Rethinking Sabbath Rest

The Bible presents the observance of Sabbath as a dedicated time of rest. Established at Creation, the observance of Sabbath is enshrined in the Ten Commandments as a memorial of God's love and a reminder to love others. So, when Jesus arrived as promised, it is no surprise that Sabbath observance was at the center of His ministry. However, a closer examination of the Gospels reveals an intriguing aspect of Jesus' Sabbath observance: There is no record of Jesus taking a nap on the Sabbath.


Sabbath afternoon naps are a Seventh-day Adventist tradition. It's one I've frequently participated in. In contrast, Jesus is often depicted as using the Sabbath as an opportunity to alleviate suffering in others through acts of healing and compassion. This unique approach challenges us to reconsider our understanding of Sabbath rest and embrace a more expansive perspective rooted in Jesus' example.


The Sabbath, as outlined in the Bible, is a day of rest and worship, set apart by God as a time for spiritual and physical renewal. Within Seventh-day Adventist tradition, the practice of taking a nap on the Sabbath is deeply ingrained as a form of rest and relaxation. While this practice serves to honor the sanctity of the day, it's crucial to recognize that Jesus' actions on the Sabbath demonstrate an alternative expression of observance—one focused on healing and compassion.


Sabbath observance limited to meeting my needs with no regard for the needs of others runs contrary to Jesus' proclamation of the greatest commandments: Love God with all your being, and love your neighbor as yourself.


Throughout the Gospels, Jesus consistently prioritized relieving suffering over rigid adherence to Sabbath regulations. He understood that the essence of Sabbath was not merely a cessation of work but a time to embrace the values of mercy, justice, and love. Jesus' approach challenges us to view Sabbath as a platform for meaningful engagement with others, rather than a strict compartmentalization of rest.


Consider the numerous instances in which Jesus healed on the Sabbath:

  • In Mark 3:1-6, Jesus encounters a man with a withered hand in the synagogue on the Sabbath. While the religious leaders watched to see if He would heal on that day, Jesus boldly asked, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" He then healed the man's hand, emphasizing that acts of compassion and healing take precedence over legalistic interpretations.

  • The healing of the woman with the spirit of infirmity in Luke 13:10-17 further emphasizes this point. Jesus encounters a woman who had been bent over for eighteen years. Despite objections from the synagogue ruler, Jesus heals her, declaring, "Should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day?" Here, Jesus reveals that the Sabbath is an appropriate time to bring freedom and healing to those in need.

  • Furthermore, the healing of the man born blind in John 9 highlights Jesus' compassionate response to human suffering. When questioned about healing on the Sabbath, Jesus states, "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work." This assertion underscores the urgency of alleviating suffering and giving new life, even on the Sabbath.


Jesus' actions challenge us to shift our perspective on Sabbath rest. While physical rest is undeniably important, Jesus' example calls us to a more dynamic interpretation—one that encompasses both rejuvenation and active engagement. Rather than limiting our observance to self-care alone, we are encouraged to embrace the spirit of compassion and mercy that characterized Jesus' ministry.


Resting on the Sabbath is rooted in reverence for God's creation and the commemoration of His rest on the seventh day. However, Jesus' example shows that this rest can also manifest in acts of love and healing that uplift and transform lives. It is through these acts that we align ourselves with the heart of God and demonstrate His character to the world.

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