Mark Sermon # 10 March 11, 2018
Mark 2:23-3:6 [Part Two] “Working and Resting on the Sabbath Day to Glorify God”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
Unless you are stuck in a hospital bed, or waiting in an airport for a delayed flight home, or forced to watch paint dry, time usually flies by. Right? We are overworked, stressed, and constantly on the go, and most of us are connected at the hip to our smart phones, demanding our immediate attention every time these devices make a sound.
Wouldn’t it be great if you had an app or a remote control with a pause button that would enable you to instantly stop the world around you and allow you to get rest and be renewed? Imagine such a device! Well, I am happy to tell you that the Lord has supplied such device with a pause button: it’s called the Sabbath – Sunday – the Lord’s Day! This one day in seven has been designed by God to enable us to slow down, enjoy the Lord, and get recharged, so that we can work for His glory on the other six days. This day of rest is both a precious gift to us, as well as a command, which needs to be received and acted upon by faith in Jesus Christ.
Now to properly expound and apply the key passages of the Bible that deal with the issue of the Sabbath Day/ The Lord’s Day would require many sermons, and I have chosen not to interrupt our series in Mark to do that at this point. I will perhaps flesh out the Sabbath Principle as God’s Rhythm for Life sometime in Sunday School, so stay tuned for that possibility.
But my goal for today is simply to deal with the three kinds of works which God encourages us to do on Sunday, as well as thinking about some motives for why we should rest on Sundays.
I. Working on the Sabbath to Glorify God
A. Works of Necessity
As contrasted with unnecessary works, which could be done another day, works of necessity are those actions which need to be done in order to sustain life, for the glory of God.
While the Sabbath day was to be a day of rest (See Genesis 2:1-3; Ex. 16:13-30; Ex. 20:8-11 and Deut. 5:12-15), Jesus here affirmed the understanding that people could still engage in “works of necessity.”
Jesus does so here in Mark 2:24-26, when He reasons from 1 Samuel 21 (David and his men eating consecrated bread because they were starving) and compares it to the need of His disciples to pick grain and eat it, on the Sabbath day, because they were hungry.
Jesus further clarifies this exception to the general rule of Sabbath rest when He says in v. 27 that the institution of the Sabbath day was to bless mankind, not to tie us up in legalistic knots!
Let me illustrate: Think about difference between a pharmacy needing to be open as compared to a carpet store needing to be open on the Sabbath, on Sunday. At least one pharmacy in the area needs to be open on Sunday so that when you sick child needs medicine at once, you have a place to fil the prescription. But how many of us absolutely need to have a carpet store, or a mattress store, a department store, or a mall open on Sunday?
Let’s bring this principle of necessity down to our homes. How often is it a necessity to go shopping, to do the laundry, or to mow our lawns on Sunday? Not very often, right? There may be unusual circumstances which make those actions a work of necessity. I think of a time on a Sunday afternoon when I was resting and the phone rang. A fellow church member had accidently knocked over a gallon of paint, spilling the contents all over his carpets and stairs! And so I came over to work at helping him clean up that mess, because it was necessary to do so that day. Tomorrow would have been too late!
B. Works of Worship
Turn with me please to Matthew 12:5-6 “Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent?” 6 “I tell you that One greater than the temple is here.”
On the Sabbath day in the Old Testament, the priests and the Levites worked hard! They were busy slaughtering animals and preparing them as offerings; they were teaching and preaching God’s Word to the people; and they were carrying out all the God-given regulations of worship in the tabernacle or the temple. It was not a laid back day for the priests and Levites! So, were they guilty of working on the Sabbath? No, Jesus tells us. Why not? Because works of worship were a God-ordained exception to the principle of Sabbath rest. Their work promoted God’s glory and built up the congregation. It was life-giving.
The same is true today for pastors and for musicians and Sunday school teachers on a Sunday. There are some Sundays when Paula plays 12 or more songs on Sunday morning: that’s work!
There are some Sundays when a few of you are picking up other people, ushering, teaching children church, etc, and that’s work! Sunday morning is not restful for a pastor, I can assure you. I am “On” from 8:30 till 12:30 and some Sundays are my busiest day of the week!
Do you know the old song by Lionel Ritchie, “Easy like Sunday Morning”? I assure you that Lionel Ritchie was never a pastor, or he would have never sung that song!
And yet it is a rich privilege to be involved in works of worship on Sunday. Why? Because it is a joy and privilege to be called to be ministering in the ‘courts of the Lord” (see Ps. 84, esp. v. 10 “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”)
How about you? Is worship on Sunday just a duty, an obligation? Or is it a joy, a privilege, a time when your soul is fed and you delight in the Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
C. Works of Mercy
In Mark 3:1-5 Jesus heals the man with the hardened hand, and Jesus’ critics are disgusted with him for another violation of their Sabbath regulations. Now, let’s look at Jesus’ healing of this man from their point of view. Could Jesus have waited a day to heal this man? Yes. This was not a medical emergency. The man had this condition for years, and Jesus could have postponed his miracle a day, so as to not give unnecessary offense to others. But Jesus doesn’t wait. He heals this man on the Sabbath! Why? Because, as He implies with his question in 3:4, that it is lawful, it is morally right, to do good on the Sabbath, to save life on this Holy Day! Yes, this healing could have waited until after the Sabbath was over; but it was not only lawful to heal on the Sabbath; it was also good! It glorified God! It liberated this man’s hand from the curse! That’s what God’s gracious mercy is about!
Last Sunday Lynn and I were almost out the door to go to Abington Hospital to pray that God would speak to hearts about the unborn babies who are aborted there, when we got a call from one of our sons saying that their friends, with two small children, had been without heat for 48 hours and the power was not expected to be restored until Wednesday… so could I bring over my generator and hook them up with some heat and light? Of course. Yes, it was work, but it was a work of mercy, which God calls us to do, by His grace.
II. Resting on the Sabbath to Glorify God
I am indebted to Colin Noble for these ideas, in his article “Better Than Busy: Recovering Rest in a Burnout Culture” Desiring God May 20, 2017
Why should you rest on Sundays? What makes it a special day? Here are three reasons:
A. Taking a weekly day of rest is a sign that we desire God.
Taking one day a week to cease from our strivings, and to on God declares that we desire God above status, financial reward, promotion in the workplace, achievement, and all other things that would distract us from the one we love. When we intentionally set a day a week aside to focus on the Lord, we signal to the world that our hearts belong to him. Treasuring a day of rest and worship lets people know where our heart lies.
B. Taking a weekly day of rest is a sign that we trust God.
Taking one day a week to let go of our endeavors to survive the present and prepare for the future shows that we trust God that his provision for the present is adequate and his promise for the future is sure. When we have a weekly rhythm of a day of rest, we stand alongside the saints who trusted God to provide for their needs (Manna) (Exodus 16:22–30). We stand alongside Jesus, who rejected Satan’s attempt to convince him to look after his own needs, by recalling that we live not on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Matthew 4:4). We live with integrity as people who pray “give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11), and then trust God to do it. As finite creatures, we declare our trust in the resources of the infinite Creator, who provides us with every blessing (Ephesians 1:3; 1 Timothy 6:17). When we commit to enjoy a weekly day of rest in the busiest seasons of life (see Exodus 34:21), we declare our trust in God even more loudly.
C. Taking a weekly day of rest proclaims Christ’s supremacy.
Taking one day a week to loosen our hearts’ grip on our own achievements clears space for remembering and reminding each other of Christ’s accomplishments. Everything we cannot do, even with endless striving, Christ has done already. In our rest, we proclaim that he has fulfilled the requirement of perfect obedience to his Father (Romans 8:3–4). We proclaim that he has provided the true rest which our pursuit of leisure activities and restless sleep cannot provide (Matthew 11:28–30). We declare that our ambition is much bigger than career progression, or status elevation, or completing earthly tasks — it is to make Christ known.
Freeing one day a week from the tyranny of the urgent and the never-finished to-do list reminds us and those around us that we are no longer slaves. The original recipients of the command to rest one day in seven were reminded that the Lord rescued them from slavery in Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15). But for Israel — and for us — redemption from physical bondage was merely a picture of the greater freedom from sin and death (Romans 6:15–23). We see more clearly than did Israel that we “were called to freedom” (Galatians 5:13), and therefore our cause for remembrance and celebration is greater.
We take a day of rest not by obligation, but out of a greater desire to pause, to remember, to look forward, and to worship. Declaring that we freely choose to celebrate freedom is a message sorely needed by those who are enslaved to the obligations of busyness and who feel like they cannot escape the tyranny of burnout.
How about you? Are you seeking to make the Lord’s Day special, for these reasons?
Come to Jesus Christ and find the true and eternal rest you need, in Him.