Active Rest

Active Rest

Joshua J. Masters |

A hurried life prevents us from experiencing the extraordinary peace of Christ, but the Lord of the Sabbath invites us into a place of active rest.

Active Rest • Message 5
Joshua J. Masters
July 24, 2022


Good morning, Brookwood.

Today we’re continuing our series called, extraORDINARY.

Over the summer, we’ve been exploring how ordinary people can encounter an extraordinary God.

And we’ve been doing that by looking at how Jesus interacted with His disciples.

So far, we’ve seen Jesus:

--multiply food to feed thousands of people,

--command the wind and the waves,

--walk on water, and

--cast out demons…

Those are all extraordinary things.

Today we’re going to talk about resting—specifically, the Sabbath.

The Sabbath, of course, is one of the 10 Commandments.

“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.”
Exodus 20:8–10a (NLT)

Now, you might say, what’s so extraordinary about resting?

That seems extremely ordinary.

But is it?

How often do you rest—like, really rest in complete peace the way Jesus did in the middle of the storm we talked about two-weeks ago?

Not many of us.

For most of us, our minds are always racing and the only thing moving faster than our mind is our thumbs as we scroll through Instagram reels. Right?

Even in our leisure time, our brains are constantly bombarded with data.

That’s not rest… that’s the opposite of rest because it drains us and brings us anxiety.

Our lives and our minds are rushed.

A hurried life prevents us from experiencing the extraordinary peace of Christ.

But the Lord of the Sabbath invites us into a place of active rest.

And that’s the title of today’s message: Active Rest.

We’ll be in Matthew, Chapter 12.

So, you can go ahead and turn or swipe there in your Bibles (pg. 781).

Living a rest-filled life does not require laziness or inaction… on the contrary.

The Sabbath was intended to be a day of more intentional actions—restful action.

But the religious leaders of Christ’s day never really understood that.

Matthew 12:1:

At about that time Jesus was walking through some grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them. But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, “Look, Your disciples are breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.”
Matthew 12:1–2 (NLT)

It’s ridiculous to think a person picking up something to eat violates the rules of rest.

But the Pharisees had a rigid misunderstanding of the Sabbath.

To them, it was more about following rules than leaning into the rest or freedom of God.

In fact, although God’s instructions for the Sabbath are remarkably simple, the Jewish Rabbis wrote 24 entire chapters of Sabbath restrictions they forced everyone to follow.

They made the Sabbath so much of a burden that no one could rest at all.

In fact, the Sabbath started producing more anxiety than the six days of work they were supposed to be resting from.

And some of those additional rules actually contradicted Scripture.

So, what was God’s original purpose for the Sabbath?

In the Old Testament, God gives two explanations for why keeping the Sabbath is one of the 10 Commandments.

The first reason is this:

“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. … For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day He rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.”
Exodus 20:8–10a, 11 (NLT)

So, in Exodus, the command for a day of rest is tied to creation.

It’s the natural cycle God placed within us at creation.

God modeled the Sabbath for us from the very beginning, and He built it into the fabric of creation.

But notice how specific this verse is.

It says the Sabbath should be a day of rest dedicated to the Lord. We enter into HIS rest—we rest WITH Him.

I don’t think God rested on the seventh day of creation to simply MODEL a Sabbath, but to show us He’s a restful God inviting us to crawl up into His arms like a child resting with a parent at naptime.

So it’s a time of dedicated rest with God as our Creator and Father.

But when we get to Deuteronomy, God gives a second reason for keeping a day of rest.

We need it.

Deuteronomy 5:15:

“Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, but the Lord your God brought you out with His strong hand and powerful arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day.”
Deuteronomy 5:15 (NLT)

The second reason for Sabbath is to remember that you have escaped slavery.

And why do we need that reminder? Because we tend to shackle ourselves into slavery.

Remember, the Israelites continually complained they wanted to go back to the slavery of Egypt because the lure of getting even the scraps of luxury from their slave masters was more attractive than resting in the trust of God.

And we continually return to the slavery of things we put before God: our phones, our work, politics, busy schedules, our success.

We resist rest in Christ in exchange for easy distractions, and then we become enslaved to those things.


A. The Sabbath is set apart for GOD and protects us from SLAVERY.

Now, what does that look like for Christians?

There’s a lot of disagreement whether Christians should observe an official Sabbath day or not.

Colossians 2 clearly says Christians should not judge one another if they don’t keep the Sabbath—but it also doesn’t say we shouldn’t.

It explains that all the festivals and the Sabbath were just shadows pointing to the greater fulfillment in Christ.

Hebrews explains that Christ IS our Sabbath—that we carry the Sabbath with us in Christ.

Both those passages are listed in your outline if you want to look them up, but as we apply the principles of the Sabbath we see in today’s passage to our own lives, we’ll use the term “Resting in Christ” because Christ is our Sabbath.

Now, the word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word, Shabbat—which literally means stop...

Stop to be with God, stop to reflect on the things that draw us closer to God rather than enslave us.

But the Pharisees would say to stop EVERYTHING.

That’s why they kind of flip out when they see Jesus and the Disciples having a snack during their lovely Saturday walk together.

But Christ’s response to them shows a more intentional, active rest in the Sabbath.

Verse 3:

Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry?”
Matthew 12:3 (NLT)

Now, every time Jesus says, “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures…” He’s calling out the Pharisees because He knows they have memorized the Torah and probably the entire Old Testament.

Yet many of their man-made rules contradict the Scriptures they’ve sworn to uphold.

… “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God, and he and his companions broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat.
Matthew 12:3–4 (NLT)

So, the first thing Jesus points out about the Sabbath is this:

That resting doesn’t mean we stop meeting the basic necessities of life.


B. Actively resting in Christ…

1. Accommodates our basic NEEDS.

The incident Christ is referring to with David is found in 1 Samuel, Chapter 21.

David and his men are fleeing from Saul, who is trying to kill David to keep the throne for himself.

So, David is in exile, fighting to survive.

And he goes to a priest and asks for food.

He and his men are given the show bread, which are 12 loaves placed in the Tabernacle every Sabbath to represent God’s covenant with Israel.

Normally, this bread can only be eaten by priests, but God does not condemn David for eating it.

Why? Because David was the rightful king rejected by Israel and the law was designed to honor God and help man.

And now, Christ, who is the rightful king (just like David was), is also entering into a season of rejection by a sinful Israel.

Jesus is not only explaining that they’ve completely missed the point of Sabbath.

He’s not only defending the disciples feeding themselves on Shabbat.

But by evoking this image of David, I think Christ is making a not-so-subtle comparison to their rejection of HIS Lordship—both in the Sabbath and His covenant with Israel.

They have become sinful rulers like Saul.

And like God provided for David, and provided for the disciples, God provides for us as we rest in Him.

Resting in Christ means knowing He will supply all your needs.

We’re not called to a life of anxiety and angst.

Look at Matthew 6:

“Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are?”
Matthew 6:26 (NLT)

But do birds just sit lazily in their nest waiting for worms and sunflower seeds to drop in their mouth?

No, God places the provision within their reach and then they go and do their part to gather it (no anxiety, no turmoil).

That’s how we’re called to live in Sabbath Peace—assured that God will provide but actively picking the grain He supplies along the way.

That’s active rest.

We are at peace in our spirits but act on what God puts in front of us .

But the primary purpose of the Sabbath is to set aside a day FOR the Lord.


Actively resting in Christ… (should)

2. Affirms our WORSHIP.

You cannot rest in Christ if you do not prioritize the worship of Christ.

That’s because if we’re not focused on worshipping Him—we will absolutely worship something else in our culture.

Did the Pharisees and other religious leaders really worship God?

Or did they worship their rules and positions of power?

Verse 5:

“And haven’t you read in the Law of Moses that the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath?”
Matthew 12:5 (NLT)

There it is again… “Oh, I’m surprised you’re not familiar with this passage…”

Why were the priests in the Temple allowed to work on the Sabbath?

Because they’re above the other people?

No. It’s because they were worshipping God—which is the whole point of the Sabbath—a dedicated time to stop and reflect on God’s saving grace and build your relationship with Him.

But look at the next sentence. Jesus is not pulling any punches.

“…haven’t you read in the Law of Moses that the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath? I tell you, there is One here who is even greater than the Temple!
Matthew 12:5–6 (NLT)

What is Jesus saying here?

The Sabbath points to the Messiah.

The Temple points to the Messiah.

And Jesus is saying, “Here I am.”

I am the Sabbath.

I am the Temple.

The disciples are doing exactly what the Sabbath was intended for—they’re leisurely and peacefully spending time with God as they walk through a field together.

The disciples are experiencing the same intimate Sabbath with the creator as when Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden.

Let me ask you a question.

When was the last time you felt completely at peace and walked through a quiet field or a garden with God?

That’s not a metaphor.

Really, when was the last time you went on a peaceful walk with God… or sat with Him on a bench, or just had a rest-filled conversation with Him?

Anyone here ever gotten to the end of their weekend and felt completely drained and unprepared for the work week ahead?

You know why that is?

Because you didn’t actually rest.

A day off is not the same as a Sabbath, and leisure is not the same as rest .

We can certainly incorporate leisure activities into our time with God. But a day of golf or a traffic-filled journey to Death Valley at Clemson is not going to bring your soul any rest, not without a dedicated time of resting WITH Christ.

There’s a reason the Psalms say, “Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10).

Because it’s impossible to know God or enter into His rest if you’re unwilling to be still.

Here’s another question:

Have you ever wanted to help someone who was struggling but you just didn’t have the bandwidth or energy?

Sabbath prepares us to serve others.


Actively resting in Christ…

3. Anticipates acts of COMPASSION.

We should be resting in Christ in such a way that we’re motivated and energized to show compassion toward the people God places in our path.

Most of your service for God should be done outside the walls of this church, meeting the needs of those who are not believers.

But we have a tendency to do all our churchy stuff and then proclaim everything else as “my time.”

But if we’re living a life of active rest, seeking the Sabbath of Christ, we’ll have the energy and the faith to meet needs no one else can.

Jesus continues in verse 7:

“But you would not have condemned My innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’”
Matthew 12:7 (NLT)

Again, Jesus highlights how little they understand the Scriptures they’ve memorized.

So, He reminds them about Hosea 6:6:

“I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know Me more than I want burnt offerings.”
Hosea 6:6 (NLT)

God is the one who instituted sacrifices and burnt offers, so He wasn’t telling Israel to stop doing the things He asked—He was saying those things mean nothing outside a real, personal relationship with Him and an effort to love others.

Love God. Love People.

The Pharisees had long forgotten that—especially on the Sabbath when we should be most connected to what God is showing us.

Jesus obviously observed the Sabbath perfectly. Not according to church rules, but perfectly according to Scripture.

But He didn’t just follow the Sabbath.

He is the Sabbath.

In verse 8, Jesus looks at the Pharisees and says:

“For the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”
Matthew 12:8 (NLT)

In case there was any confusion about His statement proclaiming to be greater than the Temple, Jesus tells them He’s the one that instituted the Sabbath and He’s the voice of Hosea commanding heart over empty sacrifices, relationship over religion, and acts of mercy over pious checkboxes.

Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath and again and again, we see Him engaged in acts of mercy and compassion.

How many times do the gospels record Jesus healing someone on the Sabbath?

Anyone know?

There are 7 recorded Sabbath healings.

--He healed Peter’s mother on the Sabbath.

--The man by the pool of Bethesda.

--He liberated a man from a demon.

--He healed the crippled woman.

--He healed a man with dropsy… or swollen limbs.

--He healed a blind man.

--And immediately after the encounter with the Pharisees we’re studying today, Jesus goes to the synagogue and heals a man with a withered hand—as a sort of exclamation point to the schooling He’s giving the Pharisees right now.

He did all these things on the Sabbath.

Relationship with God means compassion for hurting people .

We want everyone here at Brookwood to be part of a Community Group of some kind—a group that disciples one another, cares for one another, and helps each other grow in a healing relationship with Christ.

But you should also continually evaluate the effectiveness of your group.

You do that by asking if:

1. You’re all growing in your individual relationships with Christ—learning to know Him more deeply, and

2. Whether you’re developing a heart of mercy and compassion for the lost, and hurting, and broken.

If not, you may need a new group.

Because true discipleship always leads to a consuming compassion for the lost and the hurting .

Otherwise, you’re just checking the same religious tick-boxes the Pharisees did.

We will never see the needs of others if we’re filled with the hurried anxiety of our own needs.

That’s why the Sabbath is so important.

We have to accept the rest He offers us and live in it so we can clearly recognize those who are without that rest.

That’s your last fill-in.

Actively resting in Christ…

4. Accepts the REST He offers.

That may seem obvious, but we don’t do it.

We must be actively embracing and clinging to the rest that Christ offers.

The Sabbath problem we see in this passage from the Pharisees is legalism—over complicating the Sabbath.

But our problem is the exact opposite. We’ve abandoned the Sabbath all together.

We will never experience the Sabbath of Christ so long as our lives are hurried.

His peace overcomes all circumstances, but we miss it when we fill our lives with mindless distractions.

So, let’s go back to the question we asked earlier.

Should Christians follow a Sabbath Day—one day a week set aside to absorb the peace of Christ.

In the strictest sense, probably not.

But why wouldn’t you?

And what are you giving up by not doing it?

At the end of His exchange with the Pharisees, before Jesus goes to the Synagogue to heal the man with the withered hand, Mark’s account of the story tells us something else Jesus said to them.

It’s at the top of your outline:

[Jesus] told them, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.”
Mark 2:27 (CSB)

The Sabbath was created as a gift to man, to further our relationship with God and to help us walk away from the things we shackle ourselves to in this world.

Why would we throw that gift away?

The book of Hebrews says this:

Therefore, a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people. For the person who has entered His rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from His. Let us, then, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience.
Hebrews 4:9–11 (CSB)

Make every effort to enter that rest so we don’t fall into disobedience .

You cannot work toward your salvation, but we must urgently and actively work toward the rest that Christ offers.

How can we do that if we’re never setting aside time to renew and live in that rest?

We fill our lives with so many distractions and activities that we:

--Never hear God,

--we’re never refreshed by God, and

--we never stop being anxious because we’re just too tired.

Then, we miss the purpose, and the mission God has for our lives in exchange for mindless hours of entertainment.

How many people have come home completely exhausted, but rather than intentionally seeking God’s rest and His renewal, we say, “Ah, I’m so tired. I’m just going to zone out and watch 6 episodes of Stranger Things.”?

(That will not help you sleep, by the way)

Now listen, you don’t need to throw away your iPhone, or your TV, or your golf clubs, or your Clemson Parking Pass… goodness, don’t throw that away.

But how would it change your life if you and your family set aside an intentional time… maybe even a whole day every week to be refreshed by God and enter into His rest together.

That doesn’t mean Sabbath has to be boring.

It can be life-giving and fun.

But the transition to resting isn’t easy.

For the last few months, Gina and I have been stumbling through what it means to observe a true Sabbath day once a week in our home.

Honestly, we’re not that good at it yet—and in the beginning it wasn’t fun at all. I don’t think we’ve found the perfect balance… but we’re making progress.

But you know who’s great at Sabbathing? Our dog, Franklin. He loves it because we take him on quiet walks in the park, he sits with us while we’re reading, and we go to lunch somewhere with a dog-friendly patio. He’s got it down.

But maybe that’s not what your Sabbath looks like.

If you’re a young family with small children, it may not be possible to have a quiet Sabbath… so, it might be a day of board games together instead of TV.

If you connect with God through nature, maybe it’s a hike.

I could stand here and give you a bunch of ideas. But ultimately, you and your family need to find the thing that brings you life—the things that give you true rest as you intentionally spend time with one another and God.

Ask yourself, what can I do that will fill my soul with peace as I seek God?

You don’t have to be good at it—you don’t have to create the perfect Sabbath.

You just need to take a step toward Christ.

Sometimes that means getting out of the boat and walking on water—but sometimes it means curling up on the cushion in the back of the boat with Jesus.

Because when we continually refuse to enter Christ’s rest, you know what happens? We get sick.

Have you ever pushed and pushed until your body just breaks down?

In his book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, John Mark Comer says this:

“…we all come to Sabbath, voluntarily or involuntarily… Sabbath is coming for you, whether as delight or discipline.”

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry , John Mark Comer

This is a great book if you want to get started seeking Christ’s rest in your life without legalism.

We are making ourselves sick, and our hurried lives muzzle the mission of the church and God’s power in our lives.

Aren’t you sick and tired of being sick and tired?

Jesus says this:

… “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Matthew 11:28–29 (NLT)

It’s time to lay down your burdens and start living in the promise of the Sabbath—which is this:

“Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day… Then the Lord will be your delight. I will give you great honor and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob. I, the Lord, have spoken!”
Isaiah 58:13–14 (NLT)

Look at some of those words.





And a satisfied life.

Is that what you want in life? Or do we want to go back to the slavery of Egypt?

I say, Let’s work together toward this.

Let’s pray.

And then, if you need help taking those next steps, we’ll have pastors and care volunteers down front or in the Care Connection room after the service to pray or talk with you.

If you’re in our Online Campus, click the button in your chat window and we’ll connect with you.

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