Jesus is our Sabbath- will you rest in Him?

Posted: December 10, 2012 in Mark, Sermon Manuscripts

Good morning!

We have a lot of ground to cover and not a whole lot of time to cover it in, so let’s get busy. We’re in MARK chapter two this morning, wrapping up Mark two. If you’re new  to us this morning, you may or may not be used to how we do things here. Walt and I are preaching through the book of Mark, and we’re alternating each week. If you find me boring or dry, cheer up- the other two Sundays in the month are much better- Walt preaches then!

But we’re systematically going through Mark verse by verse, slowly making our way through this supernatural historic document penned by a man named Mark through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit about 2000 years ago.

We find that the book of Mark is an account of the life, ministry, and death of a man named Jesus, a revolutionary who not only died for His blasphemy and rebellion, but was raised from the dead and now promises salvation and the forgiveness of sins for all who will come to Him. Craziness, right? But that’s why Mark is writing this book. Having followed Peter for some time, who lived with Jesus, Mark is now in the position to write this book for the benefit of the persecuted Christians in Rome about 25 or 30 years after Jesus went back to Heaven, as well as for our benefit today.

The Gospel according to Mark covers four major points in Jesus’ life: His ministry preparation, His time in Galilee, His time in Jerusalem, and the passion week surrounding the events of the Cross.

Mark has written this account for one purpose- to draw his readers into the place where we have got to make a choice in our response to this message. Don’t miss this- we all will respond to what we hear. The question is, will we respond with faith and follow Christ…or will we harden ourselves to these truths and ultimately be separated from God for all eternity?

But as we’ve been going through Mark, we’ve encountered several back to back to back texts that show the growing tension between Jesus and these super-religious guys known as Pharisees.

These guys were determined to maintain their relationship with God by their own works of righteousness, yet Jesus was on the scene healing unclean people, casting out demons, teaching the Scriptures with authority, and even forgiving people of sins- things that only God can do. For us, it showcased His Divinity- to the majority of the Pharisees who were blinded to the truth, it made Jesus a blasphemous heretic. Jesus offered Grace; the Pharisees wanted their Rules.

So now as Jesus continues His teaching, healing, and saving ministry, He’s not only followed by His disciples, and people who like to watch the show, and people who are only interested in Jesus doing things for them, and people in genuine need of a miracle…but He’s also followed around by the Pharisees who are turning increasingly against Him.

As we pick up the text in verse 23 we see that Jesus and His disciples land themselves in hot water yet again. “One Sabbath He was going through the grain fields, and as they made their way, His disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to Him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’”

Let’s park it here for a bit, ‘cause I don’t know how familiar we are with this word “sabbath”, though we’ve already seen Jesus controversially healing on the Sabbath. You can believe it was familiar to the Jews, though. Here’s a 30-second history of Israel:

In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth, to include Adam and Eve. 1500 years after the rebellion of Adam and Eve, the thoughts of man’s heart was set on nothing but evil, so God flooded the earth, sparing Noah and his family. Five hundred years after this, God approaches Abraham and says that Abraham is to be the head of a mighty nation. Abraham was the father of Isaac, who fathered Jacob, who fathered Joseph, who rescued the tiny but growing family of Israelites from the famine in the land of Egypt.

Fast forward another 400 years and we find Moses leading some two-million Israelites out of Egypt and receiving the Law of God on Mount Sinai. At this point, God gives Moses the fourth commandment in Exodus 20:8 “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, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 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.”

So for the Jews this Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, which of course is our Saturday, was a sacred day that actually began on Friday evening and ended on Saturday evening. It was set aside as a day of rest, and worship. If you’re familiar with Jewish custom, you might also know that there were other Sabbaths observed by the Jews that were themselves special days of festivity, but Mark is referring here to a regular Sabbath.

And here comes Jesus and His boys, and they’re hungry. Now, it wasn’t against the Law for them to eat wheat that didn’t belong to them. According to the Law, you could pick someone else’s wheat by hand if you were hungry; you just couldn’t take a sickle to it. Pluck it- don’t harvest it.

The problem the Pharisees had was that the actions of the disciples violated the Sabbath. They had to pull the head off the wheat, but that itself wasn’t ready to eat. So then they would take and roll the wheat heads together in their hands, which would then crack open the chaff and reveal the grain. Then they’d puff on the the whole mess, which would blow the shelling off their hands, leaving just the grain, which they’d then eat.

So on the Sabbath, this day of rest and worship, Jesus’ followers are guilty of reaping, winnowing, and sorting. Yeah- all that work that went into eating the grains of wheat.

As teachers are responsible for their disciples, the Pharisees lay the question at Jesus’ feet and demand to know why His disciples are doing what is not lawful.

Jesus’ response is epic. He says, “Have you never read with David did-” I mean, this is classic! Hey guys, don’t you remember what your hero David did, “when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?”

Jesus is not only quoting Old Testament Scripture here, but He’s giving us a sobering reminder how easy it is for us to know what a passage says, yet totally miss the ball on what it means.

Now, in case you’re wondering why Jesus referenced this in the days of Abiathar the High Priest when we’re about to clearly see that Ahimelech was the High Priest, the answer is simple- Abiathar was the son of Ahimelech and would replace him as a more widely-known high priest. He was certainly alive during this event with David, and though he wasn’t the high priest at the time, as he did become so it’s normal to refer to him as such. It would be like someone stepping forward and saying “I went to school with President Barack Obama.” Clearly Obama wasn’t the president when he went to college, but we know what’s being communicated.

But the account Jesus references is found in 1 Samuel 21 where we find David along with some of his men running for his life from King Saul. Upon encountering Ahimelech the high priest, David requested bread from the tabernacle under the pretense that he was on official business for the King. Ahimelech, in turn, bends the rules and gives David and his men five of the twelve loaves of bread that were only to be eaten by the priests, and only in a holy place. You couldn’t just go by and grab a hot loaf whenever you wanted.

But not only did David lie, not only did Ahimelech act unlawfully, but David also gave the bread to his men- everything about it was seemingly unlawful, yet David was never condemned by God or men!

Jesus effortlessly shows the double-standard carried by these men who were supposedly flawless in their own character, as He refers the Pharisees to this event. “You guys seem to have no problems with what David did that was unlawful, yet you condemn my men for feeding themselves with grain on the Sabbath? What kind of hypocrisy is that??”

So why wasn’t David and his men or Ahimelech condemned for breaking the law? Because God desires mercy, not sacrifice. God says through the prophet Hosea, “I would rather my people act out of love while not performing the rituals of my Law, than to see them lovelessly keeping my Law in a rigid, cold, way.”

Now, I realize we could go off on a wild rabbit trail with a myriad of hypothetical situations about when certain actions are justifiable, but that wasn’t Jesus’ point and we’re not going to do that. I’m not condoning sin, and I don’t think Jesus was either.

His point was that the Pharisees were completely missing the point of the Law. What they failed to realize, and what we constantly fail to realize, is that every one of God’s Laws were intended to enhance our joy! Besides that, who were the Pharisees to determine what did and did not constitute as work or rest?

Jesus says to these Pharisees in verse twenty seven, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

Hmm.

You remember that sacred day of worship? That day that was so holy, the Pharisees decided it was unlawful to walk more than 3000 feet from one’s home, lest it become “work”? That day that was institutionalized as a Holy Day by the Ten Commandments? That day that had been righteously kept by the Jews for over a thousand years?

Yeah- Jesus just said, “Hey guys- we weren’t put here just to observe the Sabbath. This thing was put here for our benefit. You got it backwards, bro.”

You can only imagine the fury that struck them in that moment, but Jesus was right. Think about it. Why would God need a rest after creating the universe and everything in it in six days? Do you really think it wore Him out? Of course not! God rested on the seventh day as an example to us, and the Sabbath was made Law as a favor to His people so that they wouldn’t work themselves or their animals 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. It was for the people’s benefit- God doesn’t need it!

So here were the Pharisees, the religious elite, condemning Jesus’ followers for feeding themselves a handful of grain on this day of rest that was instituted for them in the first place- and Jesus is telling these guys, “You have completely and utterly missed the entire point of all of this.”

But He doesn’t stop there. Jesus pours more fuel on this fire as He says, “So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” Over eighty times in His ministry Jesus referred to Himself as the “Son of Man.” Obviously we’re all sons of men, but Jesus was identifying Himself, repeatedly, as the Divine Son of Man prophesied in Daniel chapter seven.

The Pharisees were blinded to this reality, but no doubt they heard Jesus when He said “I am lord even of the Sabbath.” There was no hiding Jesus’ intention. He unequivocally made Himself equal to God, and they hated him for it. This camel’s back is dangerously close to breaking- next week it does.

You might imagine how his disciples were feeling at this point. I see Jesus and His men standing on a foot trail through the grain fields, going about their business, eating grain, when the Pharisees confront them with this violation of the law. I wonder how fearful they were to be caught red-handed, still chewing on the grain, and instead of begging for mercy and trying to appease the religious crowd, Jesus says “You guys are clueless about everything, and oh- I’m Lord over it all.”

And He truly is. John chapter one tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” When God spoke creation into existence, He did so by means of His Son through the power of the Holy Spirit. Not only was Jesus the creator of everything made, but Jesus also created the Sabbath! And He did so to give His people rest.

Now it’s time to dive a little deeper into Scripture, because we gotta figure out why the Sabbath was never continued after the crucifixion of Christ. The short answer is this- Be it keeping the Sabbath or making yearly sacrifices, New Covenant Christians are not bound by the Old Covenant Law any longer.

What do I mean by that?

Let me refer you back to Ezekiel chapter 36 where the New Covenant is prophesied: “25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. 29 And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses.”

The Old Covenant was one which God’s people broke repeatedly, and so to make His fame great God instilled a New Covenant, one which entailed God giving new spiritual life to people, placing His spirit within them, causing His people to obey His rules- not out of fear, but out of worship over this amazing grace! It was no longer obedience to the Law- it was about joyful obedience to His Spirit within us.

And this covenant wasn’t made through the sacrifice of animals…but through the sacrifice of God’s Son. So get this- Jesus died so that we could quit trying. The rules, the Laws, the things required by God maintain a relationship with God, that we simply couldn’t do because of our own foolish rebellion, Jesus did for us.

And He died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead to give us rest from our religion. In His death, burial, and resurrection, He became our Sabbath. In Him, and Him only, we have rest. That’s our Journey Marker today, and it applies not just to those who are following Christ, but also those who are not: “Jesus is our Sabbath. Will you rest in Him?”

Maybe you’re sitting here this morning and you’re tired of religion. You’re tired of trying your best to make God happy, and everywhere you turn you run into a brick wall and it feels like you’re going nowhere. Rest in Christ. Trust Him to be your Savior.

Maybe you’re sitting here and you know that you’re far from God. You know that your entire life has been in rebellion against Him and you’re wondering if there’s rest for you, if there is salvation for you. There is. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.

But Christian, you too have to remember, Jesus is still your Sabbath. Quit trying to hard to be good and realize you are good. You can stop working so hard at earning your salvation and begin enjoying it. You can stop trying to make God happy and realize He is happy. Don’t you realize we’re His kids?

He is our Sabbath. Let’s rest.

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