Sabbath = Lord's Day
First, for clarification the Sabbath is regarded today as the Lord's Day: The Christian Sabbath. References of Christian's, such as John (John 1:9) talk about the first day of the week (the day Jesus was risen from the dead) as the Lord's Day, the ultimate fulfillment of the Sabbath rest. Even in the Greek gospel manuscripts the text often talks about the first day of the week, the Sabbath. This has been the common church understanding that Sunday is to be a Christian Sabbath day of rest.
Second, we need to understand the concept of rest. God created the world and on the seventh day He rested (Genesis 2 verses 2-3) and made it a special day for us. So was God working so hard that He became tired and "rested?" No, the All Mighty God doesn't need an afternoon nap but the term refers to completion of His work. That is why the Ten Commandants Sabbath commandant (Exodus 20 verses 8-11) points back to rejoicing and remembering God's completed creation.
As we look forward from this we see that just as God created, Jesus brings about a 'NEW' creation. Jesus heals a man with a shrivelled right hand as a sign of His re-creative power. Jesus IS the Sabbath.
But have you noticed that in the Deuteronomy account of the Commandants (Deuteronomy 5 verses 12-15) the passage points to the Sabbath as finding rest from the bondage of Egyptian slavery, not creation? Looking forward from this salvation theme we see Jesus as the one that rescues as from the slavery of sin and who bringing life (John 10 verse 10; Matthew 12 verses 11-12).
Jesus IS the Sabbath. In fact the author of Hebrews (4 verses 8-13) clearly explains that finding rest in the Promised Land was also pointing to the ultimate rest for our souls in Jesus.
So considering all this then perhaps the whole idea of making negatively framed rules about what is unlawful to do on Sunday misses the mark. Perhaps the Christian athlete should be asking what should I be doing to honour Jesus as the Lord and fulfillment of this day (Matthew 12 verse 8).
The passage gives us three great tips:
Rest – The Lord's Day is not a time to lazy around but to be active using your gifts to honour Jesus. It is a time to remember the Creator's work in making us special. It is a time to remember the completed relationship we now have through Jesus' atonement.
Rejoice – Would you organise and throw a birthday party and not invite any guests? No. So why would you want celebrate the Lord's Day without other Christians around? It is a time to gather together to celebrate Jesus saving us.
Doing Good – Matthew 12 verses 11-13 explains the Lord's Day is for using our gifts to care for others however that might look in your cultural context. We have been saved by grace therefore we should live our lives as living sacrifices.
The Lord's Day is a special day. Too special to ignore and too special to be bogged down in legal arguments. Rest, rejoice and do good!
Jeremy is a former sports scientist, now pastor and sports chaplain
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover.html