Text: Mark 2:23-28
27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
Well, I’d say that summer has arrived. Not that we had a spring mind you but last weekend was beautiful and hot! On my day off which was Friday I was planning to take a long motorcycle ride and enjoying the weather. But, as happens … I noticed some things that needed to be done in the yard so I dug out the area around my bird feeder and cleaned out the landscape rocks, replaced the area with some new sod and did a few other landscape projects in my yard. By the time the day came to a close I was tired and needed rest.
I’m sure you’ve felt those times as well? Tired, burdened and wearied … and you just need to rest.
In our gospel reading for today Jesus and his disciples are walking on the Sabbath through the grain fields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. Now God’s work of creation was completed in six days and on the seventh day God rested from all his work.
2 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Gen 2:1-3
God made the Sabbath – holy - or set apart as a day of rest.
The religious leaders made rules to expand and explain what God intended. The Ten Commandments became more than 613 Jewish rabbinical laws and rules to explain and define them.
Take the Sabbath for instance:
Instead of a day of rest it became a day of Mitvah and Gezeirah – laws and rules. Each with varying degrees of punishment.
From Religion facts about Rabbinic law:
“A gezeirah is a rule instituted by the rabbis to prevent inadvertent violation of a mitzvah. For instance, it is a mitvah to refrain from work on the Sabbath, but a gezeirah to avoid even the handling of any work instruments on the Sabbath.”
So it’s bad and against religious law to clean the ground around the bird feeder and move the rocks on the Sabbath, but to even take up the shovel which might lead to work breaks the law as well.
General Norman Schwarzkopf and General Colon Powell besides being generals both worked as Shabbes goys. A Shabbes goy was a non Jew who was hired to do work on the Sabbath that was not permitted for the Jew himself to do. So even though the Rabbinic laws were being broken, and even though the intent of the Jewish homeowner was to break the law, because it was a Gentile worker that did the work and broke the law the Jewish homeowner might believe – no harm, no flow – I’m good!
The intent of the law was broken and the spirit of the law was broken. So I guess that there is no rest for the weary on the Sabbath.
24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they [your disciples Jesus] doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” Even though it is not you Jesus that’s plucking the grain – they are your followers – what are you going to do about it!
What do you do with those that break the law?
You charge them! You find them guilty! You sentence them! And you punish them!
3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Gen 2:3
As one commentator put it: “Jesus lays his finger on the real trouble with these Pharisees: too much reading of rabbinical law and not enough of divine law.”
The interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel R.C.H. Lenski Pg 126
Or: too much trying to become righteous and not enough of being made righteous.
Too much Work and not enough rest. Or, as Lutherans we might say a confusion of Law and Gospel.
Keeping the law is good.
1. You shall have no other gods
2. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God
3. You shall remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy
The first table of the Law – the first three commandments - pertains to our relationship to God.
Have no other gods, do not misuse god’s name and keep his day holy – or set apart.
Luther in his explanation to the Small Catechism and keeping the Sabbath day holy tells us that 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.
To hold it sacred - is to keep it holy or set apart. To gather together as the community of faith, to hear the word of the Lord, to learn all that god would have us know and to rest … in the mercy and work of God.
As a child growing up during in a Roman Catholic household during Lent eating no meat on Friday was a given. It was a Law it was a rule in my house. Friday … no meat! The purpose of this was to give up meat and to fast and focus on Christ and his walk to the cross to sacrifice his life for me. But, all it did was to get me to focus on meat! I wanted it and would do whatever I could to figure out what I needed to do to get it - without my mom knowing. Maybe there was a good intent to meatless Friday’s but it brought a wrong outcome for me.
25 And [Jesus] said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?”
I don’t believe that it was Jesus’ intent here to point out a loophole. He is not saying “See, what David did! My disciples are not doing nearly as bad as they did.” If his intent was to make a point, Jesus, could have simply quoted Deuteronomy 23:25 which reads:
25 If you go into your neighbor's standing grain, you may pluck the ears with your hand, but you shall not put a sickle to your neighbor's standing grain.
Jesus would have surly known this miscellaneous law from Deuteronomy 23 as I’m sure the Pharisees did as well. But the greater point that Jesus I contend is making - is with his conclusion:
7 ...“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
The day of rest is for us (you and me) - not we for the day. Our feeble attempt to keep the Law of God shows that we trust ourselves and our work as opposed to Christ and his finished work on our behalf.
We keep the Law when we rest in Christ and his word. As we hear God’s word by the power of the Holy Spirit we are either turned in repentance or comforted by God’s forgiveness.
In fact thinking that we are keeping the Law by our effort is a pretty sure sign that we have another god and another gospel made in our own image.
Not that the Law is bad mind you, but apart from Christ it is another idol made in our own self-serving image. The Pharisees did not love God, with all their heart, mind, soul and strength and they did not love their neighbor as their self. They were in fact loving themselves and justifying their own works of Law keeping while the very Lord of life who rested and instituted the day of rest for you and me walked with his disciples through the grain field.
The Sabbath rest is in Christ. Our Sabbath rest is Christ!
It is no longer a specific day or time though Sunday – the first day of the week – is marked as the day Christians gather together to hear the word of the Lord. The Lord of the Sabbath gives you rest in him. The day, the time, and the Law are all fulfilled in Jesus and we rest in him whether we work on the weekends and worship during the week - or come together:
On the first day of the week.
16 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.
2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.
And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here!” Mark 16:1-1-2;4b-6
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit