Now that day was the Sabbath, so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “this is the Sabbath! It’s illegal for you to pick up your mat.” He replied, “the man who made me well told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’” John 5:9b-10 HCSB
The Pharisees had taken the Ten Commandments given to Moses and had added hundreds of rules and definitions regarding how one could keep them. The original commandment is found in Exodus 20:18, “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” According to the Pharisees, any type of work was prohibited on the Sabbath, including healing or picking up a mat. They had identified thirty-nine tasks that were prohibited on the Sabbath, such as tying or untying a knot. While visiting Israel I observed that there were certain elevators in buildings that were shut down on Sabbath (Friday at sundown till Saturday at sundown) because they were considered to be working if they lifted or lowered someone to the next level.
Everyone was required to rest on the Sabbath following the example set by God who rested on the seventh day of creation. In this story, Jesus was the first to break the rules of the Pharisees by healing on the Sabbath, but additionally He commanded the man to break the rules by picking up his mat. These were man-made rules and not the rules of God. Too many times we try to live by man-made rules in order to please others instead of living by God’s rules and pleasing God. The Pharisees were more concerned with keeping the laws so everyone could observe them and see how religious they were. The focus was on their external appearance instead of keeping the intent of the law and pleasing God.
Challenge: Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Do what would be pleasing to God. Are your rules and regulations helping people draw closer to God or are they becoming a hindrance to others?