Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew Sermon 50 of 151)
March 30, 2003 | Andrew Davis
The Law of God
We'll be looking this morning at Matthew 12. As we're making our journey through the Gospel of Matthew, we see unfolding the Kingdom of Heaven. We see unfolding before us the authority of Jesus Christ as the King of the Kingdom of Heaven. In this text, we're going to see another aspect of that authority. We're going to see the fact that Jesus claims authority over the Sabbath. He claims the right to make rules and regulations that we should abide by, and to dispense with man made rules and regulations which he did not make. He is Lord of the Sabbath. We're also going to see in this text one of the most grievous thing in the history of the world. Jesus came to his own people, and his own people did not receive him. The leaders of his people who should have known better, end up by plotting to kill Jesus. 700 years before Christ was born, the prophet Isaiah prophesied that this would happen. Isaiah 53:3 says, "He was despised and rejected by men. A man of sorrows and familiar with suffering, like one from whom men hide their faces. He was despised, and we esteemed him not." Here for the first time in Matthew's Gospel, therefore the first time in the New Testament, we see organized murderous opposition to Jesus as the King of the Kingdom of Heaven. And the reason is so perplexing, isn't it?
The reason is striking. They want to kill him because he is merciful to the weak. They want to kill him because he demonstrates mercy and compassion. He does not follow their rules, and for this reason they want to murder him. What we're dealing with in this text is the issue of Sabbath laws and regulations. The commandment did come from God. It was established right at the beginning of creation. It says very plainly there that in six days God made the heavens and the earth, the sea and everything in them. All things that were created, all the physical universe was made in six days by the power of God. by His word, by His out outstretched hand and His mighty arm. He created all things in six days. The Bible says then very plainly in Genesis 2, that by the seventh day, God had finished the work He had been doing, and so on the seventh day He rested from all his work. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it He rested from His work of creating. Don't imagine in a human way that God was fatigued or worn out from his creating work, not at all. That's a human phenomenon, but we have learned later from Christ that man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man. Right from the beginning God established this that we might be blessed, that we might be strengthened.
Reasons for the Sabbath
The Sabbath was established therefore I think for two great reasons. Number one, that we might acknowledge God's kingship over the entire universe. I look on his rest in Genesis 2 as the rest of a king sitting down on his throne to rule over his empire. Not resting out of fatigue, but resting on his throne to be a king, to rule. The Sabbath day was set apart that we human beings would acknowledge his sovereignty, that we would acknowledge his kingship, that we would yield to his commands.
Secondly, the Sabbath day was also set up for us because we are weak and frail, and limited human beings. We do get tired, we do get worn out. So God set apart this day, one day in seven, and made it sacred and holy that we might rest from our labor. That we might be refreshed and encouraged and renewed, recreated in some sense, that we might continue our labors. For those two great reasons, God from the very beginning of creation set up the Sabbath day and blessed it and made it holy. From the beginning of Israel's history as a nation, he established the same principle. Even before the Ten Commandments were given, God provided manna and bread from Heaven that came down on the ground, and people went around to collect it, and he said, "Pick it up, in six days you'll pick it up and eat it. Don't take more than you need for one day. There'll be enough tomorrow, so just take enough for today." They went out, but some disobedient Israelites collected too much. They thought they would have a midnight snack or an early breakfast or something. But they accumulated some extra, and you remember the next morning it was filled with maggots. It was defiled because they had broken the commandment of God. God very clearly establishing each day enough bread for the day. But there was one day in which that was changed, and that was the day of the Sabbath. And God said, "Tomorrow, you must not go out and collect any bread. No manna will be on the ground as you go out tomorrow. So therefore, collect double the amount you need today, and then eat it tomorrow." The people disobeyed that command as well.They brought their baskets out to collect, and so God rebuked them for their disobedience. The rebuke was in the absence of manna on the ground. There was nothing there to collect. God established therefore even before Sinai, even before the 10 commandments, that there would be one day in seven, a day of rest. But then very plainly in the old covenant, in the 10 commandments he established this day. In Exodus 20:8 it says, "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work. Neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your man servant or maid servant, nor your animals nor the alien within your gates, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.. . .Therefore the Lord blessed the seventh day and made it holy.” There it is in the Sinai regulations there would be one day in seven, the seventh day, the Sabbath day,that the people were to do no work.
Establishment of the Sabbath
The Sabbath regulation was established by punishing severely Sabbath breakers. Even in the time of the Exodus, there was a man found who was collecting firewood and the Lord ordered through Moses that he be put to death. It was a very serious regulation. God established this as a law and a regulation that they would take this Sabbath day and they would rest. Moses was very specific in Exodus 35: "These are the things the Lord has commanded you to do. For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it must be put to death. Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day." And so God establishes this rule through severe punishment for any that would break the sabbath regulation.
He also establishes it through strong statements made by the prophets. For example, Isaiah says in Isaiah 58:13-14, "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord." Well, that's a vital verse, isn't it? You'll find your joy in the Lord and I[God] will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. He also establishes the same principle in Jeremiah 17: 21-23, “This is what the Lord says, be careful not to carry a load on the Sabbath day or bring it through the gates of Jerusalem. Do not bring a load out of your houses or do any work on the Sabbath but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your forefathers. Yet they did not listen or pay attention, they were stiff necked and would not listen or respond to discipline."
Thirdly, in the history of Israel, God re-established Sabbath regulations when He restored the people back after the exile. In Nehemiah 13 as he is speaking as a governor, Nehemiah says, "In those days I saw men in Judah treading wine presses on the Sabbath and bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys together with wine, grapes, figs and all other kinds of loads and they were bringing all this into Jerusalem on the Sabbath. Therefore I warned them against selling food on that day, men from Tyre who lived in Jerusalem were bringing in fish and all kinds of merchandise and selling them in Jerusalem on the sabbath of the people of Judah. I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, 'What is this wicked thing you are doing? Desecrating the Sabbath day, didn't your forefathers do the same things? So our God brought all this calamity upon us and upon the city, now you're stirring up more wrath against Israel by desecrating the Sabbath.' When evening shadows fell in the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I ordered the doors to be shut and not opened until the Sabbath was over. I stationed some of my own men at the gates so that no load could be brought in on the Sabbath day. Once or twice the merchants and sellers of all kinds of goods spent the night outside Jerusalem, but I warn them and said, "Why do you spend the night by the wall? If you do this again, I will lay hands on you." That means I'm going to arrest you, so they didn't do it anymore. Again, Nehemiah establishing the importance of the Sabbath regulation in the old covenant. Now, the Jewish response to this, especially after the exile, was one of total seriousness even in the point of death. During the days of the Maccabees when the Maccabean Jews were fighting against the Greeks that were seeking to desecrate their land, they would not fight on the Sabbath. Some men women and children were massacred in a cave and would not lift a sword to defend themselves for they were willing to die for the Sabbath regulation. After that, however, one of the Maccabi rulers had a different insight about the Sabbath and said, "We can defend ourselves in the Sabbath, we just can't have any offensive operations on Sabbath days."
Sabbath Regulations Established by Man
So there was new insight, and we see that the Sabbath regulations changing and evolving as people were thinking about how to out the Sabbath. They were trying to figure it out. What ended up happening was that groups like the Pharisees, spiritual leaders, men who Jesus said sat in Moses’ seat, started to make rules and regulations about what you could and could not do on the Sabbath. There were long lists of dos and don'ts. There were long lists of obligations, more don'ts than do’s; for the most part it was a list of “thou shalt nots.” There was a list, for example, of 39 prohibited actions: you couldn't sow, there was no plowing, no reaping, no binding, threshing, winnowing, grinding, sifting, kneading, baking, sheering wool, bleaching or dying wool, no spinning, no weaving, no tying or untying a knot, no sewing or tearing of two stitches, apparently one was okay. No writing or erasing of two letters, again one was okay. So if you got enough people together, each could write one letter and you could write a message. There was no hunting, no building, no demolishing, no kindling or extinguishing fire. No hammering, no carrying objects from one place to another which was a factor in John chapter 5 when Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath and he picks up his mat and carries it home at Jesus's command. The man is condemned as a mat-carrying Sabbath breaker rather than one who had been healed after 39 years of paralysis. This is the regulation, the list was not exhausted by any means, they were always adding to it, more and more “thou shalt nots.” These were the men who Jesus said sit in Moses’ Seat, making authoritative regulations about how you were or were not to keep the Sabbath.
These are the kinds of regulations that Jesus begins to challenge. Jesus looks at the positive side of the Sabbath; what it is lawful to do on the Sabbath, what in fact you should and must do on the Sabbath. In Matthew 12:12, “Therefore, said Jesus ‘It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’” Jesus has a different viewpoint of the Sabbath; what must and may we do on the Sabbath rather than being concerned about the negative side the regulations. Some Jewish religious leaders were absolutely convinced that Jesus was from the devil. Later we’ll study that they ascribed his miracles to Beelzebub, the prince of demons, but I think it's specifically on the issue of the Sabbath that he really angered them. Some of the Pharisees said in John 9:16, “This man is not from God for he does not keep the Sabbath”, but others asked, ‘How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?’ and so they were divided.” The Sabbath and Jesus’ miracles contradicted each other, and in their way of thinking, they didn't have any way to reconcile them. They never considered that their own regulations were outside the will of God. They were human regulations that God had never established, for Jesus came to uphold every jot and tittle of the law absolutely but he did not come to uphold the listing of regulations that human beings had made. Actually he came to challenge them. I think he went out and provoked the Pharisees on purpose. Nine different times in the Gospels, there's a healing account on the Sabbath. That's pretty significant, isn't it, when you stop and think of the number of healings and the accounts that we have? Nine different times it occurs on the Sabbath. Seven different times on the Sabbath we have an articulated defense of why He's healing on the Sabbath. Our text here is one instance where Jesus gives a defense for his actions on the Sabbath. The issue of the Sabbath was, therefore, not at all a minor issue. This was actually a major point of conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees and the Sadducees. In these examples Christ in no way minimizes the importance of the Sabbath, quite the opposite. He's trying to save the Sabbath from human traditions and from human regulations. The greatest change of all that Jesus instituted in the Sabbath is that he fulfilled it through his death on the cross and through his resurrection and opening heaven for any who had come to faith in Christ. That is the very point made in Hebrews chapter 4 in which we can enter into God's Sabbath rest eternally through faith in Christ.
Christ has Authority over the Sabbath
Now let's look at verses 1-8 in which Christ says very plainly that the Lord of the Sabbath claims his authority. The context here in verses 1 and 2 is a hungry stroll by his disciples through a field. It says at that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and they began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this they said to him, "Look your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath." What's going on is they're walking through a grain field that does not belong to them and they're picking heads of grain and rubbing them in their hands and then blowing on them to get the husks away and then eating them. The problem was not one of theft — that they were eating grain that didn't belong to them not at all. The book of Deuteronomy 23:25 provides for poor people in Israel. So that the poor would have enough to eat; this is the basis on which Ruth, for example, went through and gleaned and picked up enough food for she and Naomi to eat. This was a form of welfare that God provided for the poor. What does that tell you about being a disciple of Jesus at that time? It was not very lucrative to follow Jesus; they were picking the grain on the sabbath and eating it because they were hungry. Because they didn't really have a lot of money. It didn't pay well to follow Jesus at that point. Jesus said, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests but the son of man has no place to lay his head and you may end up picking heads of grain and eating them just to have enough to eat." Notice also that Jesus doesn't seem to be picking the grain and eating but rather just the disciples, but the Pharisees come after him, don't they? He's the one that they want to attack and because the disciples are seen to be under the authority of the master and he's got to give an account for their behavior.
At issue was a strict pharisaic interpretation of what they were doing. Plucking grain with the hand is interpreted as reaping. I believe that was one of the “ing” words that you weren't supposed to do. They could not do reaping; they could not rub the grain with their hands because this was interpreted as threshing. Neither could they blow on it because this is winnowing, so they're guilty on three counts of labor on the Sabbath. Christ has to make a defense, doesn't he? He's has to defend his disciples and even more to challenge their understanding of the Sabbath that is deeper. He begins his defense. How does he defend himself ? To what does he appeal? As always He appeals to scripture, " Have you not read?" This is so significant He says it twice in this text doesn't he? "Have you not read what David did, or have you not read concerning the priests that they desecrated the day through their labor?" He's ascribing his defense to the scriptures. It's interesting that the Pharisees spent their whole lives doing nothing but study the scripture. They studied it so meticulously that they actually knew what the middle Hebrew letter was of every book of the Old Testament. They knew the middle Hebrew letter of the book of Isaiah. Do you know how you would do that? You count them forward and you count backward. They had all kinds of arcane information but they did not understand what they were reading, so Jesus somewhat rebukes them by saying, "Have you not read in the scripture... ?” He brings them back to the scripture. This shows me something about Christ's view of the sufficiency of scripture. When you have a controversy, when you have a problem, where do you turn to answer that problem? You turn to the Scripture. Christ believed the answer could be found there. I believe this challenges the modern church. On controversial topics we tend to think that the Scripture is inadequate because of the nature of the controversy itself. One side says one thing somebody else says something else close. We can't figure it out; we have to go some other way to resolve the issue. Would Christ have done that? “Study it more carefully, you're not reading properly.” We tend practically to deny the sufficiency of Scripture. Concerning church growth, we think that the simple preaching and exposition of the word is insufficient. We must have glitzy programs, we must have a family life center, we must have jugglers and dancers on Sunday morning. We must entertain the people. The simple exposition of the word is not enough to build a church. It's not enough to build your soul. We must have something else, not Scripture alone.
In counseling, if you're going to sit down with somebody who's having a problem, it's not enough to teach them Scripture, not enough to unfold it. We must instead have the most up-to-date psychological teachings, pop psychology, and whatever book is in the top 10 list .This will be your insight. The word “psychology” means “a study of the soul.” If the Bible wasn't given for that, then what was it given for? Christ found the sufficiency for all things in scripture. There are various levels to scripture. When you're going to resolve a difficult problem you could turn to precept, you could turn to principle, and you could turn to pattern. Precept is: “Thus says the Lord” or “the Lord commands this” or “the Lord prohibits that.” That is precept. Or you could look to principle. A theological principle is a truth that is unfolded in book after book of Scripture. It is something we learn about God and about man and about his dealings This is principle. Or we could look at pattern: an example of famous people in the Bible and how they behaved. We can follow their example. Jesus does all three here. Isn't that remarkable? He turns to precept, he turns to principle and to pattern to find his answer. The sufficiency is right here. Precept: the fact that the priests were commanded to work on the Sabbath. That is a precept that tells you something, doesn't it? Principle: the fact that humans are of greater value than animals. That tells you something to help us resolve this matter. Pattern: the fact that king David acted a certain way at a certain point in history and he was beloved of the Lord, a man after God's own heart. But ultimately Jesus finds his answer on this matter in his own authority. Ultimately He's going to resolve it by saying the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath. “I have the right to make rules about this matter.” It's an incredible statement that he makes.
Jesus, first, appeals to the authority of a future king. Look at verse 3-4, he answered, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread which was not lawful for them to do but only for the priests.” He's turning to a future king David. David was not yet king [ 1 Samuel 21]. David is fleeing for his life from the insane king Saul. King Saul hates David. He wants to kill him because he's jealous of him. David is running for his life with some handful of men. He comes to the tabernacle and I believe it was on a Sabbath that it occurred because on that day the old bread from last week, the bread of the presence, was set aside and new bread was put in its place. What's going to happen to the old bread? The priest could eat it or do whatever he chose with it since it was old. Jesus himself said it was not lawful for David to eat the bread yet David asked for it and it's given to him. Here Jesus is establishing a very important point. David's role as a future king of Israel and the mission he was on fleeing for his life made his eating of unlawful bread acceptable. He's clearly quoting David's action positively, and so the fact of who he was and what his mission was took priority over throwing out the bread of the presence. It took priority over this. If the law says nothing about picking heads of grain and eating them for hunger's sake, how much more then are my disciples allowed to do this? That's the way his argument works.
It works especially because of who David was. It's the authority of David that's in mind here. If he were Joe the plumber or Fred the carpenter it wouldn't be the same, but it's David and he's on a mission. He's going to be king over Israel. He's a man after God's own heart, and so he appeals to the authority of a future king. Secondly, he appeals to the authority of a priest. Jesus says in verse 5, “Haven't you read in the law that on the Sabbath the priest in the temple desecrates the day and yet is innocent.” This is the direct appeal to the law to limit Sabbath regulations. The law says very plainly in Numbers 28 that every Sabbath the priest was to offer sacrifice; you might not think that's a lot of work, but it really was. Israel was a huge nation. This was probably the priest's busiest day of the week, and Jesus says very plainly that the priest desecrates[a very strong Hebrew word] the day, and yet he says the priest are innocent. It's the same word he ascribes to his own disciples when he says, “How could you condemn the innocent? The priests are innocent, and my disciples are innocent.” He appeals to the authority of the priest again we're not talking about Joe the plumber or Fred the carpenter we're talking about specific roles in Israel and they were allowed even commanded to desecrate the sabbath.
Thirdly, Jesus appeals to the authority of a prophet. Matthew 12:7, “If you had known what these words mean I desire mercy not sacrifice you would not have condemned the innocent.” This is a very important quote from Hosea. He quotes it several times, and what he's saying is you are living for sacrifice. You are living for the rules and regulations that you've set up, I desire mercy, we could almost say more than sacrifice. There's a hierarchy that Christ sets up in the law very plainly. He sets it up when he talks about them giving a tenth of their spices. You remember you are supposed to give a tenth of everything, so there they are accounting out mint leaves. You just about need a microscope to see the leaf, and there they were — nine for me, one for you, nine for me,one for you. How many mint leaves did you have? I had 184; that means you gave 18.4 to God. That's what they were doing. Jesus said, "You give a tenth of your spices, mint, dill, and cumin, but you've neglected the weightier matters of the law: Justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Then he says, “You should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former. Go ahead and count out your mint leaves, but please, justice, mercy, faith, these are the essential matters.” They had no mercy whatsoever, and the later account in which Jesus heals the man with the shriveled hand proves it.
Christ does not therefore overthrow the minutia of the law, he just puts it in its proper order. Justice, mercy, and faithfulness is vital. For Christ to feed a hungry man, or heal a suffering human being created in the image of God on the sabbath, is pleasing to God, that's what he's saying. The conclusion though above all things, is that Christ appeals to his own authority. In effect he's saying, "I am a king greater than David, I am a priest greater than any priest that's ever lived, because I am greater than the temple. One who is greater than the temple is here." What a claim Christ is making. He's saying, "I'm a prophet that ends all prophets. In the past God spoke to the people through the prophets, but now he's speaking through me, I'm the final word from God. I am the word incarnate, I am the prophet that's above all prophets." Verse 8: "Therefore the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath." "I am the king of the Sabbath, and what I say goes, that is my authority." He appeals to the authority of a king, of a priest, and of a prophet, but finally, to his own highest authority. There has to be somebody to make up Sabbath regulation. Jesus says, "I'm the one who will do it, I decide what to do." It's a stunning claim, but it's actually less than the claim He makes in John chapter 5. After healing a man on the sabbath, the Pharisees challenged him because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working." For this reason, the Jews tried all the harder to kill Jesus. Not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God his own father, making himself equal with God. The Son of Man is son of God, and He has the authority to make these kinds of regulations.
Jesus exercises his authority in verses 9 through 13. It says, "Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath?’” I get the image at this moment of the Pharisees and teachers of law like birds of prey, with their talons extended. Each talon may be one of the commandments of the Ten Commandments, something like that. They are ready to rip flesh, aren't they? They have no desire to see the man with the shriveled hand healed. They have no concern for him at at all. They have more concern for their own sheep than they do for this man. They were there like birds of prey, ready to rip flesh. They want to accuse Jesus, they want to attack him.
Now the man it says, had a dry or a shriveled or withered hand, much like... Have you ever seen a branch on a tree that for some reason is cut off from sap and it shrivels and there's no fruit, it just kind of pulled in like that? This man had that kind of a hand. Luke tells us tit was his right hand probably to imply it was very hard for this man to make a living, he couldn't work. You can imagine trying to work with one hand. Jesus is there, and he knows very well that these people are ready to accuse him, they're ready to attack him for healing on the Sabbath.
The Lord of the Sabbath reasons with them at this moment. In verse 11 and 12, He said to them, "If any of you has a sheep, and it falls into a pit on the sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep? Therefore, it You know our God is a reasonable God.”Come now let us reason together." Isaiah chapter one. And so he's thinking through, he says, "Think about yourself, If you noticed one of your sheep and it fell into a pit, are you telling me you would debate theologically about whether you'd lift it up out of the pit? Oh don't bother because I've seen you do it, you're willing to lift your sheep up out of a pit, but you don't care about this man who can't extend his right hand, you have no concern for him. I desire mercy, not your sacrificial system. Where is your mercy for this man created in the image of God? Where is your compassion, where is your love? Let's reason together."
By the way, there are people in our culture today that say that human beings are just animals. It's evolutionary thinking or eastern mysticism of some sort. And so there are groups like PETA and others that say that we are equal to animals. It is not the biblical viewpoint, we are worth more than many sparrows. If God feeds the sparrows or the birds, how much more will he feed us? There's a mentality here, we are set above the physical creation in this world, we're not equal to a sheep. Jesus is arguing from the greater to the lesser, from the more shocking to the less. "If you're going to do that to a sheep, how much more can I heal this man on the Sabbath out of compassion and out of love?"
We don't get it here in Matthew but we get in Mark, that the moment that Jesus asked this question, which is lawful, to help the sheep or to help the man, they didn't want to answer. Because the answer was not advantageous to them, they were stuck. They could see Jesus's point, but they didn't want to concede anything, because of their hard hearts, because of their hatred. In Mark 3:4-5, Jesus asked them, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath, to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill? But they remained silent. He looked around them in anger, and deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts.” It's one of the insights we have into Jesus's emotional life. He has passion, and here it's anger. He's angry that they will not even venture an answer because they don't want to lose the debate. “There's a man with a withered hand and you won't even answer me,” Jesus thinks.
He brushes them aside. He's not dealing with them anymore. They will not answer him, they will not be moved by his reasoning, they will not change. It's time for a show of power. The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath, the Son of man is also Lord of everything, He's Lord of all, he can do anything. He says to the man with the shriveled hands, "Stretch out your hand." By the way, is that a command or an invitation? I'm coming to believe that all of Christ's commands are invitations and all of his invitations are commands. It's one and the same. Go ahead, stretch it out. He did, and it was completely restored just like the other. Isn't that incredible? Maybe the man had been a flute player, and could go home and play the flute again, maybe he was a carpenter and could go home and work with his tools again. He freed him from a burden with just a word. This is Jesus, the power of Christ. It shows that he is in fact, Lord of the Sabbath, he has power that no one else does. What comes next breaks your heart. Look at Verse 14. "But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus." The Lord of the Sabbath despised and rejected. His enemies have been stripped naked at this point. They're evil, they're hate-filled, they look good on the outside, they're religious on the outside but inside they're full of poisonous murder, and Jesus reveals it. They go home. Ask yourself, what were they willing to do on the Sabbath. I wonder if that's one of the things that was left out, you couldn't plow or tie or untie a knot or you couldn't write a single letter or a double letter or you couldn't do this, but you can meet together and plot to murder the Lord's Messiah, you can do that on a Sabbath. The hypocrisy is so thick here. They meet together and they begin to plot. Their plot is successful, isn't it? In the end they will kill Jesus, and in so doing they will open up a Sabbath rest for you and me. In murdering Jesus, the Sabbath is fulfilled. Christ dies under the wrath of God. The punishment for our sin is poured down on Him and we by simple faith in Christ can enter into an eternal rest With God. We can rest from our labor.
Eternal Sabbath Rest
In Hebrews 4:3, it says, "Now we who have believed enter that rest just as God has said. So I declared an oath in my anger they shall never enter my rest." He said if you believe you enter into the Sabbath rest forever. You cease from your labor, you stop working for your salvation, it's over now. Christ said it is finished when he died, and so are you also finished from your labors. Through justification, through simple faith, you enter into Christ's Sabbath rest. The Lord of the Sabbath stands and just invites you into his rest. "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and enter into my Sabbath rest. I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, I'm Lord of the Sabbath, I'm Lord of all. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I'm gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls for my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Come into the Sabbath rest." Have you done it? Have you entered Christ's Sabbath rest? Through faith in Christ, have you come to justification, to complete forgiveness of sins? If you have, some day you will enter into a perfect Sabbath rest. You will go to heaven and you'll rest from all warfare, all spiritual warfare, no more pain, no more death, no more crying, no more struggle, no more temptation, no more wars or rumors of wars, no more of any of that, a perfect Sabbath rest. And it’s all because of Verse 14 which says they went out and plotted to kill him. Because Jesus died on the cross, a perfect Sabbath rest.
Now you're saying, "You're leaving out one important thing, what about the Sabbath today? What about Sabbath regulations now? What about the 10 commandments? Do we still obey it? What then?" I don't have time for that today, I don't. It's on the text anyway so I'm free okay, I don't have to go into Sabbatarianism in our text today but I will give you a few guidelines. I think it is impossible that we uphold the spirit of the Sabbath on Sunday.
I believe that God raised Christ from the dead on the first day of the week. Everything's done for a reason by the way. Because on that day he began creating saying, "Let there be light." And so with Christ's resurrection he began the new creation. The new creation, Sabbath rest, the first day of the week and not the seventh. You may say, "Pastor are you going to give us a list of dos and don'ts?" That's not my job. Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath. I don't need to do that, that's His responsibility. But I do want to say this, you should set apart this day to worship the Lord, to come to worship as you did today, not as an optional thing but as a way to honor God and submit to his authority so that you also might acknowledge your weakness as a frail human being that you need a time of rest, you need to be refreshed spiritually, you need to focus again on Christ. If you're in a family, you need to gather the family around the family altar, and you need to read Scripture and meditate and pray and sing together as a family. What do you mean “you need to,” what if we don't? "What will happen if we don't?" I'm not doing that, that's the Pharisee question.
Jesus says, "What will happen if we do?" Let's gather together around the family altar. If you're not married set apart some time to meditate. When I was a single man after I'd graduated from college, I loved Sunday afternoons. After church I would go and find a beautiful place if the weather permitted and go outside. I would lay under a tree and I would get the Scripture, a Psalm. I would get something that Paul wrote, something I loved, and I would just chew on it, I would meditate on it, think about it, I would reflect on it. Psalm 16, "In your presence, the fullness of joy with eternal pleasures forever more at your right hand." I would just eat it like I was eating my favorite food. I would meditate on it. I would sing. I was alone, no one heard me, and I was refreshed, ready on Monday morning for work again, to be a witness for Christ, to serve him, to move on. I would be in fellowship with other brothers and sisters in Christ. We'd eat meals together, we'd do things together. In America today we think we don't need the Sabbath rest. We need it, we need it. So refresh yourself on the Lord's day.