The temporary changes God has asked of us for his Lord’s Day prompts us to do some research in the scriptures for origin and reasons for the Sabbath/Lord’s Day. Here are a few passages (with notes from the New American Bible) to get us thinking of why ordinarily go to church on Sunday and keep it a day of rest, i.e. make it different than the rest of the week.
Keeping the Sabbath we a bone of contention between the Jewish leaders and Jesus — many references in the Gospels. Here is Jesus’ reply:
For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.
NAB note [Matthew 12:8] The ultimate justification for the disciples’ violation of the sabbath rest is that Jesus, the Son of Man, has supreme authority over the law
Then Jesus said to them, The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.
NAB note [Mark 2:27] The sabbath was made for man: a reaffirmation of the divine intent of the sabbath to benefit Israel as contrasted with the restrictive Pharisaic tradition added to the law.
Old Testament tradition traced the Sabbath back to the creation of the world. Notice the reason for God’s command in Exodus 31:13 below.
Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed. On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation.
Remember the sabbath day—keep it holy.
NAB note [20:8] Keep it holy: i.e., to set it apart from the other days of the week, in part, as the following verse explains, by not doing work that is ordinarily done in the course of a week. The special importance of this command can be seen in the fact that, together with vv. 9–11, it represents the longest of the Decalogue’s precepts.
NAB note [20:11] Here, in a formulation which reflects Priestly theology, the veneration of the sabbath is grounded in God’s own hallowing of the sabbath in creation.
Compare 31:13; Dt 5:15.
Exodus 31:13 You must also tell the Israelites: Keep my sabbaths, for that is to be the sign between you and me throughout the generations, to show that it is I, the LORD, who make you holy.
Observe the sabbath day—keep it holy, as the LORD, your God, commanded you. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God. You shall not do any work, either you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or donkey or any work animal, or the resident alien within your gates, so that your male and female slave may rest as you do. Remember that you too were once slaves in the land of Egypt, and the LORD, your God, brought you out from there with a strong hand and outstretched arm. That is why the LORD, your God, has commanded you to observe the sabbath day.
God is the only one who can make us a holy people. He does not want us to forget this. He gives us a weekly reminder. It is that important.