Sermon –Pentecost 2 – June 3, 2018
Mark 2:23-28 ‘Lord of the Sabbath’
CT: When Jesus says He is Lord of the Sabbath He announces His divinity over the original Sabbath at creation, and His present work of restoring it.
Intro: You’ve probably heard of those strange, obscure laws that leave you wondering why they were ever written. For instance, it’s illegal to kill a Sasquatch in BC, or to set fire to the leg of a wooden-legged man in Alberta. Don’t get caught climbing a tree in Oshawa, and apparently you can still get arrested in Toronto for dragging a dead horse down Young Street on a Sunday. Now that adds a new dimension to the old Lord’s Day act! Remember that law, where most things shut down on Sundays? Young people today wouldn’t know what that means; everything is open 24/7. And so too, the Sabbath Day laws in Jesus’ day seem mighty strange to us.
Sabbath Law: The disciples plucking some heads of grain to eat as they walked by a field hardly seems like a capital offence. And it wasn’t except it was done on the Sabbath. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work.” (Exodus 20:8-10) Defining ‘work’ led to many interpretations of the Sabbath laws to close all the loopholes.
But we need to remember that the Sabbath laws were an important part of being an Israelite; it separated their rhythm of weekly life from the nations around them. In the same way, your attendance here today separates you from the weekly habits of most of your neighbours. But is your attendance today a matter of keeping a law? Is it a burden? If Sunday is our Sabbath, why do we do it? Who does it benefit?
God’s Sabbath: First of all the Sabbath belongs to God; it “is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.” And Secondly, Sabbath literally means ‘rest’! He set it aside and made it holy, not because He was tired from His work, but because the work of creation was finished; and it was perfect! After mankind’s fall into sin, where the whole world was robbed of God’s rest, the Sabbath day doesn’t surface again until Exodus 16 where God fed His people in the wilderness with bread from heaven. Manna came with special instructions to collect more than your daily need on the 6th day to cover the Sabbath. On all other days extra bread would be rancid by the morning. It was to be a day of rest; a vivid reminder of God’s provision.
Now in John 6, Jesus said He is the Bread from heaven, and directly links who He is to the wilderness manna: “It was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” Connect the dots to Exodus, the giving of manna, and the unique Sabbath provisions and you have an outstanding announcement; Jesus is the author and the fulfillment of the Sabbath.
Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath: When Jesus said that He is the Lord of the Sabbath, He’s saying that He instituted the first Sabbath. I’m sure that wasn’t lost on the Pharisees. Paul’s letter to the Colossians says that “by Him all things were created in heaven and earth, visible and invisible…for in Him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.” (Colossians 1:16-20) Jesus not only claims His divinity but asserts that the purpose of the Sabbath is met in the Christ; that our ultimate rest would be given in a renewed and eternal relationship with our heavenly Father. Jesus has brought into existence the new creation; He fulfilled the whole Law liberating all who believe in Him from the obligation to observe the Sabbath that every day in the life of a Christian would equally belong to God. In Christ, every day is holy for you are at peace with God.
Sabbath for Man: You see Jesus rightly puts the Sabbath where it belongs. You were not made for the Sabbath; the Sabbath was made for you. It was given because of your need for rest in Him; you’re need for a relationship with God. (Augustine said something about a God sized hole in our hearts that our hearts are restless till we find our rest in Thee!) Rest is more than a cessation from physical labour. We need to be fed and cared for that during your week your sin, the world, and the devil would not overwhelm you; that God’s tie with you would not be obscured or broken.
Jesus reapplied the 3rd commandment to reveal why the Sabbath was given. The Law is not simply a restriction on your behaviour; it’s about who and what they protect. God’s Law places boundaries for you in pleasant places that you may enjoy the inherited blessings of His mercy. The 4th stanza of Luther’s hymn, ‘These Are the Holy Ten Commandments,” says: “You shall observe the worship day that peace may fill your home, and pray, and put aside the work you do so that God may work in you. Have mercy Lord!”
Your Sabbath: Your Sabbath—your rest is in Christ; in His keeping of the Law; in His perfect love for you. No longer is there any set day or feast days; these were all shadows of what was to come. They pointed to the Christ, and He has come. He claimed you to be His own in the waters of Your Baptism bestowing on you the riches of His cross. Yes, He bled and died for you that your sins would be forgiven! What’s more He rose again and ascended into heaven and even now intercedes for you. And so from the very first 8th day, the day of Jesus’ resurrection, the day of the new creation, Sunday, Christians have gathered to worship. It’s a day set aside out of joy for Jesus’ resurrection; His new work in you. And in some ways it follows the pattern of worship God gave to His people of old, but not because of a law—not out of compulsion, but freely and gladly anticipating what God promises to give in His service to us. As Luther put it, “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”
So, no, we’re off the hook from attending worship. We gather weekly for worship because of our need to hear God’s Word and receive His sacrament. We gather weekly out of our need to be reassured of God’s love for us; that we are forgiven for Jesus’ sake. That’s why every Sunday is important; it’s a day set aside for you that you might live in and out of the rest that comes from Christ’s work for you; Christ’s work in you.