Shabbat (the Sabbath) is a fascinating time to be in Jerusalem. The whole city comes to a virtual stop. The public transport is literally stopped and the roads are fairly empty. People greet each other with “shabbat shalom”; a wish for a peaceful Sabbath.

More importantly, many many Jews work hard at doing no work whatsoever. I experienced this in a stark and revealing way at our conference hotel. Some of the lifts are programmed as Shabbat lifts which automatically stop at floors so as to allow the person riding in them to avoid having to make an electronic device function by their actions (although they’re still using it so I sense a little confusion in the principle. Nevertheless….

It was the end of a long final day at GAFCON and a colleague and I walked from the dining hall to the lifts. We entered the first one available and reached out to press the button to take us to our rooms. Before my finger had even reached the waist height the young Jewish man who had been in as we arrived began to shout with extreme agitation. My Hebrew’s not good enough to understand what was said but the import was clear; we had to stop immediately and get out.

I was a few seconds away from, it seems, ruining his sabbath but we got the message pretty quickly. It was further communicated by his rolled eyes as we looked back  – he was still shouting even as we left the lift.

As I rode up in the next (Gentile-acceptable) car it slowly dawned on me how bizarre the whole event was, particularly as a Christian. What is clear is that this is a religion lacking in grace.

There was no grace for the man in the lift. He had a rule that needed to be obeyed and he was determined to work hard to obey it. His purity was something that needed a good deal of effort.

But also there was no grace for me. I was in danger of compromising his shabbat rest and it simply couldn’t be tolerated. No allowance was made for my goyim ignorance and there was no sense at all that I was invited and welcome to come and learn about the shalom that the Sabbath was meant to bring.

There was no grace, the grace that as a Christian I so rely upon, and therefore no real Shalom at all.

Matt. 11:28    “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Mark 2:27    Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

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