Sermon for Feb 5

By on February 5, 2017

Lord of the Sabbath

Preached to Clark’s Chapel UMC on 5 February 2017

Luke 6:1-11

NIV Luke 6:1 ¶ One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. 2 Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” 3 Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 5 Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

6 ¶ On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. 7 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. 8 But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there. 9 Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” 10 He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. 11 But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.


Introduce / Establish Need


I remember as a boy that other than restaurants and an occasional gas station, nothing was open on Sunday.  It was part of our routine to be ready for Sunday.  Our big meal was on Saturday and Sunday was leftover day.  If the car needed gas, we had it before we went to church on Sunday or before the Sunday drive.  Sunday was a down day.


All of that changed in the 70s as the Blue laws were repealed.  First the drug and grocery stores, and then other businesses soon followed.  It was a shock to me in 1985 when I was at OTS, the city of San Antonio observed the Sunday shopping ban.  In my research, I found out that Texas repealed those blue laws a month after I left.


Can you imagine what it would be like if we reinstituted the blue laws today?  Some might smile while others might cringe that we lost a shopping day.


This bit of history is about Sabbath observance as a country.  Our text today gives us insight on what Jesus thought about the Sabbath and more importantly, who he is.  Let’s lean in to the scripture story.


Into the Biblical World


At first glance, we might glean from these two Sabbath stories that Jesus had a different view of the Sabbath than society in that it was OK to break the Sabbath.  Well, yes and no.  Let’s explore.


In the first story, the disciples gleaned and ate from the fields, yet in the eyes of the Pharisees, the preparation of the grain constituted work and thus violated the Sabbath.  The Pharisees’ interpretation can be gleaned from the institution of the Sabbath in the Ten Commandments and before that, the mandated practice of gathering manna in which the Israelites were instructed to harvest a double portion of manna prior to the Sabbath so that there would be no work on the Sabbath.


Jesus, however, points to a story in which David violated the Law.  Because he and his companions were hungry, they ate the consecrated bread.  Leviticus tells us that bread was only for the priests and was set out before the Lord on the Sabbath.  Jesus follows this story up with his proclamation that the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.


We’re left hanging with this statement as Luke quickly intertwines another Sabbath story.  Once again the Pharisees are observing Jesus on a Sabbath to see what he would do.  Instead of hunger, the issue is healing and the appropriateness of doing good deeds on the Sabbath.  So as the man with the withered hand comes forward, Jesus asks is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or evil or to save or destroy life?  Jesus was challenging their interpretation of the Sabbath.

In this case, is it right for this man to continue to suffer when he can be made well, that is to do good?  Evil might be to let him continue unnecessarily in his suffering.  With this thought before them, Jesus heals the man.

If you’re scratching your head a bit about these Sabbath stories, looking at Matthew’s version adds a bit more detail that fills in the gaps.  Matthew adds in two details that fill in our understanding.  In the first story, Jesus tells the Pharisees that there is one greater than the temple here and that they should contemplate the words, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” from the prophets Hosea and Micah.  With these two extra thoughts, the statement that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath makes more sense.  He is greater than the temple and mercy trumps sacrifice.


In the second story, Jesus points out that the Pharisees had rules in which it was lawful to pull a sheep from a pit on the Sabbath.  If that is the case, why can’t good be done on the Sabbath when it comes to people?


Into Our Experience


The primary point of these stories is not for us to ask do we keep the Sabbath.  That makes sense from Luke’s gospel as its original audience were Gentiles.  Luke did not want to expound on Sabbath ritual and so his details are thinner.  From Luke’s perspective, the point is who is Jesus?  Who is this person who claims to be Lord of the Sabbath and who says it is right to do good on the Sabbath?  Luke is OK with omitting those details found in Matthew because he wants us to discover Jesus as we read the gospel in its entirety and follow him as a disciple.


And so who is this Lord of the Sabbath today?  Last week, our scripture text informed us this is the person that we trust and are willing to leave or set aside things in order to follow him.  In saying that he is Lord of the Sabbath, he is implying that he authored the Sabbath.  He may be the one who disturbs our current practice of religion as he asks us to see the kingdom of God as he sees it.


And I think that is the point for us.  Our goal through this sermon series is to see the real Jesus and the kingdom he is ushering in and examine our response in following him.




Right now, as we come to the holy table, he is the one who offered his life for us.  He asks us to remember this in an everlasting ritual and to celebrate that God chose to offer life instead of death, grace and mercy instead of judgment, and love instead of separation.  Let us offer him our lives as living sacrifices following him.


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