What was your favorite Christmas present? My wife posed this question to me the day after Christmas. I quickly thought through the options. Do I automatically tell her that her gift was the best? Which gift was my favorite? Was it this? Was it that? As I sorted through the list of gifts in my mind, I realized that I liked them all about the same; nothing really stood out. So that's what I told her; a diplomatic answer, but true nonetheless.
I thought about her question that night as I lay in bed. As I thought about Christmas I realized that my favorite gift, the thing I enjoyed the most, was getting the day off to worship and rest with my friends and family. The candlelight service Christmas eve, sitting on the couch for hours reading my book, and eating and drinking with my family restored my soul more than the wonderful pair of shoes my wife bought me.
God knew that we needed rest and worship to restore our souls, and that's why he gave us a wonderful gift called the Sabbath. Like a good father, God knew that we would need rest from the troubles and toils of work, and he knew that we needed a routine way to tangibly rest our souls in him. So, he instituted the Sabbath for our good.
In Matthew 12, we learn that the Phariseess tried to hijack the Sabbath. By adding to God's law they turned a day of rest into a heavy load, a burden. They saw the Sabbath as an end in intself, a way to establish their own righteousness, rather than a means to an end. If left to the Pharisess the Sabbath would've become a labourious duty that drained our souls.
However, Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, rescued it from the Pharisees. Using the OT he showed that the Pharisees missed the point of the OT law. God intended the law to promote the love of God and the love of man. The pharisaical interpretation destroyed that purpose. Jesus corrected their view, and showed that the Sabbath is a day for rest and worship so that we can experience the goodness and mercy of God.
Jesus teaching in Matthew 12 corrects our view of the Sabbath as well. Do we use it for rest and worship? Do we see it as a good gift? Or, do we see it as a burden? Do we weight it down with rules and regulations that destroy it's intent? Do we treat it as a holy day, or just another day to complete our to-do list?
If we believe that the Sabbath is a good gift, then we will recieve it from the Lord and practice it as he intended. When we do that, we will find that the Sabbath is truely the gift that keeps on giving.