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Pentecost 2 2024 Proper 4
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
June 2, 2024
Deut 5:12-15, 2 Cor. 4:5-12, Mark 2:23-28 (3:1-6)


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Text:                           pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship


            You wake up to the sound of the alarm.  You just want to turn it off and roll over, but you need to get up and get going, there is lots to do.  Life is very busy.  It seems there is always more to do than time to do it.  The calendar is jammed packed.  You feel like a hamster on a wheel, always running but never getting anywhere.

            You need a break.

            Imagine being a part of a family of subsistence farmers 3,000 years ago trying to scratch out a living from the land.  If you don’t work, you don’t eat.  And food preparation is all from scratch meaning that to make bread you start with kernels of wheat that your family harvested and threshed and winnowed and now you have to grind into flour.  You work from first light to sunset with barely enough to eat, and you go to bed exhausted.  You work and work and never get ahead.

            You need a break.

            God knows you need a break and so he gives the gift of the Sabbath day to His people.  God created the world in six days and then His work was completed and He rested on the seventh day.  The Israelites’ work is never completed so they need the Sabbath to receive renewal and restoration from God.  God gives the children of Israel this gift of rest in the Ten Commandments as we see in our Old Testament reading.  Exodus 20:8 (ESV) 8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” 

Now, as rebellious people, the commandments of God can feel like a burden or a threat.  It can seem like God’s law is your nemesis holding you back.  That it is something you need to find a way around, but the law of God is God’s gift to you -- for your good.  This is literally expressed in the fourth commandment.  Exodus 20:12 (ESV) 12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

            God’s law curbs your bad behavior, and God’s law shows you are a sinner, and God’s law is a gift to you to offer you a better life. God gives the children of Israel the Sabbath for their own good.  He gives them a time each week for physical rest, and time to receive renewal and restoration from God.  God gives penalties for those who intentionally abuse the Sabbath so that the Sabbath remains a gift to the people.  God wants His people to have this gift of renewal and restoration. 

            Over the years the Jewish religious leaders become more interested in how to keep the Sabbath instead of why did God give the Sabbath.  This is still an issue today.  When I was in Israel in January of 2023 we got to observe Sabbath regulations in practice. There was a Sabbath elevator that stopped on every floor of the hotel.  It was permissible to ride in the elevator, but not to push the buttons.  You could open a room door with a key, but not with a key card.  There was even a self-flushing toilet with a sign that said it did not conform to Sabbath regulations.

In our Gospel reading we see the Pharisees seemingly all concerned about protecting the Sabbath day…but what are they really trying to do?  They are using the rules about how to keep the Sabbath in order to try to get Jesus in trouble.  They want to get rid of this Jesus fellow who just suddenly showed up in Galilee and now is causing all sorts of issues.  The people listen to Him rather than the Pharisees and other religious leaders.  Somehow this Jesus has authority over unclean spirits and disease, even leprosy and paralysis.  He is not like other so-called prophets and teachers.  And if that was not bad enough, he does things that are just unheard up.  He calls a tax collector to be one of His followers and then has dinner at the tax collector’s house and eats there with other tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisees do not even associate with Gentiles, tax collectors or openly sinful Jews, let alone eat with them.  Jesus comes to renew and restore sinners, but the Pharisees do not want sinners renewed and restored.  Jesus’ care for others angers the Pharisees and they start to look for ways to get rid of Him, but they just grow more frustrated.  

The Pharisees question Jesus as to why His disciples do not fast and He calls himself the bridegroom at the wedding feast.  He tells them that He is new cloth and new wine; He does not fit in the old ways. The Pharisees look to trap Jesus and discredit Him.  They go after Jesus because His disciples are plucking heads of grain on the Sabbath so they could have a little snack.  Jesus turns the discussion away from the Sabbath and onto authority.  He tells of how David, the anointed King of Israel, eats the holy bread reserved for the priests.  David was the anointed king -- Jesus is greater than David.   He tells them, Mark 2:27–28 (ESV) 27 … “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”  Now the Sabbath was commanded by God and Jesus claims to be lord of the Sabbath.  So that means Jesus is….the Lord God.  Now the Pharisees are really upset.

            Next, Jesus is at the synagogue and there is a man there whose hand is disfigured.  The Pharisees watch with bated breath to see what Jesus will do.  It is the Sabbath day and the Pharisees have weaponized the Sabbath to try to destroy their enemy.  The Sabbath is a gift from God for renewal and restoration.  The Sabbath is supposed to be good for the people -- the Pharisees are using it as a club.  The Pharisees, on the Sabbath, are scheming and plotting against their enemy.  They are trying to trap Jesus into healing on the Sabbath so they are at the synagogue watching Him.  Here is Jesus.  Here is the man with the withered hand.  Will He do it?  Will He help this man on the Sabbath?  What is going to happen? 

            Jesus knows what they are doing and He wants to make sure everyone understands what is going to happen.  He tells the man with the crippled hand, “Rise up, come here.” The Sabbath is God’s gift for renewal and restoration.  Jesus wants to do good to this man and heal him.  The Pharisees want to harm Jesus.  They want to kill Jesus.  Jesus lays this out, Mark 3:4 (ESV) 4 And he [says] to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they [are] silent.”

            Jesus wants to do good and heal someone.  The Pharisees want to do harm and kill Jesus.  The Pharisees are using the law not to keep order; not for good, but to attack Jesus and destroy their enemy.  They are using the Sabbath as a weapon against their opponent. 

            Jesus looks at the Pharisees with anger.  He is sad that their hearts are so hard as to abuse God’s law for evil.  And Jesus does not back down.  He says to the man who has stood up and come to Him, Mark 3:5 (ESV) 5 …“Stretch out your hand.” He [stretches] it out, and his hand [is] restored.”

            Jesus does not do anything.  With just the power of His word Jesus heals the man’s withered hand.  The man is renewed and restored by the power of Jesus’ Word.  This is incredible.  This is a miracle and it happens in front of everyone at the synagogue.   How do the Pharisees react?  Mark 3:6 (ESV) 6 The Pharisees [go] out and immediately [hold] counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.”

            Their reaction to a miracle of healing is anger and murderous thoughts.  The Pharisees are so mad that they unite with their enemy, the Herodians, against their common enemy, Jesus.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend.  I am not sure if they think they are doing God’s will or are just using the idea of God to protect their positions.  The truth is that they hate God and are trying to kill God.           

            God’s law is still in effect today. You still have the gift of God’s law and it is still a gift to you for your good.  God’s law is for good, but there is a great temptation to use the law as a weapon against your enemies rather than as a tool to keep peace.  This happens more than we would like to admit.  How often do kids tattle on each other simply to get the other person in trouble?  Not to protect them, or help them, just to get them in trouble?  Adults also are tempted to use the rules to try to control others rather than for the good of others?  We are tempted to use the law to criticize, blame, or punish someone in a vulnerable position.  We have a cute expression for this.  We call this throwing someone under the bus.  Used properly the law is good.  In the wrong hands the law becomes a weapon to attack others.  In the church this can take the form of angry Christians whose joy of salvation is stifled by always being on high alert for other people doing something wrong and then trying to correct them.   

You go to church because it is good for you, not because it is good for God.  

            The Third Commandment, “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it Holy,” is still in force today although it has been updated in Jesus. Instead of the Sabbath being the center, Jesus is the center.  Jesus is the source of rest and restoration.  Jesus says, Matthew 11:28–30 (ESV) 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” 

Jesus’ Word is the source of rest for your souls.  Martin Luther’s explanation of the third commandment is, “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”  We gather for worship to receive from God renewal and restoration.  We are not to hate God’s Word of renewal, or grudgingly hear it, but rather treasure it.  Just as Jesus said, Mark 2:27 (ESV) 27 … “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” we might say, “God has provided Christian worship for the benefit of man…He did not create man simply for the sake of Christian worship.” 

            You go to church because it is good for you, not because it is good for God.  

            In the busyness of your life you need rest and rejuvenation.  In your battle against sin and temptation you need renewal and restoration.  You gather here once a week to receive renewal and restoration from God in baptism, and in His Word, and in Holy Communion.  In this place you hear that your sins are forgiven and you are fed with heavenly food.  You rest in Jesus because it is good for you.  Take time to rest in Jesus.  Take time to reflect that you are indeed, by nature, sinful and unclean and you need Jesus.  Take time to reflect that you are poor in spirit and Jesus blesses the poor in spirit and gives you the Kingdom of Heaven.

You are blessed to be here.  You come here feeling like the man’s withered hand, battered and hurting, and you stretch out your guilt and shame by confessing your sins, and receive restoration from the Lord Jesus.  Rest in the gifts of Jesus.  And not just an hour and fifteen minutes on Sunday morning but each day rest in Jesus in prayer and scripture reading.  Rest in Jesus; be renewed and restored and refreshed so you are able to serve others in all your various vocations.  Amen.