Once again, Jesus is healing, helping, expressing God’s love and compassion — on the Sabbath. It’s hard to believe that others could get upset about such behavior and yet, in the Gospels, they consistently do. But Jesus turns the tables on them. They are soooo concerned about not working on the Sabbath and yet they do not hesitate to do so when one of their animals is in trouble. Jesus points out the hypocrisy of that. Sad isn’t it? Their animals are more important to them than the people around them that are in trouble. I wonder what is so important to me that I’m willing to sacrifice the welfare of others to hold it inviolate. No doubt there is plenty of hypocrisy in my life that Jesus could point to. How about you?
Thought for the day: We all struggle with hypocrisy.
Prayer: Forgive me God when I get my priorities wrong. Help me see my own hypocrisy that I might be free to truly serve others. AMEN
On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely. 2 Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy. 3 And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?” 4 But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away. 5 Then he said to them, “If one of you has a child[c] or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?” 6 And they could not reply to this.
Luke 6 includes two stories about Jesus and conflict with the authorities over his and his disciples’ behavior on the Sabbath. I’ve covered these events thoroughly in my entries on the same events in Matthew and Mark. So we are moving on.
SABBATH KEEPING — Leads to Praise
We’ve read earlier about Jesus healing on the Sabbath and how the authorities object. But Luke is the only gospel writer who recounts this wonderful story of Jesus healing a crippled woman. Imagine her life — bent over for 18 years! Unable to lift her eyes to see the sky, to look her friends and family in the eye, to function in the most basic ways. And when Jesus encounters such oppression, he does what he continually does in the face of evil. He frees the one who is oppressed. And what does she do? (I love this part!) …Immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. You know life is very, very hard. And though we might not be physically bent over when we come into our sanctuaries on the Sabbath, many of us are emotionally weighed down. In fact, I suspect at one point or another, we all are. Isn’t it comforting to know that when we meet Jesus there in the midst of worship, he will be seeking to free us too? That, my friend, is good reason to straighten up and offer praise.
Thought for the day: Jesus longs to free everyone from the things that weigh us down.
Prayer: Lord, may I find in you the freedom I need from all that weighs upon me. And I will give you praise and glory. Amen
Luke 13: 10-17 10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
I took a break from the blog but I’m back. First task is to finish this study of the What the Bible says about Sabbath Keeping. If you want to catch up there are lots of earlier entries. I’m working my way through the scripture looking at each substantive reference to Sabbath and exploring what it might mean for our day to day living. Thanks for reading and when you feel led to do so … for sharing. Blessings, jan
SABBATH KEEPING – A Space for Healing
After the rejection in Nazareth, Jesus heads to Capernaum. Many scholars believe that this is where Jesus lived as an adult. Apparently the people here are open to Jesus and his teaching. They are astounded because he spoke with authority. But then, the unexpected happens. Luke says that an unclean demon seeks to interrupt Jesus’ teaching. And of course the power of evil seeks to do that every time God is at work. But that’s when Jesus chooses to teach by action as well as word. He frees the man from the power of evil that was at work through him. Jesus not only speaks with authority; Jesus acts with authority too. No wonder they were amazed. That kind of authority has now been given to the church — the body of Christ in the world today. The question I ask myself is if we use our authority to act as often as we use our authority to speak. Yesterday, our church packed 40,000 meals to feed the hungry. Next Sunday we will bring canned goods to share with those in need. I believe that actions like those continue the work Jesus demonstrated in Capernaum. They help to free people from the evil spirit of hunger. It’s still a great way to use the Sabbath — or any day for that matter.
Thought for the Day: Jesus gives me authority to speak and act with authority. How will I use that authority today?
Prayer: Thank you God, for the power you give all your people to resist the evil we encounter in our world. May that power be at work through me today. Amen
31 He went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and was teaching them on the sabbath. 32 They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. 33 In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Let us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” When the demon had thrown him down before them, he came out of him without having done him any harm. 36 They were all amazed and kept saying to one another, “What kind of utterance is this? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and out they come!” 37 And a report about him began to reach every place in the region.
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.
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
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. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.
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
He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 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! 3 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. 4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.
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
3 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” 4 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. 5 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. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.