Thursday, October 5, 2017
Sabbath Rest. . .
Jesus often answers questions by what He does more than what He says. Jesus says that the Sabbath is the gift of God to man and that man was not created for the Sabbath. In other words, the Sabbath is not just a rule to be kept but a gracious gift to consider the gracious mercy of God.
Jesus cast an unclean spirit out of a man in Luke 4. It appears to have been a Sabbath. The result was fame throughout the land. A few verses later it was the Sabbath and Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. The outcome of that was that she served Jesus and the disciples supper. In Luke 6 our Lord healed a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees were so outraged that Jesus healed on the Sabbath that they were driven to madness about what to do with Jesus. In Luke 13 Jesus healed a woman on a Sabbath, a woman who immediately glorified God. The outrage was turned back upon those Pharisees who challenged Jesus and they were all ashamed following the rebuke and correction.
Now we have another healing on a Sabbath. Perhaps Jesus learned His lesson in dealing with the Pharisees. This time He asked the people who would accuse Him if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. They must have learned something also because they did not say anything. So Jesus gave a rationale for what He did and it was good enough to keep them silent. Or it might have been that they kept their peace because they already knew what they were going to do to shut Jesus up. Though the Lord knows all of this, it does not stop Him. With great compassion He healed the man with dropsy.
But Jesus compassion was not limited. Though the Pharisees could not see it and would not see it, Jesus loved them as well. They were not beyond the reach of His grace if they would receive Him. He was ready not only to heal the man with dropsy but also to heal the Pharisees that they might be sick unto death with sin no more. But Jesus is not about steam roll them. He bids them come as the sick to be healed, the lost to be found, the broken to be made whole, and the dying to be made alive all through the grace of forgiveness.
The Sabbath rest is not a Sunday afternoon nap. It is not leisure time to do with as you please. The Sabbath rest is healing of the sinner through forgiveness. It is the rescue of the lost that they may be brought home again. It is the gift of wholeness to a broken and wounded people. It is the life that is stronger than death which only Christ can give. Man was not made for this Sabbath but the Sabbath was made for man. And in that Sabbath the people gathered to hear of the Lord’s mighty acts of deliverance in their past, to meet Him as God who provides atonement for His people and lays their sin upon the Lamb, and to feed His own upon heaven’s bread and salvation’s cup.
Rest here is not the opposite of work but the true rest of a heart joined to the caring heart of Jesus, the body refreshed by the body of Christ, and the mind refreshed by His Word.
This is the rest of the Sabbath. Right here and right now. You are those whom He has bidden come. You are the ones for whom He has come in flesh and blood, as one of us under the Law, to keep it for us. You are those who find healing, life, and hope in the voice of His Word and the taste of His flesh and blood. You are those who meet the Lord where He has promised to be and who find the Lord of the Sabbath serving His people with the Sabbath of their perfect rest, prefigured here and now and promised eternally.
We have come today at His very bidding. In the synagogue of His Word read and preached we have met Jesus, the Savior, Redeemer, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and the great Physician of body and soul. In the passover of His flesh and blood we have met Jesus, Bread of heaven come down to earth to feed us till we want for nothing more, to fill us perfectly for the perfect life already begun in us in our baptism.
He has taken back His Sabbath from those who fenced it in as if it were something to be guarded and protected. He has given His Sabbath to each one of us, freely and without cost, the perfect gift for an imperfect people. It is not lawful but it is gracious and He is merciful and His slowness to anger amazes us constantly and His abounding love is both our mystery and our joy.
The Pharisees constantly sought God out of self-interest and they presumed God acted out of self-interest as well. It was about rules to be followed even when your heart was not in it and things that had to be protected. Jesus fulfills the Law for us and returns to us the gift of a Sabbath, of perfect peace that passes understanding in the God who loves sinners and forgives them.
In every home there are dishes too precious to eat off of. Maybe they belongs to grandma and were passed down through the generations. So they sit in cabinets as monuments. Jesus will not have it. God is not a God seeking admiration but a God who visits sinners with forgiveness and gives to the unworthy a place and a promise that is eternal.
The Pharisees did not get this. Make sure you do. Christ is your Sabbath rest and He comes to you now in this Word and in this Holy Supper. Amen.