“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
“It happened on an inauspicious July day in 2005: ‘First one sheep jumped to its death. Then another and another, and then dozens more. Having left their herds to graze while they ate breakfast, stunned Turkish shepherds now watched as nearly 1,500 others leapt off the same cliff. The first 450 animals died under the billowy pile.'”
How could this happen? Because sheep have a very curious behavior. Dr. Laniak writes, “Once one picks a trail, the rest simply follow the tail in front of them without regard for the destination.” Sheep are prone to follow Tails and Trails.
If we pause to think about it…we are not that far off ourselves. We are likely to either follow the deceitful distraction of the tail in front of us, or mindlessly follow the ruts of life winding before us.
Recently, I have come to see that we are unable to make decisions for ourselves and we depend on an external authority to tell us what to do, when to do it, and how we should do it.
James Grubman captures this struggle for modern families who have lost the external restraints due to acquiring wealth and advancing technologies. “A parent has to set limits. But that’s one of the most difficult things for [parents with means], because they don’t know what to say when having the excuse of ‘We can’t afford it’ is gone…The parents have to learn to switch from ‘No we can’t’ to ‘No we won’t. But ‘no we won’t’ is much harder. ‘No we can’t’ is simple.”
What Grubman–and Gladwell–are getting at here is that “won’t” is easy because it is based on external restraints. “Won’t” is a value-based decision. “Should I or should I not” is a far more difficult decision that actually requires a conversation…and a relationship.
This is what Jesus comes to do with the rule-abiding legalists. He wants to shatter their tail following religious ruts in order to create a vibrant relationship with us.
One of the perplexing issues Christians face is what to do with the laws of the Old Testament. Is obedience to the rules necessary? Jesus–and later Paul–effectively addresses this in the New Testament. Jesus beautifully summarizes it when he states: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” The purpose of Sabbath is not restrictive and prohibitive behavior, but God’s gracious gift of rest. You no longer have to follow Sabbath rules, but you get to enjoy Sabbath rest.
However, most of us fail to make that switch because it is easier to live under the feeling of cannot. Like Eve in the Garden, who tells the serpent that God said not to touch the fruit or we will surely die, we tend to focus on God’s prohibition and restrictions (by the way, God never said “Do not touch it” but Eve viewed God as a mean parent not letting her have any fun).
The arch of the Christian narrative, however, is that Jesus came to remove the external restrictions to force us to have a vibrant conversation with God in order to uncover the internal motivation of the Holy Spirit. We no longer have to keep Sabbath rest for 24 hours on Saturday–we get to enjoy Sabbath rest. We no longer have to make sacrifices for our sin–we get to offer our entire lives as living sacrifices. By removing the external restraints, we get to live with a joy-filled, gratitude-laden life.
So what is motivating you to follow Jesus? Are you following the tail of someone else? Are you plodding diligently along the ruts of religiosity? Are you going out of compulsion? Or is there a genuine desire to discover this Jesus Christ?