Jesus’ Sabbath Ministry
AMEN POSITION STATEMENT
AMEN’s philosophy on Sabbath rest and the importance of worship. This statement outlines AMEN’s beliefs on how we, as health professionals, can reflect Christ through loving service and still prioritize the restorative power of Sabbath worship and rest.
AMEN’s Philosophy of Sabbath Clinics
The Adventist Medical Evangelism Network (AMEN) exists to model Christ’s selfless ministry. Our desire is to reflect Christ’s love in each patient interaction and in every community health outreach program. Jesus’ Sabbath keeping practices are our example for Sabbath ministry. His practices gave the Sabbath rich spiritual meaning. For the Savior, the Sabbath was a day to emphasize wholeness to a broken world. It was a refuge – an oasis – a palace in time for all humanity to rest in His love, discover strength in His Word, experience healing in His presence, and participate in His mission.
The gospels reveal Christ worshipping in the synagogue, walking with His disciples in nature, healing the sick, eating with his friends, and visiting with His followers on the Sabbath. One of the most inspiring pictures of Jesus on the Sabbath is in Luke 4:16:
“So He came to Nazareth where He had been brought up and as His custom was, He went in the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read.”
Jesus’ custom, His regular practice, was to participate in Sabbath worship. On this Sabbath, Jesus read from Isaiah 61:1-2 and announced His Messianic mission.
On Sabbath, the living Christ speaks forgiveness to our hearts, anoints us with His Spirit, heals our brokenness, and sets us at liberty from the bondage of sin so we can proclaim the glory of His name. For Jesus, Sabbath worship was much more than a perfunctory act or legalistic requirement. It was the joy of entering the Shekinah glory of the Father’s presence to praise, worship, and to receive strength for the journey ahead. The Sabbath was a day of spiritual renewal and the infilling of the Spirit’s power.
Jesus’ Sabbath Healing Ministry
Jesus performed more of His healing miracles on Sabbath than on any other day. There are at least three reasons for this:
First, Jesus wanted to reveal the true meaning of the Sabbath, which is a day of wholeness. It is a day that God longs to make us whole physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Second, Sabbath is a day of service. God has called us from the claustrophobic confines of our own self-inflated importance to the largeness of service. Jesus lived to bless, and His Sabbath miracles demonstrated that desire.
Third, Sabbath is a memorial of creation and God is the God of re-creation. On Sabbath, Jesus revealed the Father’s love and power in creating health where there was once sickness.
There are seven miracles recorded in the gospels that Jesus performed on Sabbath. Each of these miracles is connected in some way with Sabbath worship. Some take place in the synagogue during worship; others take place when Jesus is on His way to worship and some occur immediately after worship. There are three important facts that surface here.
First, Jesus never planned to avoid worship to spend the entire day healing people.
Second, Christ’s healings on Sabbath were performed when He was confronted with individuals that were apparently hopeless, suffering in excruciating pain, or demonically possessed.
Third, these healings were always performed on individuals, not multiple people. We do not find Jesus performing mass healings on the Sabbath. In the gospel of Mark, Jesus waited until after the Sabbath to heal the masses. (Mark 1:43-45)
Where suffering exists, where lives are threatened, and where treatment is needed immediately, we are ready to serve, and to minister, to be Christ’s ambassadors of healing.
Looking to Jesus as our example, AMEN has taken the following position regarding Sabbath clinics.
- With their intense schedules, healthcare professionals need the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing that the Sabbath brings.
As healthcare professionals we need a day of worship to rest and reflect. The intensity of Sabbath clinics does not lend itself to this needed spiritual renewal. We are guided by Ellen White’s wise counsel, “Often physicians are called upon on the Sabbath to minister to the sick, and it is impossible for them to take time for rest and devotion… The Saviour has shown us by His example that it is right to relieve suffering on this day; but physicians and nurses should do no unnecessary work. Ordinary treatment, and operations that can wait, should be deferred till the next day. Let the patients know that physicians must have one day for rest.” – Medical Ministry p. 214
The messenger of the Lord then points out that even in doing good on the Sabbath it is possible to lose the special blessing that Christ has for us.
“Those who, from whatever cause, are obliged to work on the Sabbath, are always in peril; they feel the loss, and from doing works of necessity they fall into the habit of doing things on the Sabbath that are not necessary. The sense of its sacredness is lost, and the holy commandment is of no effect.” – Medical Ministry p. 215
We believe that the good is not the enemy of the best and there are options other than Sabbath for our clinics.
- Christ’s example is clear.
There are emergency situations that arise on Sabbath that are completely in harmony with Sabbath keeping. However, in most circumstances, AMEN does not see Sabbath clinics as emergencies that cannot be conducted on other days of the week.
Where suffering exists, where lives are threatened, and where treatment is needed immediately, we are ready to serve, to minister and to be Christ’s ambassadors of healing. A good example of this principle is Jesus healing a man with dropsy in the privacy of His home. Dropsy is a serious disease where the body severely swelled due to excess fluids. Today we would term this condition “edema”, often due to congestive heart failure. This man was extremely ill and needed lifesaving treatment. Commenting on those coming to Jesus in Capernaum, Ellen White observed,
“They were in every condition of helplessness and approaching death. Some were burning with fevers, others were paralyzed, stricken with dropsy, blind, deaf, and lame.” – The Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 2 p. 181
Jesus illustrated God’s love in action by healing the man. The lesson is clear. Faced with indescribable human suffering, Jesus never turns away from human need. He unselfishly ministers to relieve suffering when He is confronted with it, even on the Sabbath. But His purpose is always larger than individual physical healing. The Savior longs to make people whole physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
- Our experience with scores of clinics has taught us that AMEN clinics can be just as successful when conducted on days other than Sabbath.
We have found that committed Seventh-day Adventist healthcare professionals will make the necessary sacrifices and adjustments to their schedules to volunteer for weekday clinics. In addition, the community members will come for dental and medical services during the week.
- We believe that volunteers, AMEN staff, and local church members worshipping together on Sabbath can be a wonderful time of spiritual renewal and inspiration.
AMEN exists to inspire healthcare professionals to team with pastors and members, uniting the church to restore Christ’s ministry of healing to the world. The goal of AMEN Free Clinics is to model Christ’s example and inspire local congregations hosting AMEN clinics to experience the joy of loving service as they come together to share His love with the community. Sabbath offers a great opportunity to connect by worshiping together and to highlight the benefits of Sabbath rest and restoration to the community. AMEN encourages churches to offer Sabbath afternoon programs for those attending the clinics such as educational health seminars or a nature walk.
- AMEN is committed to enhancing the spiritual experience of each of our members, their families, and our clinic staff.
We believe the Sabbath is best celebrated as a family unit and do not desire to pull busy healthcare professionals away from worship, fellowship and recreation with their families on Sabbath by conducting Sabbath clinics that require long hours of intense work.
There are times when Seventh-day Adventist healthcare professionals are called to work on Sabbath. This Sabbath ministry of unselfish love and service is part of God’s plan in revealing His grace to humanity. Nevertheless, Christ placed priority on worship and warns us against incessant labor and the neglect of restoring rest. Therefore, after careful consideration, wide counsel, and a great deal of prayer, we have chosen to conduct AMEN clinics on days other than the Sabbath.
The One who made us longs for fellowship with every healthcare worker. He longs to rebuild our own health and rejuvenate our spiritual life each Sabbath through meaningful worship, restorative rest, and life-giving service. May His example be ours.
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