XIX. In the dispute over the Sabbath, the issue is not nitpicking obedience to ritual laws. For the Jewish mind, observing the Sabbath was a way to imitate God; resting was not as a repression of necessary activities but a positive expression of the right order of things, as God initiated in the order of creation. Being “at home” rather than at work was a way to regularly and consistently “re-order” the harmony of family, faith, and relationships.
The verses just preceding Jesus’ dispute with the Pharisees over the Sabbath contain the iconic words: “Come to Me, all who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” These passages are inherently linked – how to rest, how to labor, how to bear our burdens. This invitation to “come to Me” is a text not about ritual Sabbath requirements but implies the same claim made elsewhere in different words: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath; that is why the Son of Man is Lord, even of the Sabbath.” The true rest that is symbolized in the Sabbath, the completion of God’s work (of creation and soon of redemption) is found fully realized in Jesus.
Further, the social function of the Sabbath – that it gathers the community together and reminds them of their deepest belonging to the People of God – is retained in the Sunday Eucharist. Like the Jewish Sabbath, it commemorates God’s creative work; it embraces the Passover redemption fulfilled in the Cross; and it confirms our identity as the People of God in the even-deeper sense, that we are the Body of Christ.