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The Concept of Rest in Christianity: Reflections on the Significance of the Sabbath

The day of rest—a holy day, was made for people, not people for the day of rest.  

Mk 2:27

In today’s article, we reflect on the importance of ‘rest’ that God instituted at the beginning of creation. On the seventh day, after completing all his creation, God declared a day of rest and blessed it as holy (Genesis 2:1-3). This is the only instance during the creation process when God blessed a unit of time. The term ‘holy’ in the Bible refers to something set aside for service to God. 

God repeatedly instructs the Israelites to observe a day of rest in the Old Testament (Exodus 16:27-28, Exodus 23:10-11), and the Sabbath is one of the ten commandments given to them (Ex 20:8-11, Deuteronomy 5:12). This highlights the significance of the Sabbath to God. The primary purpose of God’s command to observe the Sabbath was to remind the Israelites of his guidance and sustenance as he delivered them from Egypt and supported them in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 5:15). On this day, the Israelites were to abstain from work and concentrate on worshipful rest. 

The Pharisees during Jesus’ time constantly sought to accuse him of breaking God’s laws. In Mark 2:23-28, they criticized Jesus’ disciples for picking grain to eat on the Sabbath, claiming it violated the law from Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15 which prohibited work on the Sabbath. Jesus, however, explained that the Sabbath was not meant to limit man’s freedom but to serve as a gift from God for man’s benefit, offering rest from labor and a time for worship. 

In the New Testament, Christians observe a “day of rest” through communal worship as an act of gratitude for God’s spiritual blessings and to foster love and good deeds among each other. It is a spiritual obligation, not a legal mandate. Let us remember to attend, participate and serve in our churches, submitting to the leadership of Jesus Christ, our Lord. 


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