6 Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered.
7 So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him.
8 But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, “Arise and stand here.” And he arose and stood.
9 Then Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?”
10 And when He had looked around at them all, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.
11 But they were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus. (Luk 6:6-11)
I keep hearing very disturbing things from churches. There are so many who are exposing themselves right now for who they really are. Some things never change. I have heard certain Christians argue like this: “God has commanded us to gather together on the Lord’s day. We must obey God rather than man. God will protect us from the virus if we honor him with our obedience. And if not, it is better to obey and lose our lives than to disobey.”
The Pharisees of Jesus day reasoned the same way. And Jesus looked at them with anger.
The Pharisees, in the passage above, were far more concerned about the ceremony of the Sabbath than they were about the meaning of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was given to Israel that they might understand that it is God who heals and saves and gives life. It is God who will overcome the curse, not us.
13 “Speak also to the children of Israel, saying:`Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. (Exo 31:13)
The Sabbath was given so that God’s people might learn to rest and wait for the Lord of the Sabbath to do his work, which only he can do.
For that reason, it was necessary that Jesus heal on the Sabbath, since that is what the Sabbath was for – to point to the one who heals, apart from any works of ours.
But the Jews turned the Sabbath rest into a work to be performed in order to earn God’s favor! The exact opposite of what it meant. In fact, the Sabbath was given to teach us that only God sanctifies and we have nothing to do with it. We rest. God sanctifies. Get it?
Fast forward to the Lord’s day. We gather on the first day of the week, the Day of Resurrection.
In the words of one of my favorite hymns, “Today he rose and left the dead, and Satan’s empire fell” (Isaac Watts).
The Lord’s Day is the day of resurrection, of life! Death is conquered, the enemy is cast out!
Shall we then take that which was meant to celebrate life and use it as a means to spread death? God forbid!
“Is it lawful to save life, or to destroy?”
Close your churches, people. Quit thinking that the ceremony must be kept, even though it might mean the deaths of thousands. Shall we tempt God?
And I, being a pastor, do truly believe in the value of the Word and Sacrament, and the gathering of ourselves together. The word and Sacrament are the ordinary means of grace, which is another post. In ordinary times, we should do it as long as it is possible for us to do so.
But our wooden, outer keeping of the Lord’s Day matters nothing when we destroy lives by doing so. When we gather together while an unstoppable virus threatens, we are corrupting our Lord’s day with the leaven of the Pharisees – trying to squeeze a blessing out of God through our sacrificial law-keeping. But the Lord’s day isn’t about that. Christianity isn’t about us offering ourselves to God. It is about God offering himself for us. Christ died that we might be freed from the curse of the law. How monstrous it is to think that God, who sent his Son to die for us, requires that we put our lives at risk in order to keep the ceremony of the Lord’s Day!!
Jesus looked around in anger at the Pharisees. They reasoned the same way that many are reasoning today.
When we despise the lives of his people, he also looks in anger at us.
Something to think about.