Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Lord of Sabbath; Yeldo Mor Baselios
Volume 5 No. 307 October 2, 2015
II. This Week's Featured Articles: Lord of Sabbath

Sabbath: A Lesson About God's Love

by Mike Feazell

Gospel: Mark 2:23-28

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?"

He answered, "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."

Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."
- Mark 2:23-28

The consecrated bread consisted of 12 loaves placed on the golden table outside the most holy place in the tent of meeting. It was a special offering to God, and was set out fresh every Sabbath. It was to be eaten only by the high priest and his sons (Leviticus 24:5-9).

Nevertheless, in the absence of any other food, David and his men ate it (1 Samuel 21:1-6). Jesus cited this incident as an example of how rules, even God-given ones, are not intended to take precedence over human need. In this way, Jesus tells us something important about divine rules: God made them, and he made them to serve humans, not to rule humans.


In Jesus, God shows us that the core of authentic human life is love. The person who loves, Paul wrote, fulfills the law. We could say that the only reason the law of God exists is to point us toward the life of love. To love is to enter into the divine fellowship of the Holy Spirit, to dwell in the eternal love of the Father for the Son and of the Son for the Father.

People are more important than systems and programs. People are more important than rituals and religion. John wrote that if a person loves God, then that person will love his brother (1 John 4:20). William Barclay wrote: "The best way to worship God is to help men" (Gospel of Mark, Revised Edition, Saint Andrew Press, 1991, p. 64). It might be easy to think that loving God and loving one's neighbor are two different things. They are not. Our love for God is expressed precisely in how we treat others. If we are mean, hateful, cruel and inconsiderate of others, that is a demonstration of how devoted (or not devoted) we are to God.

God loves all people, even the ones we have no use for, the ones we treat as though they don't matter. When we behave poorly toward the people God loves, then we are behaving the same way toward God. God is interested in people, not in rituals for rituals' sake.


When it comes to the Sabbath, an idea has gotten around that the Sabbath is greater than God. Let me explain. It is as though God is the guardian or protector of the Sabbath, making sure that people keep the Sabbath holy, and finally awarding salvation only to those who are faithful Sabbathkeepers. In other words, in this kind of thinking, the main thing is the Sabbath; God is the enforcer of the Sabbath. God made the Sabbath, then made himself subject to it, then made people subject to it.

Jesus cleared all such convoluted recipes off the dinner table. He made things plain: people were not made to be servants of the Sabbath; the Sabbath was made to be a servant of people. Furthermore, Jesus was not talking to or about all people. He was talking to first-century Jewish teachers of the law. And he was talking about Israel, the specific humans to whom God gave the Sabbath.

For Christians to assume that the Sabbath commandment is for Christians is to misunderstand the covenant between God and Israel. And for Christians to hold out the Sabbath as a criterion of the truly faithful believers is to misunderstand the new covenant written on the hearts of all God's people, Jew and gentile alike.


The gospel declares God's love. It's interesting how carefully calculated step-by-step programs for evangelism seem to come and go, much like the latest fads in business and management.

Maybe one reason is that programs, by nature, are contrivances. They might work well for business endeavors, where advertising and manipulation of emotions is crucial to selling a product. But the gospel is not a product; it is a declaration of God's love.

Love doesn't come by programs. It comes in its own way in its own time. It is strengthened and proven in the crucible of self-sacrifice, patience and forbearance. It cannot be explained; it can only be lived. It's something you live out, not something you evaluate on a scale of measurable outcomes. It's messy, not predictable. Some times it hurts, sometimes it thrills. It's never static. It doesn't play by the rules; the rules can't keep up.

The main reason most people come to church and keep coming to church and be come believers is the same today as it was 2,000 years ago - they meet people who like them and accept them and become their friends. Programs don't do it - love does it.

New command

Jesus gave a new command to his disciples: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35).

That's a novel thought in our highly organized, programmatic society. Suppose Christians were well known for being the kind of people anybody would enjoy having for a friend. Suppose they weren't known for being pushy and judgmental. Suppose they weren't known for well-rehearsed emotional spiels designed to press people into a so-called "decision for Christ."

Suppose they were genuine, caring and harmless people, who in the love of Christ loved others for who they are. Suppose they didn't make friends with people as part of some new evangelism program, but simply be cause faithful friendship is what Jesus Christ is all about.

Peter said we should always be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us (see 1 Peter 1:15). Paul said we should let our conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that we may know how to answer everyone (see Colossians 4:6). Neither Peter nor Paul said we should press people to ask. Instead, we are told to live the life of love. We are to make no secret of our faith. But neither are we asked to push it on others.

The Holy Spirit moves people to ask. And the Holy Spirit works in us to give an answer that is "seasoned with salt" and full of "grace."

Some people call this kind of living "whole-life evangelism" or "relational evangelism" or "life-style evangelism," etc. But by giving it a name, we run the risk of turning it into a just another program.

Imagine a young man walking up to a young woman outside Lakeside Ice Cream Parlour and saying: "Excuse me. Do you know me? Well, I know you and I know you're miserable and pathetic and need a great husband. I can fix all that. If you'll just repeat after me these words, "I will marry you, and we'll live happily ever after." She'd slap his face, of course, or call 911, or jab him someplace with her keys.

That's not how good relationships start. Yet, something akin to that is how some Christians have been taught that a good relationship with Jesus Christ should begin. Thank God, he can and does clean up our messes and turn lemons into lemonade, but what makes us think that is how Jesus wants us to help people learn who he is for them?


Another word for what Jesus was confronting in this story is legalism. Legalism is incompatible with the gospel. Jesus Christ is who he is for us before we ever do anything. The gospel is the truth about the reconciliation God has already brought about in Jesus Christ (Colossians 1: 19-20). Jesus' work of reconciliation doesn't depend on us. If it did, we'd never be reconciled, for our faith and our behavior are always substandard at best. God did what he did in Christ because he loved us, not because we loved him first (1 John 4:19).

That's why we can trust him for our salvation fully, from beginning to end. That is why we do not have to carry a burden of fear that our ever-present weakness in faith or behavior is the crack in the hull that will sink our salvation.

Jesus Christ is Lord of the Sabbath. We rest in him, not in our own works. His love binds us to himself, and he loves us for no other reason than that he wants to! He makes us new in himself, only because he loves us and has chosen freely not to be without us. Paul wrote, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Cor. 5:17).

That's good news. God has made people - including you and me - his priority. He loves us, and we can't make him stop loving us. In that place of refuge, in the security of God's endless love for us, we are free to make him our priority. Therein lie the unshakable peace, joy, and fullness of life we so crave. Therein lies our true rest.

© 2015 Grace Communion International. All rights reserved.

The Commandment Christians Seem to Violate The Most

by Dr Jack Auten

Gospel: Mark 2:23-28


In the days of Jesus there were very strict laws concerning how to keep the Sabbath. Through the years the religious "leaders" had sought to clarify what was meant by "keeping the Sabbath" and therefore law upon law was laid down through the years until there were so many laws governing the Sabbath that nobody could keep them all.

Upon the resurrection of Jesus on the first day of the week which is called "Sunday" His Church has been celebrating that day ever since as it's "day of worship." Thus it is the Gentile's day of worship with no change in the basic meaning of keeping the Sabbath.


1. Individuals are benefited.

- God appointed a day of rest from the cares and labors of the world so that he/she could tend to spiritual matters - worship of God.

- The world occupies the mind and thus pushes out time for heavenly thoughts.

- If God had not appointed a separate, special day for Himself, then He would never would have been thought of and mankind would be in deeper darkness.

- The special day is to remind everyone that there is a God and on His day one is to review the past week to see what has been done to the soul.

- Six (6) days God gave for man to take care of everyday interests but the seventh (7) is to take care of the soul.

- Everyone ought to be thankful that God wants only six days of work and one day for people to get with Him.

2. The entire community is benefited.

- If God had not appointed a specific time to meet Him, none would have ever been agreed upon by everybody.

- No same day would have been convenient for everybody but God didn't ask man's opinion, God declared that one day in seven, the Sabbath, now Sunday would be set aside as His day and there would be no work, just worship.

- Everybody, rich, poor, etc., all of God's people are to keep God's day holy.

- What if every child of God, all over the world, would honor the Lord's Sabbath (Day) as God commanded?

- What if every child of God met together in public, united in praise, prayer and worship, then going to their homes to be with their families, talking about what God has done for them?

- Who could possibly know all the good that would be done if God's people would honor His Day as He commanded?


1. A grateful sense of privilege should be sensed and appreciated.

- Out of the love and mercy of God the special day was set aside just for His children.

- A day for His children to take time to just think about their relationship with God.

- One's first thoughts on God's Day should be that of "Thank You" for the day itself.

- Then one should close out all thoughts that are not associated with God.

- God should be invited to remove anything that might interfere with fellowship.

- One should reflect over the past and ask God to point out sins that have gone unconfessed and get those forgiven and out of the way for fellowship.

- Time to enjoy fellowship with God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

- Time for God to bring grace, mercy and peace to the soul.

- Time to reach for God's Word, open it's pages and let God's glory shine into the heart and enlighten the mind and soul.

2. A humble sense of one's responsibility should be recognized.

- God's day is for His children to come to Him and fellowship and "report."

- God's day should be welcomed as a blessing but with fear and trembling lest it not be kept as God commanded.

- Without God, one can do nothing and that God alone can make all things work to His child's good, so God's day is a day to acknowledge that.

- At the close of God's day, let the child of God ask, "what has God accomplished in me today?"


1. Those who do not recognize God's day as a special day but treat it like the other six days going about their business or pleasure are violating a commandment of God and will one day be judged by the very God whose commandment they have been violating.

2. It was on the first day of the week that the Lord Jesus rose from the grave, making sure that those who believe in Him will have eternal life with God the Father. In celebration of this wonderful event, the early church met on the first day of the week (Sunday) coming together to worship and observe the Lord's Supper, taking offerings and learning God's Word.

3. It is the obligation of every child of God, to keep this day the Lord has given with all the worship, honor and praise that can be given to the Lord Jesus.

4. Sadly, it seems that of all the commandments the Lord God gave, this one seems to be the most troublesome to keep for God's children. Why is there an average of only 25% of a church's enrolment in worship on any given Lord's Day? Where are the other 75%?

5. What if every child of God kept this commandment (unless sick, etc) and was in worship every Lord's Day for the purpose God intended His Day to be?

Source: Dr Jack Auten's Sermon Outlines

Taking Sabbath Seriously
Gospel: Mark 2:23­38

This is a topic that takes on one of the Ten Commandments, specifically, the Fourth: "Remember the Sabbath Day and Keep it Holy."

I need to begin with a quick story. A Jewish man in his mid­20's, at the beginning of his professional life, announces to his parents that he is going to get married. He tells his parents that she is the most wonderful girl, beautiful, bright and charming - but  there is one thing they should know… she's not Jewish, but she's ready to convert. 

This news is met with mixed reactions.

His Mother is just overjoyed. What could be better? 

The Father reacts differently…"Son, I tell you -this will mean trouble. Trouble, I tell you…"

The Son, of course, reacts defensively, and says that he loves her & will marry her no  matter what. The parents know this all too well.

So the two are married, and the young wife converts to Judaism.

Some months afterwards it's a Friday afternoon, and there's a big sale at the family  business. The Father gives his son a phone call, " hey - where are you? This is the biggest  sale of the year and we need you down here!"

"Dad" ­ the son says, "it's Shabbat - the Sabbath, and you know how strict my wife is about this; it's time for us to be at home and to respect our laws and traditions…"

"See," the father says - "just like I told you, I knew she would mean trouble - nothing but trouble." Well, this new father in law wasn't the  only  person  ever  bothered by a strict observance of the Sabbath.

At some level, there's something about it that makes even talking about the Sabbath  a thing that evokes a certain amount of anxiety; how do we do this right? How do we  observe Sabbath properly? What is it really all about? 2 

I remember a friend of mine­ a Pastor in Western North Carolina­ whose neighbor would always chastise him when he went outside to mow his lawn on Sunday afternoon, after church. Was he violating the Sabbath? (If so, then I do it all summer!) And there's always the joke about the Pastor, who takes a day off from church out on the golf course  unbeknownst to the congregation, who hits a hole­in­ one, and then has no one to brag to about it. ( Do you know that one?) 

The uncertainty of how to act; how to properly observe the Sabbath is not a new  phenomenon; it's been going on nearly forever. The uncertainty was not new to Jesus and his flowers, back in his day. The gospel writer Mark recounts a Sabbath story of  Jesus­ and his famous response, for our hearing and consideration, this morning:

One sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.  The Pharisees said to him, "Look at them, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?" And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? David entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the  priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions." Then Jesus said to them, "The  sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son  of Man is lord even of the sabbath." (Mark 2:23­28)

Between Jesus and the Pharisees, there is clearly a difference of opinion in Sabbath  observance. Underneath this difference lie two questions; one of authority and one of interpretation: why was this law given and what is it for? 

If we can answer these questions, we can be well on our way to being relieved of the  anxiety of wondering whether or not we are constantly breaking the 4th  commandment, intentionally or accidentally.

So, first, as Dorothy Bass tells us, in 'Practicing Our Faith,' the commandment to  'observe' the Sabbath day is tied to the experience of the Hebrew people just after being released from the bonds of slavery in Egypt. Slaves cannot take a day off; but  free people can. So when the Hebrew people stop work every seventh day, they  would then remember that the Lord brought them out of slavery and they will also  ensure that no one in their company, not even the animals will have to toil. Sabbath was given for the people to remember their release from slavery­ and to practice  their duty to extend that release to others as well. 3 

Sabbath is also most basically grounded in the story of creation. The human  pattern of six days of work and one of rest follows God's pattern as Creator: God's people are to rest on one day because God did. In both our work and our rest, we live  in the image of God, and as God's creatures we are to live according to God's  schedule; Sabbath included. (Following God's lead… not a bad idea, you think?)  The significance of Sabbath was once recounted in a Jewish legend, told by the  renown Rabbi Abraham Heschel: "At the time when God was giving the Law to  Israel, He said to them: My Children! If you accept the Torah (the Law), and observe  my commandments, I will give you for all eternity a thing most precious, that I have  now in my possession.

"And what", asked Israel, "is that precious thing which Thou wilt give us if we obey  Thy law?"

'It is the world to come', said the Lord. 

'Show us in this world an example of the world to come,' said Israel. The Lord said:  "The Sabbath is an example of the world to come."

* The Sabbath is a gift from God for us to be allowed to experience what God has in store for us. Real Sabbath is a momentary glimpse of the kingdom of God among  us; it is time to appreciate and to look forward to the steps of the continuing journey before us. What is Sabbath for? It is for:

• Recognizing a day as a gift that God is simply giving you, for you…

• Keeping sabbath can teach us to receive time as a gift rather than viewing it as  an adversary to be mastered, full of to­do lists, and things that just have to get done…. (that's what the other six days are for…) 

• Sabbath is an invitation to rest without being forced, just because it is good­  just as God said, after completing creation; and we are to rest regularly.

Someone has pointed out that the week, the seven­day cycle we live by, is not  one that we can readily see in nature like days or months ('moonths' they were  first called) or years. Instead the seven­day cycle of the week requires that we 4  count the days, that we are intentional, that we have a discipline, and Sabbath is part of that discipline ­ it is not a day left without guidelines…Sabbath is rest for a  purpose, a holy reason to slow down, relax, pause, ponder and praise.

Sundays are Sabbath­ not only because the Roman Emperor Constantine wrote it into  law in the year 321 to celebrate the day of Christ's resurrection on the first day of the  week; but because our worship time is a specific and concrete way to re­call us into the  awareness of the love that God has for us… so that we know that we are no longer a  commodity, a consumer, a number somewhere out there in the world, but that we are  known, loved and cherished by God; with a name and a face & a voice with which to  praise.

Sabbath is first about being intentional in recognizing God's love for us, and that means first gathering in the church; the vehicle that God gives us to gather and serve, share, praise and proclaim who God is for us and with us, now and always.

And then what, besides going to church, is Sabbath keeping? Well, for me at least, it's a day of letting go… maybe having an afternoon nap. If it's a nice day, maybe it's going for a bike ride with Emma, at Meadowood Park or on the NCR trail, or maybe an afternoon swim at our neighborhood pool. It's a afternoon of doing what I don't  normally do - and if that means mowing the grass, so be it, not just because that's something that has to be done, but because its also something I actually enjoy doing, and in doing it, I can just let my thoughts flow­ process the week that has passed, and ponder lightly the week to come, not with a to­do list in front of me, but to just let it run through my mind. This for me, is part of Sabbath.

Finally, in all of this, John Calvin says this:

"The first way to keep the Sabbath is that we must rest. How are we to rest? We  must continue quietly in obedience to God. We must rest, considering what God wants, so that God may work in us and guide and govern us by his Holy Spirit." 5 

"We must consider what God wants… " Maybe that, after all, is the best way for us to approach the Sabbath ­ considering what God wants for us…. And what God  wants for us is…. Rest and worship. One day a week­ maybe it's not all that much­  in a sense, but a good beginning; or a good ending. One day to resist the  domination of work, to relax and to celebrate with God and others, remembering who we really are and what is really important.

It is one day that, week after week, anchors a way of life that ends up making a  difference every day.




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