The Sabbath and Life

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.


Filed under Coronavirus, sabbath

5 responses to “The Sabbath and Life

  1. I think a big problem with us in the Western world is that we don’t understand the spirit of sabbath. A day off is like, running errands, watching football, all this stuff that is not about rest, but more busyness. A bit of Divine providence here, but we’ve now all been commanded to rest for real, in our homes. Resting in the Lord, being at rest in the midst of uncertainty and chaos is an important part of that. It just strikes me as fascinating how terrible we are as a culture with embracing the whole sabbath concept and yet here we are now having an extended or a mandated “sabbath.”

    • Good observations. I’ve been thinking about the sabbath lately.
      Pascal wrote that all of man’s problems stem from his inability to sit quietly alone for 10 minutes.
      He was on to something.
      I am not convinced of the Westminster Confession position on the Sabbath; I like the Heidelberg’s much better.
      But there is a depth there that we rarely probe and i think we need to…

    • Anu Riley

      Sabbath is seen as something that needs to be “done,” not something that reflects that He has ALREADY “done” what needs to be done. Ironically,

      So there is nothing more to be “done,” according to Him. But we keep acting like the work is never finished, never can be, and never will be.

      The last words that someone speaks before they pass away should be (and usually are) the most profound and poignant.

      His last words, with His last breath are easily notable and quotable: It is finished (aka the work is done).

      He did what we could never do, but we act like we can (and should). Or, that He left something undone that we need to keep doing UNTIL it is done. Liken it to saying: you missed a spot, Jesus. Let me fill it in for You.

      In that case, we are making Him out to be a liar. And mocking His last words, with His last breath. We would rightly be appalled if we saw this sort of behavior, yet we engage in it more than we realize.

      One of the hardest things to do (for ANY human being) is to be honest about yourself. Who you really are what you are really like. No, it’s not the same thing as being honest about those around you (that is a different matter).

      This is how the Lord leads us to salvation. You see yourself as He does, and He gives you the courage to face it. AND be willing to “do” something about it (pun intended).

      Because what He asks you to “do” is trust in the One who already did it, and did it ALL. What He did for us undoes what we have done to ourselves: sinned and fallen short in every way possible.

      Anyone remember the Jim Carrey movie “Liar, Liar?” His son wished, that for one day, that his dad would stop lying. During that day, he burst out with this honest revelation: “I am a bad father.”

      I wonder what we would be like if that happened to us, for ONE day, but hopefully it would become EVERY day—to stop lying to ourselves, and to each other. I don’t believe you can ever lie to Him (you can tell yourself otherwise), but He knows all, sees all.

      I can honestly stay that I’ve lived as though His work was NOT done. That’s about as insulting as it gets. I’m telling Him that He is not the Savior that He said He is. I’m calling Him a “bad Father.”

      Pastor is really good, I think, at encouraging us to hold up a mirror to view ourselves in. You might not like what it is reflecting back at you, but don’t deny what you are seeing (James 1:23)

      • Great comment. Lots of food for thought there. I just finished a Bible study on rest, on the nature of Sabbath, so this perfect timing, what’s going on in the world is fascinating.

      • Anu Riley

        Thank you so much for the kind words. Pastor’s post really kicked butt (in a good way).

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