In this sermon, Pastor Neil continues his preaching on the Lord of the Sabbath, answering the question, what is the Sabbath for? Here are some excerpts
The healing of the man with a withered hand by Jesus on the Sabbath day gives us a glimpse of the Lord’s desires and purpose for the Sabbath. Jesus had gone to church, as He was in the habit of doing on the Sabbath (Luke 4:16). Some of His critics were there, too, along with this man with a crippled hand. Luke adds the detail that it was the man’s right hand that was shriveled. At a time when most people worked with their hands, and since most people are right-handed, it would have been especially difficult for this man to make a living without the use of his hand.
Jesus takes the initiative here. It wasn’t like the time when the four friends of the paraplegic cut a hole in the roof in order to get their needy friend to Jesus. In this case Jesus speaks first and asks the man to stand up right there in the synagogue. Then, knowing the Pharisees are looking for an opening to criticize or condemn Him, Jesus asks them this provocative question: “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4)
The Message expresses it this way: “What kind of action suits the Sabbath best? Doing good or doing evil? Helping people or leaving them helpless?”
Did you notice how His critics answer Him? They don’t. Mark says: “They remained silent” (3:4). Crickets…
It is ironic that the critics of Jesus were so upset by this, accusing Jesus of working on the Sabbath, when the only thing Jesus did that was observable to the naked eye was to speak a few words to the man. That He did a miraculous “work” of healing is self-evident, but no one actually saw Him “do” anything that would be a violation of the Sabbath rules.
Nevertheless, what we see is that the religious leaders of the day had elevated their devotion to the observance of the Sabbath, with all 39 categories of activities that were forbidden on the Sabbath, to the level of an essential of the faith. And they insisted that everyone adopt their view of what was OK and what was not OK to do on the Sabbath. What they saw as an essential of the faith, we view as a non-essential in which we have liberty under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
You might ask why Jesus, in this case, insisted on healing this crippled hand on the Sabbath, when He knew it would add to the conflict between Him and the Pharisees. Couldn’t Jesus have just waited until the Sabbath was over? Couldn’t He have waited until tomorrow to heal this man’s hand? Why did He feel the need to do it right then and there, knowing it would increase the tension between Him and the Pharisees?
Jesus could have waited. This was not a life-or-death situation. We can presume that this man had been living with a crippled hand for some time. What’s one more day?
Jesus would answer, I think, by saying: Why wait until tomorrow to do the good I can do today? Why should this man suffer for another day when right now is the kairos moment, the moment of opportunity to heal him? The attitude of Jesus gives us a window into one of God’s purposes for the Sabbath, which I will come back to in a few minutes.
If the Sabbath or Lord’s Day is for our good; intended for our benefit; if it is a gift from God and not a burden or a straitjacket; how can we receive the rich benefits God has in store for us in it? What is lawful on the Sabbath, according to the Lord of the Sabbath, and what is not?
I don’t presume to have the last word on it, and, as I said last Sunday, I will not give you a detailed list of do’s and don’ts for the Lord’s Day. But I want to propose five positive purposes for God’s provision of the Sabbath:
It is not a day for selfish indulgence, not a day for just doing whatever you want. It is a day for rest. For worship, relationships, re-creation, and for reaching out in acts of mercy and kindness.
We must say NO! to the errors of both rigid legalism (with all its Do’s and Don’ts) and “anything goes” antinomianism. The Sabbath was made for us, but that doesn’t make us the Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. The Lord’s Day belongs to Him. Every day belongs to Him. Everything belongs to Him. We belong to Him. Our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him. Today. Every day. Forever.
Pastor Neil has a lot more to say about this topic. Please click on the link below to hear the sermon in its entirety.