Series – Keeping Sabbath
Sermon – Jesus and the Sabbath
Scripture Readings: Mark 2:23-3:6, Luke 14:1-6
Again Jesus entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. (Mark 3:1-5)
Monday July 29 – Exodus 31:12-18
God’s terms for the covenant established with the Israelites concludes with instructions for keeping the sabbath. Observing the sabbath is a sign of the covenant and a sign that the Israelites trust in God as they follow God’s own example from the creation story. The importance of keeping sabbath is clear: it is a matter of life and death. While we may not view keeping sabbath in the same way as the Israelites, we can appreciate how it is a sign of our own trust in God and how having a practice of sabbath rest affects our health and well-being. How will you keep sabbath this week?
• Prayer: Covenant-Making God, forgive me for not trusting you fully and not obeying the terms of the Covenant. Help me see how keeping the sabbath is good for me. Amen.
Tuesday July 30 — 1 Samuel 21:1-6
This account of David and his men eating the holy bread is quoted by Jesus in the Gospels. (See tomorrow’s reading.) It is an example of someone breaking God’s ritual law for the sake of a higher purpose. That’s the point that Jesus makes in Mark 2. How do you read this passage? How do you weigh the differences between accomplishing God’s purposes and following God’s expectations for worship and community life? What helps you make these difficult decisions?
• Prayer: God of Eternity, give me the wisdom I need to seek your will at all times and make decisions every day that will be pleasing to you. Show me your way today. Amen.
Wednesday July 31 — Mark 2:23-28
The Gospels record a number of accounts of Jesus’ conflict with the religious authorities happening on the sabbath. Because keeping sabbath was such a central aspect of Jewish identity, Jesus was accused of not being a good (enough) Jew and of not following the law. In his response to the Pharisees, he makes an important statement: “The sabbath was made for humankind” (Mark 2:27) and not the other way around. In other words, the sabbath is for our benefit, so that we can live the life that God intends. Is that true for you? How does sabbath-keeping bless your life?
• Prayer: Gracious God, help me to understand how honoring and keeping the sabbath is not simply a rule to follow, but a way for me to live the life you intend for me to live. Amen.
Thursday August 1 — Mark 3:1-6
Jewish law had very detailed instructions about what faithful Jews were and were not allowed to do on the sabbath. (Much of sabbath law was established by Rabbis, who interpreted Hebrew Scripture for the Jewish people.) Thirty-nine categories of activity were prohibited, but saving a life was not one of them. Note Jesus’ anger at the Pharisees’ “hardness of heart,” or lack of compassion (Mark 3:5). How might Jesus respond to our own desires to seek justice without mercy or the many ways we can rationalize our lack of compassion toward others?
• Prayer: God of Compassion, thank you for the example of Jesus. Thank you for teaching me to see the world as Jesus sees it and act with compassion at all times. Amen.
Friday August 2 — Luke 14:1-6
Today’s reading from Luke 14 speaks to us on multiple levels. First, it is another account of conflict between Jesus and the authorities on the sabbath. Second, in Jesus’ world, in addition to being a physical condition, “dropsy” was used metaphorically to describe greedy people. (People with dropsy retained too much fluid, but they still experienced insatiable thirst.) The point is that Jesus provides healing, and that keeping the sabbath is supposed to be life-giving, no matter what our condition –physical or spiritual – might be. Is keeping the sabbath life-giving for you?
• Prayer: Life-Giving God, grant me the ability to discern which activities in my life are life-giving and which activities are not. Heal the parts of my life that are broken. Amen.
Saturday August 3 — John 5:9-18
There are stories of Jesus curing people on the sabbath in all four of the Gospels. In every case, Jesus’ actions lead to conflicts with religious authorities. Part of the conflict with Jesus is driven by theological disagreement about the meaning of sabbath. But the conflict is also about dynamics of power within the Jewish community. By his words and actions, Jesus establishes himself as God’s ultimate representative on earth. Do you see Jesus as the ultimate authority in your life? How is Jesus influencing and guiding your life today?
• Prayer: God of Love, thank you for the teaching and example of Jesus. Today, I choose to give him authority over my life. With your help, I will go where he leads me. Amen.