SERMON OF THE WEEK
September 30, 2012
Next Sunday, September 30, is the third Sunday after Sleebo. Gospel reading is from Mark 2:23-28.
Theme: "Was Sabbath made for man or man made for Sabbath?"
Message: God's laws are not for control and domination. God did not give us his commands to show who is the boss. He gave us his laws for our benefit. Jesus makes that very clear in this gospel.
The term "Sabbath" is derived from the Hebrew word "Shabbat", which means, "to cease". Those who observe Sabbath generally regard it as a day of rest and respect for God for having completed the creation in six days as well as to commemorate Jewish redemption from slavery in Egypt. The so-called "Sabbatical leave" is thought to have its origin mandated also from this concept. The Pharisees were very traditionalists in observing the Sabbath because of its roots in the Old Testament teachings. .
One day as Jesus and his disciples were walking through a grain field on a Sabbath day, the disciples started to pluck some heads of grain to satisfy their hunger. The Pharisees happened to observe this and complained to Jesus about the actions of his disciples. It was assumed, as their teacher, Jesus was responsible for their behavior. The Pharisees viewed picking grain on a Sabbath day was a violation of the rule prescribed in Exodus 20: 8-11 which states, "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the Sabbath day is a Sabbath to the Lord. On it you shall not do any work."
Jesus responded by citing the example of King David from 1 Samuel 21:1-16, David who was fleeing from Saul took and ate the consecrated bread from the house of God. The consecrated bread was to be eaten only by the priest, yet David who was hungry and in need of food was allowed as an exception by the high-priest Abiathar. That was on a Sabbath day. In opting for David, the Pharisees thereby exonerated the activities of Jesus' disciples. Jesus cited David's action as a precedent. When David ate the consecrated bread, he was hungry and it would be admittedly a lawful act. Jesus said the disciples ate grain because they were hungry, something the law of God permits.
Jesus then continued to respond by discussing the purpose of Sabbath. Human beings were not created to observe the Sabbath, but Sabbath was created for their benefit. Sabbath is not an end in itself but only a means to achieve a goal. Sabbath was originally given to men for rest and recreation. When properly observed, it would be a joy. But the Pharisees had made it a terrible burden for people to bear. None of God's laws were intended to be interpreted to hurt people, rather it was to help them. Jesus addressed the charges by stating that the Sabbath was not meant to restrict necessities. It was made to serve people, not for the people to serve Sabbath.
Sabbath has been essentially a Jewish practice, not a Christian way of life. It has been a Jewish practice to commemorate Jewish people's redemption from slavery in Egypt. It also commemorates God's creation of the universe, and on the seventh day God rested (or ceased) from his work. Sabbath is fasting one day a week. It is a weekly practice of "stilling" ourselves and taking rest, so that during rest we have a still soul and be able to remember what is important that God wants us to have in life. Treat it as a gift from God.
Prepared by: Rev. Dr. V. Kurian Thomas Valiyaparambil