Pentecost 2B - Mark 2:23-28

Mark 2:23–28 (NIV)

23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as His disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to Him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

27 Then 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.”

Tomorrow is a holiday, “Queens Birthday” it’s celebrated by us with a day off work – a holiday. Today is a holiday too. The word "holiday" is the English translation of the Hebrew "Sabbath". The word "Sabbath" means 'to rest', to knock off work and relax.

The usual way to do this is to stop work – to have a break, a holiday. "Holiday" comes from putting the two words 'holy' and 'day' together.

Holy days are good! God commanded that we have holy days – especially the Sabbath which was originally at the end of the working week – on Saturday. Time to rest and unwind - to prepare oneself for another part of life.

The Lord God finished His work on the seventh day and set it aside as a rest day for all of creation as we read in Exodus 20:8-11. Israel’s slavery in Egypt and their Exodus provided a second reason for the holy day. As slaves the Hebrew people had no rest.

God set them free from the continuous slavery so that they could rest again. On the Sabbath they were to “honour and appreciate the deliverance of God by enjoying the Sabbath rest day.

The Biblical scholar, Michael Eschelbach, tells us that “one of the many problems of fallen human nature is its determination to reverse and contradict everything God does” and says. “The Jewish religious leaders, over time, had added and expanded the Ten Commandments to 616 laws. They created many new laws that forbade all kinds of different activities on the Sabbath. By making more laws with more detail, they could attempt to justify themselves by claiming to keep the new rules and at the same time appear better than others by condemning them for failing to keep the rules.”

This is the context into which Jesus says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

The Sabbath is to benefit everyone. Everyone needs rest:

  • Students from their studies.
  • Teachers from their students.
  • Shepherds from their flocks.
  • Labourers from their toil.

We all need to take a break after hard work - whether it be mental and/or physical work.

God gave us a holy day each week. In Jesus' days on earth in the early part of the first century the Sabbath laws were to be obeyed by all Jews and visitors to Israel.

The laws prohibited all work. Some people say we still shouldn't do any work on the Sabbath.

Jesus got into trouble with the Pharisees (the keepers of the law) for allowing His disciples to pick some ears of corn as they walked through a field on the Sabbath.

The Pharisees built their own laws about God's law and in doing so the original purpose of the Sabbath lost its significance.

God had given the Sabbath Day for the benefit of all who would receive His good gifts of rest and relaxation.

The Sabbath was a day to remember what God had done for His people in the past and to prepare them for the future - He had brought His people from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised land and He had work for them (and us) to do in being witnesses to His glory to all the nations and peoples of the world.

Jesus said the Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath. Jesus, Himself, even worked on the Sabbath. He worked our salvation. He spent the Sabbath in the tomb to rise to new life the next day so that we might live with Him for ever.

Jesus rose for us on the third day - a Sunday, the first day of the week – the beginning of something new. That's why we now celebrate the holy day on Sundays.

God gave us the Sabbath to rest. if we're going to take God's advice we're going to take time out from our work: to rest and to hear His Word.

God doesn't say to us that we can't do anything on the Sabbath. What He does say is that we should take time out from our regular work.

There are those whose jobs must be done on Sundays (the Sabbath). If one has to work on the Sunday then one should take some other time off from work to relax and worship God.

For us Christians everyday should be a holy-day. After all, God created all the days of the week. But we take one day a week in obedience to God's command: for our bodies need rest and our souls need spiritual food provided by God in the Divine Service of worship.

The Sabbath is God's way of making sure we have opportunity to hear His Word preached. God's Word is the holiest of holy things. It's holy on its own and God wants to share it with us.

It's a bit like having a good bottle of wine and a good meal. They need to be shared to be enjoyed by more than one person. God lays the table for us and invites us to join Him as the host and as the food in worship.

God wants to feed us and equip us for those times we don't spend solely with Him. A good meal isn’t only to be looked at. It's to be enjoyed, consumed and to become a part of us. As Dr Luther wrote:

“... it's not just a matter of hearing God's Word, but also of learning it and keeping it in mind. Don't think that it's up to you, and that it isn't so important. It's God's commandment, and He will expect you to account for the way you have heard, learnt, and respected His Word.”(Luther's Large Catechism, Tr. F. Hebert, LPH, 1983, page 43)

In other words, it’s no good to you to consume the banquet, then go outside the church and throw it up. Satan - the devil - will encourage you to neglect God's Word - to use the Sabbath for anything but the hearing of God's Word.

Satan causes about 25% of our congregation’s membership to be infrequent in worship attendance. There may be many reasons and excuses why we don't honour God's Word and Time as we should. Some reasons are legitimate and others not so…

God is the judge of those reason and/or excuses. So if you can justify your absence from the Divine Service then it’s okay not to be here. But remember, you have to justify it to God who knows your heart and motivation for not participating in and with the body of Christ.

If we neglect the hearing of God's Word and not receive joyfully what He has to give us we need to pray for forgiveness and seek to overcome the temptations of Satan with the power of the Holy Spirit given to us in ou Baptism.

We need Gods strength to fight the temptations of Satan. This strength comes in God's Word and Sacraments.

We need to confess our neglect to God. We need to receive His forgiveness through Jesus Christ and commit ourselves to worship regularly as we join together at God's banquet here in St Matthew or amongst our brothers and sisters in Christ in some other place if we can’t make it to our home congregation.

It is important that we encourage each other to share together on these holy days as God says in His Word, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” And Luther explains what this means, “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.”

Enjoy the Sabbath this holy day. Be part of the Holy Day. God made it for you and provides in it the rest you need for your body and the food you need for your soul so that you can be equipped to let love come to life in and through you in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Amen.