Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

3rd Sunday after Sleebo - the Festival of Cross

The Sabbath

by Dr. Neil Chadwick

Gospel: St. Mark 2: 23 - 28


While walking between villages, the disciples did what anyone might do, a perfectly acceptable practice, but made the mistake of doing it on the wrong day!

Stealing is not the issue here, but the breaking of man-made Sabbath laws.

Think about it, maybe the Pharisees were right. Do you remember the fourth of the ten commandments? In fact, in the O.T., great importance is placed on Sabbath.

Jesus' answer was first to say, "Look what your famous king did!"

Is this situational ethics? Are there some occasions when it's ok to break the law? No, Jesus merely drew their attention to the fact that human need takes precedence over religious ritual. (Like the "Chosen Fast" in Isaiah 58.)

I. Let's review the History of the Sabbath.

A. After the creation, God rested on the seventh Day.

B. Moses was instructed to include it in the Giving of the Law: Exodus 20:8-11.

C. Obviously the early church honored it.

(1) However, Sunday observance was being urged instead of Sabbath rest as early as the beginning of the 2nd century;

(2) At the same time, a considerable segment of the Christian population continued to observe the (Jewish) Sabbath in some form or other--apparently into the 4th century in some areas;

(3) Some Christian communities observed both Sabbath and Sunday at least from the 3rd century, and probably earlier, but with an attempt to divorce Sabbath observance from the ideas of solemnity (fasting) and idleness by making it a day of meditation and rejoicing (like Sunday), Sabbath "rest" was interpreted in a much wider sense than Rabbinic Judaism would permit. In the 4th century, the official observance of Sunday rest gained political as well as religious overtones.

D. So let me ask. "What are you doing today?"

Many are involved in the Lord's work. For some, it's a time to be with their family.

And then there are some who applaud the legendary commissioner of football, Pete Roselle, who is credited with "changing the way Americans spend Sunday".

II. Jesus said, "Sabbath was made for man" - Jesus goes to the intent of this law, that is, the benefit of people.

A. In this way it is not unlike those that follow it in the "Big Ten":

#5. Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

#6. Thou shalt not kill.

#7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

#8. Thou shalt not steal.

#9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

#10. Thou shalt not covet.

All of these are for the benefit of people, not God.

B. On another occasion, Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, then compared what He had done with getting an ox out of the ditch.

C. If the Sabbath is for the benefit of man - How? We need rest and renewal, physically, spiritually and emotionally; we need to realize a reduction of stress.

The Sabbath is intended to benefit one's personal, emotional and spiritual well being.

But also, it should be for the purpose of contributing to the benefit of others.

There's a contrast here between "rest" and "leisure" as we now experience it; rest is renewing, leisure is more activity with the hope of having fun, "the pursuit of happiness".

True Sabbath observance is not "legalism", but "devotion". Legalism comes out of obligation, devotion comes out of love.

The scene is somewhat ludicrous - taking wheat near the path was perfectly legal. The problem was, they defined this as "work", "threshing".


So then, how should the Lord's Day be used?

Here are the Four "R"s of "Rest":

Relationship - Hearing and speaking; taking meals together; fellowship, activities which promote conversation.

Reflection - Discussions related to important themes such as what was learned in Sunday School or from the Pastor's sermon.

Renewal - Quiet time, prayer for listening, and worship.

Reaching out - Ministering to others in and out of Church; doing the Lord's Work.

See Also:

Sermons and Bible Commentary/Analysis for the 3rd sunday after Sleebo

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