The Lord of the Sabbath (Sermon) 4/28/2019

He has risen! (He has risen indeed). Welcome. This is the week after my favorite day of the year, Easter. How can I  follow that? As Jeff thought about our church calendar, he wanted us to continue pondering the effects of the finished work of Christ’s death and resurrection on our behalf. Specifically, he thought it would be good to talk about the rest that results from Jesus’s finished work. So let’s talk about rest. Jeff is talking about it at Converge while I am here at Sawyer. To do that, I want us to take a quiz. Does that sound like fun? That may not be what you were anticipating for church. Humor me, will you?
1. How many hours of sleep do experts say we adults need each night? ( 5-6, 7-9, 8-10 hours)
2. How many hours of sleep do we get? (5.8, 6.8, 7.8) (The average is 6.8 hours, so we are not that bad. Pretty close) That is better than I thought.
3. What was the average amount of sleep adults got in 1910? (7,8, 9 hours) Life was good.  4. What do pediatricians recommend for kids ages 3-5 sleep each night (8-10, 9-12, 10-13)?5. What do they recommend for kids ages 6-12 (8-10, 9-12, 10-13 hours)?
6. What do they recommend for kids ages 13-18 (8-10, 9-12, 10-13 hours)?
These next few questions you don't have to guess.
  • Did you know, in nearly 20 years, the amount of adults getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night has increased by over 30%?
  • Did you know that 75% of those suffering from depression have some sleep type of disorder?
  • Did you know that 20% of car accidents are affected by drowsiness?
7. My last question concerns cost. How much does sleep deprivation cost our society in a year? (1 Billion dollars, 111 Billion dollars, or 411 Billion dollars)

Nice. Maybe you think you need to rest right now. Don’t sleep on me. Please. God’s Word offers us help. Hear it out, and then go home, and take a nap for the glory of God.  

I invited Jim Lundin to read for us. He will be reading from Matthew 12:1-8. Please turn with me in your Bibles to Matthew 12:1-8. We will project the words on the overhead. We have a tradition of standing in honor of God’s Word. Would you stand with me now if you are able?

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
Thank you, Jim. Let’s pray.
Dear God I need you. We need you. You are great yet our weaknesses at times seem greater than anything else. We are tired, weary, burdened, and distracted. Help us understand your Word. Help us hear your Word. Help us focus and give you attention. We need what you offer. Help us to enter your rest. Help us to rest in you. Glorify yourself in us in this time in our hearing. AMEN. You may be seated.  


This morning I want to share with you that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath and Sabbath rest is found in the finished work of Christ on the cross. I am going to work through the text verse by verse. We will look at the Sabbath problem and Jesus’s solution.

This story we read appears in the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It points to the frequent conflict between the Pharisees and Jesus. Let me recap. Jesus’s disciples were hungry. As they walked through a field, they grabbed grain and ate it. They were not stealing. God told the people of Israel to leave the edges of the field unharvested so poor could gather and eat. These disciples gave up their day jobs to follow Jesus for three years. I think we can consider the disciples poor since they were in the school of Christ. The Pharisees watching were not happy. They were not happy not because of what the disciples did, but when they did it what they did. It was the Sabbath. Sabbath began on Friday at sunset and ended on Saturday at sunset. I think it is safe to assume it was during the daylight hours of Saturday that this confrontation took place. It had a feel of a sting operation. The Pharisees seemed to pick a fight. What was their deal?
When Katie and I were first married, we lived in a neighborhood that had many Hasidic Jews. They would not drive a car on the Sabbath because they believed it was work. They walked to synagogue. They also would leave lights on in their homes on Friday because it was considered work to turn them on or off. Those are just two examples I remember from 17 years ago. They wanted to follow the Old Testament to the “t.” That is devotion. That is radical. That is how they understood Sabbath rest. Is that what the Bible teaches? How are we to understand Sabbath rest?
Many of us have friends who believe that the Sabbath is strict and needs to be honored in strict ways. Seventh Day Adventists and Messianic Jews tend to fall into this camp. We here embrace the Bible as God’s authoritative perfect, and inerrant Word. That being the case. How do we understand Sabbath rest?
Years ago the movie Chariots of Fire came out. It was a hit. It told the story of the Olympic runner Eric Liddell. You may have seen it. In 1902 he qualified to run the 100-meter dash at the Olympics. However, he discovered that the race was on Sunday. So he dropped out because he believed it was wrong to do sports on Sunday. It violated the Sabbath. Should we do sports on Sunday, what about the Super Bowl, golf, Nascar, Baseball, and our kids’ events? How do we understand Sabbath?  
Eric Liddell was from Scotland. Was his view tied to his geography? If you have ever read the Little House on the Prairie, it talks about Sundays being a day of rest, reading the Bible, church, and family. That series, though fictional, carried the biographical normalcy that was congruent with Eric Liddell’s conviction about the Sabbath.
Both those examples, however, were over 100 years ago and indeed not all agreed with them in the time. Was their interpretation tied to their place in history? Views of Sabbath seem to change. Definitions and understandings change. Consider how Sabbath has changed in your day? Maybe you remember blue collar laws where shops closed on Sundays? Some of the vestiges of those rules remain today. In Michigan, you still can’t buy alcohol from midnight to noon, and it is illegal to buy, sell, or trade a car on Sunday. Did you know that? Why? Is that a rule from our politicians to help us honor the Sabbath? Is it a sin to buy a car on Sunday? How do we make sense of God’s command? Is it a matter for the Pharisee, physician, or politicians to decide?  
Let’s go back to the Bible to hear the rule for ourselves. Turn to the second book of the Bible, Exodus. Exodus chapter 20 verses 8 through 11. Here, is the fourth command of God’s top ten given to Moses.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and 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.

God’s people were to honor Him. One way we can do that has been to set apart a day for Him. Sabbath was important. It was a matter of obedience, holiness, and worship. Sabbath wasn’t a day to get house projects done, vacation, or get exercise. It wasn’t about getting more me time, but more worship time.   
Several chapters later in Exodus Moses taught explained the Sabbath more. He stated,
2 Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.
“Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.” God was saying if you don’t obey the Sabbath you die. That is how serious this Law is. Friends, Israel didn’t always obey, and God disciplined them. Sin leads to death. Sin has consequences. Jesus died because of sin.

So back to the Sabbatical questions at hand, was gathering grain on the Sabbath work? Was that really work to pick one kernel of grain? What about two? What about a handful? Was that work? There is no scripture prohibiting gathering kernels of grain as you walk through a field on Sabbath. How can the Pharisees be so hard on the disciples?

Right before the giving of the Ten Commandments, God gave the people another food source: manna. Manna was a seed like substance that fell on the ground. The people were not to gather it on Sundays because it would go bad, because God would provide for them, and because they were to rest and trust in God’s provision. The day before they were to gather enough for the two days. The reason I bring this up is that manna was like grain. The Pharisees may have made this connection or others like it to determine what was working and what wasn’t. They thought gathering any grain on the Sabbath was a violation of God’s Law. Were they right?
What is Sabbath rest? What is work? What do obedience, holiness, and worship look like? I would argue it maybe worshipful for some to adhere to strict prohibitions and limitations. However, I would also argue that it is not the application of God’s Law for everyone at all times to never gather grain on Sabbath as you walk through a field.
Why do I think that? I believe that because of what Jesus said next. He seemed to point to the spirit of the Law that the Pharisees missed. They seemed to find comfort in rules and had a lot of them. One source I read in preparation said they had 613 rules to follow to be exact.

Why be so ruely? It seems exhausting, doesn’t it? Well, if you are more a rule breaker than a rule keeper I can give you some insight into our mindset. I tend to follow the rules and try to learn from those who don’t. Honesty, sometimes keeping a black and white rule is easier than embracing an invasive principle. For example, it is easier to just give 10% of my salary to church then to think what would generosity look like, or how little can I live on to give away as much as I can. Principles can be harder to follow than rules. Another reason we might embrace rules is that we are good following them. If we are good at following rules and those around us aren’t we can feel better about ourselves too. Those may have been some of the unconscious motivations that worked their way through the Pharisee’s mind as they rebuked Jesus for his disciples.
Do you remember how Jesus responded? He came back with two scenarios. One concerned King David. The other concerned priests. Jesus said in verse 3,
3... “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?
Jesus asked a question, but he was making a statement.
The background of the first scenario was that David was getting out of town in a hurry because his boss was trying to kill him. David came to the priest and asked for bread dedicated to the Lord. This was not “Lawful” according to Leviticus 22:10. Leviticus 22 states,
10 “A lay person shall not eat of a holy thing”
This bread was holy and meant for the priests not the king, not the servants, nor any layperson. David’s men were hungry. David’s men violated the Law. Jesus’s men were also hungry. Yet, they did not violate any Law directly. Did Jesus agree with the Pharisees? If we stopped reading here, we might think so. However, that doesn’t fit the context. Jesus was pointing out the Pharisees didn’t have an issue with the greatest King and his men’s behavior when it was clearly wrong, yet they had an issue with Jesus and his men. David’s men did something clearly wrong. Jesus’s men didn’t. The Pharisees were inconsistent.  
He continued to offer another scenario to add weight to his argument. Look at verse 5. He said,  
5 ... have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless?
The Priests profane the Sabbath by working yet they are considered guiltless. Priests do their duties on the Sabbath just like a Pastor works on Sundays. Are they breaking the fourth commandment when they do so? No. Jesus knew that, and so did the Pharisees. The Pharisees demonstrated their double standard in picking on the disciples and not their religious counterparts. Jesus pointed out this hypocrisy again and again and again in his ministry.
One example is in Luke 13:10-17. Jesus healed a woman on the Sabbath. She was bound by a bleeding disorder for 18 years! The religious leaders watching were indignant because it was the Sabbath. In their mind healing was work and should not be done on the Sabbath. Jesus responded,
“You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?
Jesus was blunt. Women are more valuable than animals. These hypocritical men were dead wrong.  They missed the principle behind the law.
Jesus went to the heart of the matter. The rule followers were not in as good of shape as they thought. Their self-righteous conflicts with Jesus were not going to get them where they wanted to go.
Go back to Matthew 12 verse 6. Jesus moved from the King to the priest and then to the temple. He said,
6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.
What is this “something” Jesus referred to? The only “things” he talks about is “grain” or “Sabbath” or “bread.” What was he talking about? In one commentary I read the Greek neuter word for “something” could also be “someone.” I think this was a reference to himself, the Messiah. Jesus was greater than the temple. He was greater than King David, the priests, and the Temple!
6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.
That was and still is audacious. This temple took 70 years to build and before that was the permanent home of God on earth. It housed the Holy of Holies and could only be accessed by the consecrated priests at certain times and certain ways. Jesus was greater than that. He confronted their suppositions at their foundations. I don’t think they understood. He turned from talking about himself to them.
Jump down to verse 7. He quoted Hosea 6:6.    
7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.
The Pharisees condemned the guiltless disciples. They were not guilty of breaking the Sabbath. The Pharisees were the ones who were guilty. They were more concerned about making a sacrifice than offering mercy to the poor or feeding the hungry or following the Messiah in front of their face.
So how are we to understand Sabbath?

Jesus is not done. Look at verse 8.
8 For [This is a reason clause] the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
I think this refers back to Jesus was greater. He was and is the Lord of the Sabbath. He was and is greater than David, the Priests, the Temple, and even the Law of God. He is the Lord. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He made everything. He instituted the Sabbath. He is Lord of the Sabbath. He is supreme. Jesus was the Messiah, and that impacts our understanding of the Sabbath.  
After this encounter, Jesus went from the field to the synagogue with his disciples. The Pharisees couldn’t drop it. Jesus responded to their questioning by citing their care for animals in distress much like he did in Luke. Jesus was to do what Jesus was going to do. There was a man in front of these pious rule keepers, and Jesus healed his withered hand with no apology whatsoever.
Picture it. You have a regular attendee who has some banged up hand. He can’t use it. It was broke long ago. Everyone knew it. He has no name. His name was “the man with the withered hand.” Then he meets Jesus. Bam! He was healed. You see it with your eyes. You know he was not faking it. This was a real miracle.
How did the Pharisees respond? Were they ashamed of themselves for having questioned the Messiah, the greater one, the Lord of the Sabbath? Were they happy about this miracle before them? Were they excited for this man who would now be known as “the man who used to have a withered hand.” Were they happy for what this means for his work and family? Are they longing for their own personal miracle next? No. Verse 14 tells us how they reacted. Look at verse 14.
14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.  
They see healing and desire a lynching. Can you believe it? A week ago Friday we remembered they succeeded. However, their success was limited. Jesus rose from the grave. Death did not hold him. He was Lord of the Sabbath, the Lord of life, and you and me and reigns supreme forever.

So how again does Jesus’s Lordship impact our rest? How are we to understand Sabbath?
Listen to Jesus’s statements just before this confrontation in chapter 11. They help us understand his offer to you and me which we can only have because of what he did on the cross.
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath. The commandment was fulfilled in him, and we have rest in him. Go to Jesus friends for rest. Is your heart heavy? Are you exhausted? Are you beat down? Are you spent? Are you sick of the rat race? Do you carry loads of guilt and shame? Find rest for your souls in Jesus today. His yoke is easy and his burden is light.
How? How do we really enter this? What does it look like? It seems so abstract? Is this a mind over matter point? The Pharisees looked to rules for their rest. That was what they rested in. They rested in their own effort and superiority. Maybe they rested in getting things done, in their strength, in their popularity. What do you rest in, savings, your job, your kids, your grades? Do those things really offer rest you long for? I don’t think so. Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the great High Priest. He is greater than the Temple. He is the one who fulfilled the Law, and we find ultimate rest in Him and Him alone. Hebrews teaches,  
9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works...  (Hebrews 4:9-10)
How do we enter the rest? How do we find rest from our works as Hebrews says? It is believing Jesus’s work on the cross on our behalf. In Matthew 5:17 Jesus taught he didn’t come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. He takes the Law and goes to our rebellious hearts shows us where our hope is. We need a Savior to save us from the judgment, the death sentence we deserve. We really are bad law keepers. We don’t fulfill the Law. Jesus does, and he died that we might undo the effects of our breaking God’s Law. Sabbath has a spiritual meaning that Jesus purchased for us on the cross. Resurrection is a foretaste of the spiritual rest and joy to come. In Acts that Sabbath rest began to migrate to celebrating, teaching, eating, communion on Sunday. In Acts chapter 20 verse 7 we read,
7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.
The first day was Sunday, not Monday. Sunday was the day Christ rose from the dead. Sunday was what the Bible calls the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10). So how do we honor God on the Lord’s Day? Now that the law is fulfilled in Jesus are we to ignore this command? I don’t think these commands are abolished. However, their application is immensely personal with a corporate implication and worshipful principle.   
Colossians 2 teaches a flexible interpretation of what it means to honor the Sabbath. Paul says,  
16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
Christ was and is the Lord of the Sabbath. He owns it. The substance of what Sabbath is belongs to him. Sabbath was a shadow of the rest we find in God through the death and resurrection of His Son nearly 2000 years ago. If that is the case, how do we honor God on His day? I like how Jeff has taught us to enjoy the Lord’s Day over the years.
  • Consider going to bed earlier on Saturday to be ready for the Lord’s Day.
  • Avoid things that distract you from meeting God on the Lord’s Day.
  • Some people don’t shop on the Lord’s Day or do what they consider work to honor the Lord. You have to trust God to provide time and energy the rest of the week to give up such work.
  • Take a nap.
  • Enjoy one another. Share a meal. We all will eat one or probably two more meals. You don’t have to make more food. Just share what you have and have someone share what they have. Hospitality is a great motivator to clean. At the same time don’t make that a reason for not having people over. We all make messes. No one is perfect. Enjoy one another.  
  • Read a book that will encourage your soul.
  • Go for a hike or walk. We live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Enjoy it. People pay big bucks to vacation here. You live here. Enjoy God’s creation.  
  • Savor your food. You have taste buds for a reason. Worship. Worship God as you eat.
  • Enjoy the sunshine.  
  • Turn off your phone. Stop the insanity and noise. Enjoy being in the moment. Fast from the phone.  
Those are just a few examples. You are creative. I am sure you can come up with more. The Lord’s day is more than an hour. Take a moment right now and write down in your bulletin one thing you can do that would be restful? What can you do that acknowledges that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath? How can you express your faith in ceasing to work, and remember and rely on Him? Jesus says in a parallel account that the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath.

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it.

The reality is that we are in need of rest. Rest is good. It acknowledges that we are dependent. We can’t do it all. Our bodies break. Jesus offers rest. He is our Sabbath rest now and for eternity by grace alone through faith alone. Rest in him.  

Do you want that? We find peace and comfort in relation to God. How? The death and resurrection of Jesus made that possible. That is part of what Jesus finished on the cross. Go to him. Find your rest in the finished work of Christ on the cross. He came, lived, died, and rose. Cling to him.

Let’s go to God in prayer.

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