Printable PDF: 6-6-2021 Pentecost 02 Sermon
Pastor Mark Jacobson Pentecost 2 June 6, 2021 Mark 2:23-28
23One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” 25He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 27Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
FIND REST IN JESUS
When was the last time you slept like a baby? Was the last time you slept like a baby when you were a baby? How can babies sleep the way they do, dangling like skydivers in the air or scrunched like a ball of laundry on the floor? Most of us are no longer physically able to sleep like a baby, but it is my prayer that God in his Word today would grant us that kind of rest, dangling or scrunched baby-rest, for our souls.
- Rest in his providing care
The Gospel appointed for this Sunday starts, “One Sabbath” and before we can go any further we must better understand the meaning of Sabbath. The Sabbath was a day of the week, the seventh day. I’m not familiar with any special names given to the first six days of the week, but in Old Testament times, the seventh day had its own special name, and that name had a purpose. The word “Sabbath” means “rest.” The seventh day earned this name because on the first six days of this world’s existence the Triune God did the work of creating everything that exists, but on the seventh day, God rested. God didn’t rest from creating because God was tired. God rested from his creating work because his creating work was done. A seventh day of creating wouldn’t have made this world any better than it already was in six days.
On the seventh day God rested from his creating work, but God never rests from his providing work. God continually provides for people day after day. From a person’s birth God provides little people like babies and children with big people, like parents and guardians. From these people of responsibility God provides the basic necessities of food and drink, clothing and shelter, everything a little person needs for life. And all the while God provides for little ones, God is also developing those young minds and limited abilities, so one day (from our perspective) they can provide for themselves. This they can do with an activity called work.
God wants people to work. God created people to work. Even in the perfect world when there was no sin, Adam was created with the God-given ability to name animals and to take care of a garden, and Eve was created with a God-given mind to help her husband. In a perfect world, people would know when they should work and when they should stop working. In a sinful world, people are not always sure. One temptation is to not work until you have to, to ride the gravy train of your providers, providers like mom and dad or government subsidy, until they kick you off the gravy train or you’re too ashamed to stay on. The other temptation is to work, work, and work and to never stop working until you are positively sure you have enough provisions for the rest of your life. For the people of the Old Testament, this largely meant they could work all day, every day from sun up to sun down. Over a hundred ago with the advent of electricity, people could work extended hours, second, and third shifts. And today, with more modern technology and COVID, more companies are finding it advantageous to have their employees work from home so that like the homemaker, their work is never done.
No wonder people are so crabby and so cranky to each other. No wonder people wake up with worry. Whether a person’s work is motivated by worry or greed, an all-day, all-night attitude of work is bad for you and is bad for the people around you. God wants people to work, but God also wants people to rest. Rest is so important to God he not only made sure he rested himself, but he also made a law commanding people to rest. This rest would not only be good for the body, but it would also be good for the soul. The rest would remind people of God’s providing care, how God as the Psalmist says, “[He] opens his hand and provides for every living thing.” The day of rest would allow for the contemplation of the birds of air and the lilies of the field, how God clothes the lilies and feeds the birds and how God is still capable of providing for all of our needs. What a wonderful law from an always giving God! Rest! Find rest in Jesus. Rest in his providing care. And as we go forward in our lesson we learn, rest in his authoritative word.
- Rest in his authoritative word
In our lesson Jesus addresses a controversy about the rest law with an authoritative word. We continue our lesson, “One Sabbath, Jesus was going through the grain fields.” We don’t know if this ‘going’ was before synagogue or after synagogue, but as Jesus and the disciples were walking, Mark shares, “they (the disciples) began to pick some heads of grain.” Again, we don’t know if this picking of grain was breakfast on the way to synagogue or if it was lunch or dinner on the way home. Whatever it was, this picking of grain became a problem for the group known as the Pharisees. And the problem wasn’t the picking of grain in someone else’s field. The disciples weren’t being accused of petty theft here. By saying to Jesus, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath,” the Pharisees were accusing the disciples of working. The Pharisees equate this hand-to-mouth eating with the harvesting of grain that was sold in the market.
The disciples didn’t break the rest law, but interestingly Jesus doesn’t argue that point. Instead Jesus argues a different point. Jesus answers, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”
The disciples didn’t break the rest law. Working was forbidden, not eating, but as Jesus answers notable men like David who would become the King of Israel and Abiathar, the high priest, did break the law. David and his companions ate consecrated bread. This consecrated bread, also known as the Show Bread was in the tabernacle. The Show Bread showed the people of Israel that God would always provide for his people, but at this particular time those 12 loaves of bread were the only food available. And in this unusual circumstance, the Show Bread was how God provided for his people and neither David nor Abiathar or anyone else or God made an issue about it. The consecrated bread was made for man, not man for the consecrated bread. And in the same way Jesus speaks an authoritative word. Then he said to them, 27“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
The purpose of worship is rest, rest for our souls. We don’t receive this rest through an outward act. The rest Jesus wants each of us to have doesn’t come to us simply by showing up to church, sitting down, signing in, and being counted. Attendance in worship and communion is a means to an end, not the end in itself. The end is rest. We make a Pharisaic mistake if we turn worship and communion into a sacrificial act like work. I don’t get rest from my faithfulness to God in worship. In worship I rest from God’s faithfulness to me. I get rest when I hear God forgives my worry and my greed, and the crabby and cranky attitude I’ve had toward others, towards you. I get rest when I hear that God hasn’t changed his opinion of me. That he still loves me and wants me and will always love me and want me. That authoritative word gives me rest, not through the good work of my attendance (the Pharisees were really good at attending), but the gift of rest is received through faith.
It’s interesting that most of our commandments start, “You shall or You shall not,” but not the third commandment. God did NOT write, “You shall go to synagogue on the Sabbath Day.” Instead he wrote, “Remember.” In other words, don’t do something or don’t not do something, but think about this, ponder this. God rested from his work of creating and God also rested from his work of redeeming. Think about how all your sins are forgiven. No more redeeming work needs to be done.
I don’t know how babies sleep, but I know how believers can sleep. Remember, Jesus slept during the storm. Daniel slept in a lions’ den. Peter slept while chained to guards and awaiting execution. We can sleep, too. We sleep better when we hear God’s Word and take it to heart. We also live better, too. Let the Word of God, in this long season we know as the Sundays after Pentecost, dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs of the Spirit, singing to God in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Amen.