The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the
Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Mark 2:23 “And it happened that He was passing through the grainfields
on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while
picking the heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees were saying to Him, ‘Look,
why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’ 25 And He said to
them, ‘Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he
and his companions became hungry; 26 how he entered the house of God
in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread,
which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it
to those who were with him?’ 27 Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath was
made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is
Lord even of the Sabbath.’ He entered again into a synagogue; and a man
was there whose hand was withered. 2 They were watching Him to see if
He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. 3 He
said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Get up and come forward!’ 4
And He said to them, ‘Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the
Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?’ But they kept silent. 5 After looking
around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to
the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And he stretched it out, and his hand
was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring
with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.”
It’s the Third Commandment. “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it
holy.” This was the Commandment that the Pharisees accused Jesus and His
disciples of breaking in the Gospel lesson this morning.
The Pharisees believed, at least for the purposes of indicting Jesus of a
crime again the Torah that the act of picking heads of grain from wheat in the
fields and eating them as they walked was a violation of “Remember the
Sabbath Day to keep it holy.” By their reasoning, picking the heads of grain was
an act of harvesting, thus work, thus not resting on the Sabbath.
Once accused Jesus provides an immediate counter argument. “Have you
never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions
became hungry; how he entered the house of God . . . . and ate the consecrated
bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave
it to those who were with him?” The point of the example? Jesus was teaching
that the Sabbath was not instituted to enslave us. Rather the Sabbath was
instituted to serve the Israelites. It was a gift, not a task master intended for our
well being.
It is easy though to see why people who are hard wired for worksrighteousness
would see the Sabbath as a master and people as slaves to it. There
are some pretty strong Bible verses in the Old Testament regarding its importance
and observance.
One of the first mentions of the Sabbath rest is in Exodus 20:11 “For in six
days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them,
and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and
made it holy.” The seventh day of the week is holy because of what God had
done on that day.
But the Lord God did not stop there, not did the Bible verses. Exodus 36:1-2
the Lord God mandated the its observance. “Then Moses assembled all the
congregation of the sons of Israel, and said to them, ‘These are the things that
the Lord has commanded you to do: For six days work may be done, but on the
seventh day you shall have a holy day, a Sabbath of complete rest to the Lord;
whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.’”
Two things are immediately obvious. The Lord God is deadly serious about
the observance of the Sabbath for the Old Testament Jews. Second the Third
Commandment is all about taking day off from the normal business of the other
six days of the week and using the seventh day as “complete rest to the Lord.” And
there it is. Right there in the ordinary use of the language. The heart and soul of
the Sabbath. Five words. “Complete rest to the Lord.” And that’s where almost
everyone goes wrong here. What does the Bible mean when it says the Sabbath
day is holy and is to be a “complete rest to the Lord?”
Listen to how the Large Catechism explains the purpose and use of the
Third Commandment, with its complete rest to the Lord.
[81] Now, in the Old Testament, God separated the seventh day, and
appointed it for rest, and commanded that it should be regarded as holy
above all others. As regards this external observance, this commandment was
given to the Jews alone, that they should abstain from toilsome work, and
rest, so that both man and beast might recuperate, and not be weakened by
unremitting labor. Although they afterwards restricted this too closely, and
grossly abused it, so that they traduced [bad mouth] and could not endure in
Christ those works which they themselves were accustomed to do on that day,
as we read in the Gospel…
[82] This commandment, therefore, according to its in general sense,
does not concern us Christians; for it is altogether an external matter, like
other ordinances of the Old Testament, which were attached to particular
customs, persons, times, and places, and now have been made free through
[83] But to grasp a Christian meaning for the simple as to what God
requires in this commandment, note that we keep holy days not for the sake of
intelligent and learned Christians (for they have no need of it [holy days]), but
first of all for bodily causes and necessities, which nature teaches and
requires; for the common people, man-servants and maid-servants, who have
been attending to their work and trade the whole week, that for a day they
may retire in order to rest and be refreshed.
84] Secondly, and most especially, that on such day of rest (since we can
get no other opportunity) freedom and time be taken to attend divine service,
so that we come together to hear and treat of God’s Word, and then to praise
God, to sing and pray.
[86] Therefore this is the simple meaning of the commandment: since
holidays are observed anyhow, such observance should be devoted to hearing
God’s Word, so that the special function of this day should be the ministry of
the Word for the young and the mass of poor people; yet that the resting be
not so strictly interpreted as to forbid any other incidental work that cannot
be avoided.
Thus, the explanation of the Third Commandment in the Small Catechism.
“We should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and His
Word, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it.”
So here’s the difference. A very many people invoke the Third
Commandment, observing a day or rest as a means or an excuse to sleep in, to
recreate, to take it easy and think that somehow they are keeping the law and
pleasing God. Oh Sunday is family time cause God wants me to take care of my
family, thus I am proving my goodness to both God and man. Yet, the last thing on
their mind is the “complete rest to the Lord?” Going to church, time listening to
and learning of Christ, and receiving the forgiveness of sins through His appointed
means isn’t anywhere to be found.
For most people the Sabbath/Sunday is everything but a complete rest to the
Lord. The Lord is nowhere to be found in their Sunday activities. The complete
rest to the Lord is exactly what Luther wrote of it. Such observance should be
devoted to hearing God’s Word, so that the special function of this day should
be the ministry of the Word for the young and the mass of poor people.
No where is a Bible verse you don’t hear quoted by anyone when they talk
about Sunday or the Sabbath rest. (It is also a verse that shows Luther was right)
Leviticus 16:30-32. “For it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you
to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It is to be a
Sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a
permanent statute.”
Now I admit to the old sinful nature Sunday morning church doesn’t look a
lot like rest. Imagine someone telling you to get your rest in this way. “I want to
you to get up out of bed early on Sunday morning. I want you to go to church.
While you are there, stand up, kneel, and sit down as the liturgy flows. Sit up
straight in that a hard-backed pew, and concentrate on the words of the hymns, the
scripture readings, the prayers, and the sermon. Listen, learn, and receive. That’s
how I want you to get your complete rest to the Lord.”
Doesn’t sound like R&R to most people? Yet, the Lord commands us to
remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. Our Lord sees things very differently
than does our sinful nature. One day in seven we are to devote ourselves to
hearing the Word of God and avail ourselves of the gifts He gives to us in the
Word and Sacrament ministry.
For 400 years the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. They worked seven days a
week and did not even know the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
So once God delivered His chosen people out of Egypt He commanded His
children to take the seventh day, the Sabbath Day to look back and remember.
They were to learn of His mighty deeds and His hidden faithfulness. They were to
remember what God had done, but it was more than looking back. It also called
upon them to see what God was still doing for them in the Word and ministry of
the Old Testament church.
That meant the Passover meal. That meant the church services in the
tabernacle and temple. That meant sacrifices for sin, and thanksgiving, and the
like. Observing the Sabbath day meant that the people were to keep it, guard it,
and not let it be lost. Use it of lose it. That’s a common when learning a second
language. If you don’t use what is learned, you will soon forget it.
So also is the language of the faith. The Sabbath Day is a day to use the
language of God, to tell the stories of God, and to have God come to us in words
and deeds to do what He came to do.
As the sixth day of the week was nearing its end, Jesus said, It is finished
and breathed His last. It was no accidence or coincidence that the work of
atonement, Jesus’s sacrificial death for the sins of the world, happened on the sixth
day and just before the setting of the sun and the start of the Sabbath and the
Passover meal. Just as “the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and
all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day [and] LORD blessed the
Sabbath day and made it holy” on the sixth day of Holy Week, the Son of God
complete His work to the Lord and on Easter morning, the third day, He rose anew
to begin the new creation and the “eighth day.”
The pharisees had it backwards. They thought that the Sabbath was another
work of man, just like all the other days of the week. The six other days were
about man’s work, about our deeds. Jesus made it clear to the Pharisees in the
Gospel lesson. “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”
The Sabbath rest is found in the church where the Word and Sacrament
ministry is rightly carried out. “Come to me, all you who are weary and
burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For
my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
This is what it means to have a Sabbath that is complete rest to the Lord.
This is why right preaching, right teaching, and right worship is so important.
Remember the Sabbath Day, that is guard it, keep it, and practice the Sabbath rest
because only in these things of the Sabbath is your peace and rest,.
We thankfully remember the Sabbath today, because here our Lord
remembers and rests us: In His gift of forgiveness given today, He does indeed
give us His promised rest.
May the Peace that surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in
Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Let Me Do The Work

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