O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Based on Mark 2:23-28
Preached on June 3, 2018
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In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Getting into trouble – and on a simple stroll. It’s a beautiful day. The sun’s out. The birds are singing. The fields are lush. Jesus and His disciples are on their after-worship walk. You know, that slow meandering pace where you’re not out for exercise – just the joy of the jaunt. Tough to do though – when you’ve got a huge crowd following you as Jesus did – but worse, and central to the story – embedded in that crowd are those fault-finding Pharisees – you know, the ones that make the American news cycle seem gentle – yeah - waiting, watching, hoping for any little thing they can twist and interpret in this Jesus, or His called disciples, to prove that He is not who He claims to be. Oh, they’re watching. It’s just a matter of time before they see what they need.
And then it happens as they’re sauntering along. The disciples pluck a few heads of grain for a snack. And you might be thinking – oh, stealing – but no, that’s not it. In fact, God specifically permitted this kind of charitable eating for the benefit of the poor. In God’s eyes, the disciples could eat to their hearts content – as long as they didn’t fill a bag or use a sickle – no, that’s not the fault the Pharisees have found. Did you catch it? Listen carefully to what they say to Jesus: “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”
Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy. You see Jesus. Your disciples are not keeping the Sabbath Day holy. They’re working – harvesting grain by our account. You can almost imagine the plainness of Jesus’ face as He listens to them. Do you think its your not working that keeps the Sabbath Day holy? Do you think that the day is made holy because you don’t work? That if we pull out the sombrero for a long lazy nap, or lie around in our bed all day – the Sabbath Day is kept holy. No. God gives you rest in His holy 3rd commandment, so that you might rest with Him in His Word. God’s Word makes you holy – it makes the day holy. It is the only thing that makes anything holy. And these disciples of mine – are in these grainfields, following me because of the Word they want to hear from my mouth. You see, a day without God’s Word is a day not holy – a day with God’s Word is made holy. Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Anyday. And we need it – God’s holiness – we need it desperately and we can’t get it on our own – but our Lord gives out His Word for free.
But that’s not how Jesus answers their question, is it? No. No, Jesus does something far more magnificent. He turns the tables. He answers the question and changes the focus all in one fowl swoop. Jesus let’s them spin and rage – and then He uses their foolishness to proclaim His kingdom anyway – He is the Master – the King – the Son of Man – and you are not ready for Him – He will instantly make you realize “I am not as free as I thought – and He is much more free than I could ever understand.” What is He doing? LISTEN:
“Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?”
Remember King David – Jesus says - I’m doing what David did. I am David’s Son, the true King. Isn’t this the reason you are trying to find fault with me – because you know I claim these things? Wow. What do you say to that? How could you possibly respond except to listen carefully?
I am the greater King, He says. The Son of Man. Lord of the Sabbath. You want to quibble about grain. No. We’re going to talk about who’s in charge. Authority. We’re going to talk about that thing you’ve been avoiding so far – that I stand before you claiming to be your God and your King – and you’re actually thinking about something else. You’re actually acting like there is a more important conversation to have.
But this is each one of us, isn’t it? We’d be hard-pressed this morning to find one among us who woke up and thought “Wow. I’m going to stand before the King today. And He’s going to tell me all the ways He is making His kingdom to be mine.” No. Most of us had some other relatively trivial thing on our mind. Our internal script was just like the Pharisees – some type of quibbling over right and wrong – probably so we can tell ourselves again how right we are. Beloved, He’s right in front of you. He is speaking to you as plainly as He spoke to the Pharisees that Sabbath. Are you listening?
My kingly preaching is not what you’d expect. I speak to restore you. Not make you follow rules. I come to lift your burden from you, not to give you one. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath – It is a gift – reeesssst – a relief from all the pressure you carry - I mean, it’s heavy isn’t it?!? It’s really really heavy and there are days when you think “I just can’t carry this anymore.” God made Sabbath for you. He planned and built His rest into life for you, because no one else is ever going to give it to you.
You’re on. You’re on with everyone – except God. He is the Only One that you can totally be yourself with – that you can unload on – rest in – just be – and know that His opinion of you will not change – His ACTION towards you will not change – because He felt this way about you before He made you, and He’s not going to change. His Word and promise to you will stand – no – it will hold you when you are limp and spent and done.
Beloved, He is looking after you. He is providing for you in ways – and on levels you didn’t even know existed. He knows you are afraid to let go. He knows you don’t know how to turn off – how to give yourself into His hands – HE HAS TO MAKE A COMMANDMENT – so that you even stop to think about resting in Him. Meanwhile, He is so kindly, and so gently, giving you a place and time where you can relinquish control, and have Him lift that heavy burden that hangs on the shoulders of your soul – up off of you – so He can set it squarely on His own back. The Son of Man is Lord – even of the Sabbath. You won’t work, because He is going to work – for you. He is going to rule – for you – lording His rest, His peace, His safety over you – so you can be totally vulnerable before Him and not have even a hint of fear.
His cross - He holds it before your eyes, because there He does the heavy-lifting – all the weight of your sin, all the pressures of the Law, all the expectations – you don’t lift them – He does. Come to Me all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.
The Pharisees were all over His disciples. They are looking for the worst. And you know exactly what that is like? You’re just following Jesus through life, minding your own business – but everyone out there who knows you’re a Christian – is just looking for reasons to find fault in you. Being a Christian is a 24 hour job – which is precisely why you need rest. A break – from the world and its pressures. From your sin and its pressures. The summer break won’t do it. A two-week vacation won’t do it. That only kicks the pressures down the road. No, you need a place where you can run, where someone will say to you, “It’s ok to be a Christian. It’s ok to believe as you do. It’s true.” And that One - is Jesus. Yes, the King Himself. The Lord. The One who gave you your faith – He protects it for you. He steps in. He steps in to defend His disciples, when the Pharisees and judgers of this life catch you following the Lord through the grainfields.
Because that’s really what its about isn’t it? Those people aren’t really criticizing you (though it feels like it), they are after the Lord. They are just upset because He has authority over them too – and they don’t want to admit it – just like the Pharisees. They don’t want Him to be their Lord and King – their God – but He is anyway – He is the God of sinners. He is the Lord of sinners. He is the King of sinners – whether they acknowledge Him, and follow Him, finding their rest in Him – or not. And beloved, we really hope they do, no matter who they are. But take comfort, your Lord is going to step in and defend you. He has rest for you. Right here in His holy preached Word, and His rest-creating Sacraments.
It stops you, doesn’t it? Let’s you be still. Does something to you, in you. Your message now is peace. And rest. And grace. Imagine. He has stepped in to defend you. Peace is real. Something you can share with that person in your life that you know needs a break from the pressures and a rest from their burdens. The King wants to step into their life too- His back can handle it – and in His peace – resting in His peace – your life can’t help but carry it. Peace be with you. Peace - - be with you.
True Rest is Rest in the King of Rest. The Lord of the Sabbath. It is resting under the lordship of Your rest-giving King. It is handing over every care and burden into His capable, controlling hands and trusting Him with all of it. When He alone carries it for you, you will have rest.. When you are not carrying it – because you have thrown it onto His scar ridden back. You’ve put it all on the One meant to carry it all. You’ve struck Him with it because He looked you right in the eyes and said – “Give it me – I am your King.” And you listened to His holy Word.
It’s a beautiful day. The sun’s out. The birds are singing. The fields are lush. And Jesus is giving rest to His precious people preaching them His Word. In His holy Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr