Lord of the Sabbath

“Therefore don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food or drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or sabbaths.  These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is the Messiah.”

-Colossians 2:16-17

“One person considers one day to be above another day.  Someone else considers every day to be the same.  Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind.”

-Romans 14:5

“Then He told them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath…”

-Mark 2:27 (Jesus quoted)

“Or haven’t you read in the Law that on Sabbath days the priests in the temple violate the Sabbath and are innocent?  But I tell you that something greater than the temple is here!”

-Matthew 12:5-6 (Jesus speaking)

How could a people, like the Hebrews, end up with a list of rules dramatically increased from what they were originally given, both in number and specificity?  I wonder if it has to do with practicality.  Let’s say a well-intentioned, conscientious person asks a leader in his community for guidance about a point of digression; a “what about such-and-such?” type of question.  I believe a couple factors come into play here: 1.) It would be easier to just create a rule about an issue rather than going through a more complex process of discernment.  (I think parents often have to wrestle with this pattern when governing their children.) and 2.) I suspect that the personal advice given in such a case naturally morphs into a rule or a tradition as it spreads between people and across generations.  What I mean is that the person relays the advice to his children and community, and maybe also the leader who gave the advice starts giving that same advice in subsequent cases, and maybe even writes it down, and so forth.  I think such advice becomes legalism when it starts to overshadow, or conflict with, the development of a personal relationship with God.  Going through a process of discernment in prayer is more work than just having a blunt, straightforward, rule, but the process builds relationship, which, I believe better matches the trajectory of reconciliation that I see mapped out in the bible.

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