everyone else. Pharisees are fascinated by any matter that God legislates, and the God of the Bible did indeed legislate rest.
In fact, he included it as #4 on his Top 10 To-do (and Not Do) List. He commanded a day of rest weekly and called it “Sabbath,” meaning, appropriately enough, “Stop!”
This legislation has both delighted and frustrated Religious Persons through the centuries. It delights them because it presents them with a rule.
As a recovering RP, I can attest: Rules weave a security blanket for the religious. Rules set boundaries for behavior. Knowing the boundaries, religious people can thus adjust their behavior and feel quite pleased with themselves, quite assured they make the grade.
Ah, but this rule also frustrates RPs, because it isn’t specific enough. God said, “You shall not do any work” on the Sabbath. Spotlighting this command, ancient religious people wondered, “What, exactly, qualifies a thing as work?”
Then, they set out to answer their own question. Over time, the answers accumulated. The specifics mounted up. Accordingly, the parameters for “rest” kept tightening. Jewish religious leaders could tell you, for example, the exact distance one could walk without “working.”
Thus comforted by tedious and heavy rules, religious people led the way in the increasingly laborious task of resting. Of course, even they couldn’t actually keep all their own rules. Highly self-disciplined, however, they did impose rigorous standards on their own behavior and made a great show of living up to those standards. Further, they looked with contempt on any people who weren’t religious enough to do the same.
But then a man came along who did not play by their rules. Normally, this would have been No Big Deal to the RPs, then called Pharisees. They would just have disdained the man, along with all the other sinners – except for two things: (1) People were following him. (2) He claimed to be God.
The Pharisees were sure his claim to be God couldn’t be true, because this man was definitely not religious. He did things on the Sabbath day that, according to their rules, fell most certainly under the category of Work. He made sick people well, for heaven’s sake. The fact that people followed the man bothered the Pharisees a lot. It terrified and infuriated them. When crowds of people they had dominated and looked down upon pursued a person who dismissed their rules, it threatened them to the core.
Such behavior could not be tolerated. Nor could the person so behaving.
Guys out “frog gigging” hunt with a pitchfork-shaped spear, typically at night. They spotlight a frog, then spear it. Sort of like religion kills Sabbath. Sort of like it tried to exterminate the Lord of the Sabbath.
Ah, but the religious persons who orchestrated Jesus’ crucifixion did not know: He is the resurrection and the life. What lives in him may be snuffed out and buried, yet it will still rise up.
The key to entering this rest is to learn from the Pharisees’ example – no, not follow it; learn from it. The only rules that create healthy boundaries are the rules God himself makes. Any rules we add become, not boundaries, but bonds.
To learn what it means to “Stop!” we must beware of any one-size-fits-all formula, or even a these-are-the-steps-I-must-take formula. The God who calls for rest tailor-makes the parameters and personally teaches us what they are.
Today where you live, religion still slaughters Sabbath by the very way it tries to keep it. But when people desperate for rest leave the comfort of religious exhaustion and stumble toward God himself, Sabbath remains – and the Lord of Real Rest revives them.
From Return to Your Rest: A Spirit-to-spirit Journey, © 2016 Deborah P. Brunt. All rights reserved.