Sabbath Keeping — in Nazareth

Text: Luke 4:16-30

 “The preacher’s quit preaching and gone to meddling!” And this time the preacher is Jesus. Jesus has returned to his hometown. It’s the Sabbath and so … he goes to the synagogue. (Remember that good habit.) The people are very respectful of him and his newfound role as a Rabbi. They invite him to read. Choosing this messianic passage from Isaiah, Jesus effectively announces his ministry — a radical ministry. But the response is a little underwhelming. I can imagine it, can’t you? It’s like the young seminarian returning to offer his first sermon in his home church. Nice job Jesus. You sure are growing up to be a nice young man. I really enjoyed that. Your dad would have been proud. The people are very complimentary. They are genuinely impressed but they absolutely miss the radical nature of Jesus’ announcement. So … he stops preaching and goes to meddling. He stirs things up. Perhaps he’s just disappointed. Perhaps he expected to find real support among the people who had watched him grow up. Maybe he had come to Nazareth to recruit disciples. But none of that happens. Basically, Jesus insults those people, recounting how God has chosen to work through and for outsiders in the past. It’s not a happy time, for sure. And here’s an important teaching for keeping Sabbath. When we spend time in the company of God, we may find ourselves disturbed, challenged and shaken out of the comfort of the status quo. It happened when Jesus showed up on the Sabbath in Nazareth. It can happen when Jesus comes to meet us for Sabbath too.

Thought for the Day: Sometimes Jesus needs to stir us up.

Prayer: Forgive me Lord when I fail to hear the radical call in your teaching. Stir me up, shake me up, challenge me to serve faithfully. Amen

 Luke 4:16-30 16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” 24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers[d] in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

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SABBATH KEEPING — As We Have Been Taught

Text: Mark 16:1-2

I believe that the behavior of the Easter women tells us a great deal about Jesus’ attitude toward the Sabbath. These women have been traveling with and supporting Jesus for years. They have been watching and learning what faithful living looks like. And in this critical moment, facing the greatest crisis and sorrow of their lives, they do not turn away from what they have learned. Even with their beloved Jesus in the tomb, these women observe the Sabbath. I can imagine their impatience, how they sat through the night, longing for the sun to rise so that they could get to the “work” of preparing his body. But they still observe the Sabbath. It’s what they had learned from Jesus and they are faithful. Sometimes it is difficult for faithful church people to return to worship after the death of a loved one — especially if their church experience is all wrapped up in that person. They seem to miss the loved one even more when they come into that space where they shared so much. But I’ve observed this. People of great faith just push ahead and do it. And they are thankful they do. People who delay their return just find it harder and harder as time goes by. It’s a lesson that I think the Easter women teach us. Even in grief and loss, we should do what God asks us to do. Why? Because God’s motivation is always love.  If He asks us to do it … it will be an avenue for His great blessing.

Thought for the Day: Honoring the Sabbath is always good!

Prayer: Forgive me when I treat the keeping of Sabbath as a duty or burden. Remind me that rest spent in the company of you — is always a gift. AMEN

Mark 16:1-2

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.

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SABBATH KEEPING – through worship with others

Text: Mark 6:2-8

There are some extremely sad moments in scripture. There was no room  in the inn. (Luke 2) We had hoped he was the Messiah (Luke 24 – Road to Emmaus). Here is another. Jesus returns to his hometown — to the religious community that raised him and nurtured him in the faith and they reject him. It makes me think of some of my female clergy colleagues. We have been blessed in our United Methodist Church to receive women as ministers who were raised and nurtured in other denominations. But when they sought to honor their call to be pastors — they were rejected by their church homes. They could not be ordained in those denominations so they found their way to our church. We have been blessed by their ministry among us but it still makes me sad that they could not honor their call in their “home towns.” They are certainly in good company. Well, all this happened because of a habit Jesus had. On the Sabbath, Jesus went to Synagogue. Attendance at weekly worship is a habit. It should not be something that we decide on Saturday or Sunday morning. Once we have made a commitment to Jesus and his body here on earth (the Church), then being at weekly worship is simply what we do. We don’t have to decide to do it each week. That decision has already been made. I was blessed to have this habit fostered in me as a young child. To be honest, I never realized it was even a choice. Worship is what we did on the Sabbath. And I’ve been doing it ever since. It’s one of those Jesus habits I think all of us need to develop.

Thought for the Day: Attendance at worship is a habit.

Prayer: Lord, I am thankful for the examples that Jesus gave me. If he needed worship, then so do I. Help me to develop/maintain this habit of worship on the Sabbath. Amen

Mark 6:2-8

He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary[a] and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense[b] at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

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SABBATH KEEPING — in ways that please God

Text: Mark 3:3-6

We’ve already worked with Matthew’s account of this same event but … Mark’s account offers a couple of additional insights. In the Matthean account, the religious authorities ask Jesus a question, hoping to entrap him. Here Jesus is the one that poses the question. Knowing they will object to what he is about to do, he asks them first: Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill? No one answers. Now, here’s what I find so interesting. Note Jesus’s response. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart…Anger and grief! And that, dear friends, is exactly what I believe God feels today when his people distort His intentions for Sabbath and use it instead as an excuse for failing to respond to the needs of those around us. And Mark gives us one more tidbit of information. He tells us how the religious leaders respond. They leave the synagogue to form an alliance of hatred. Instead of being drawn to Jesus through his healings and teaching, they determine he must be destroyed. I wonder how often we do the same thing. When the teachings and actions of Jesus convict us do we yield to the conviction and seek to change OR do we determine to just get rid of this bothersome Jesus?

Thought for the day: Jesus expects us to use everyday for good, including the Sabbath.

Prayer: Lord, help me to always see and respond to the needs of your people. Amen


Mark 3:3-6

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.



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SABBATH KEEPING — It’s for us!

Text: Mark 2:23-28

The Gospel of Mark opens with John the Baptist, Jesus’ baptism and the temptation in the wilderness. There is no birth narrative, no shepherds or wise men. When Jesus emerges from the wilderness he is consumed with teaching and healing. Here at the end of chapter 2, we encounter Mark’s version of the event we covered in Matthew’s Gospel. They are very similar but Mark (the oldest of the Gospels) includes one very important bit. It’s there in verse 27: Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath. Jesus sums up the problem in a nutshell. The order had gotten reversed. God did not create humans to observe the Sabbath. The Sabbath was created as a gift for humans. And that simple shift makes all the difference. We will never be able to experience the full richness of the Sabbath or share it with others until we get the order right. And it is really good news: The Sabbath is for us!

Thought for the day: The Sabbath was made for us!

Prayer: Forgive me Lord, when I forget that the Sabbath was made for me, when I treat it like an obligation or duty. And even more, I ask that you forgive for the times when I’ve used the Sabbath as a way to judge others. Help me accept it and offer it as the gift you intend. AMEN

Mark 2:23-28

23 One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? 26 He 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.” 27 Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; 28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

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SABBATH KEEPING — on the Sabbath Day

Text: Mark 1:21

This verse introduces a similar incident as the one recorded in the Matthean text we’ve been using. Jesus goes into the Synagogue and heals a man on the Sabbath. This time they are in Capernaum, which is where many scholars believe Jesus lived as an adult. The reality that jumps out at me in this verse is simply the fact that Jesus himself went to the synagogue on the Sabbath. I think we can learn three things from that.

  1. Apparently this was part of his routine. Jesus honored the Sabbath by gathering with God’s people.
  2. Even though Jesus called into question some of the ways that the practice of Sabbath had been distorted, he did not discount it. He claimed it. We can too. And we should. Jesus did not throw out the baby with the bath water.
  3. Jesus worked within the institution to make it better. I’ve encountered many people who turn away from the church because of one bad experience or one failure they see in the church. Jesus saw many failures with the religious institutions and leaders of his day, but he did not turn away. Neither should we.

When the Sabbath comes, we too ought to be making our way to the gather with others in the faith. That’s one simple answer to the question: What would Jesus do?

Thought for the day: Keeping the Sabbath includes gathering on God’s day with God’s people.

Prayer: Thank you for the gift of Sabbath and for the chance to gather with your people to worship, to grow and to serve. AMEN

Mark 1:21

They went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught.


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SABBATH KEEPING — with Jesus (5)

Text: Matthew 12:1-12

This is our fifth and final entry on the text from Matthew 12. In this encounter with the Pharisees, Jesus reestablished the Sabbath to be what God intended. It was a gift meant for humans, motivated by God’s love. But, the whole concept (as well as practice) of Sabbath had been distorted. Sadly, this distortion was illustrated by the attitude of the leaders toward the healing of a man on the Sabbath. While comfortable with assisting their animals when in trouble on the Sabbath, they resisted offering assistance to a fellow human being. Surely that was not what God intended. Nothing loving in that attitude. So Jesus reminds those around him of God’s intention and reclaims the Sabbath. It just makes me wonder what other distortions are plaguing us today. What do I need for Jesus to reclaim in my life so that it might accomplish the good that God intends?

Thought for the Day: Distortions of good can lead to bad.

Prayer: O Good and Gracious God. All your gifts are motivated by love. And when handled properly, they will reflect your love. Help me to use your gifts well so that both I, and those around me, might experience your great love. AMEN

Matthew 12:1-12

1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests. 5 Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and yet are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 But if you had known what this means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.” 9 He left that place and entered their synagogue; 10 a man was there with a withered hand, and they asked him, “Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?” so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.”


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