And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” And after looking around at them all he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus. (Luke 6:9-11)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. In our daily lectionary reading from Luke we see a portrayal of the Pharisees as those who, in their attempt to protect the Sabbath, burdened it with restrictions. We remember from the commandments that we are to “Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy.” In Luther’s explanation we read: “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” Are we more like the Pharisees in Luke’s story than we care to admit? How have we managed to turn God’s gift of the Sabbath into a burden?
One could argue, for instance, that we have gone to the opposite extreme of the Pharisees. There are no restrictions on what we can do on our Sabbath Day. So many of us have soccer and baseball games, and multiple other activities on Sunday. Most of our stores are open and we often have taken Sundays to catch up on chores and projects around the house. When it comes to Sunday worship and the Divine Service, well, that becomes one more thing to squeeze into a busy day.
Jesus says that the Sabbath was made for humankind. It is meant to be life-giving, not life-draining. It is meant to be a gift, a time apart from the relentless demands of daily life, a time to rest in God’s presence. Whether it’s Sundays at church or as you are reading this devotion on a Friday, your Sabbath time is a blessed time to savor the goodness of Jesus’ work for you. He worked tirelessly on your behalf and He did not rest until He was laid dead in the tomb. He is risen, and that is why Sundays have been our traditional time for the Sabbath rest. Church is a place or rest, not burden, a place of freedom, not obligation. Jesus has established your Sabbath rest in His Word so that you might be fully restored in body and soul. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
Preserve me, O God, for in You I take refuge. (Psalm 16:1)
-Rev. Kent Schaaf is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Little Rock, AR.
Audio Reflections Speaker: Rev. Duane Bamsch
Over eight sessions, The Messiah: Revealing Jesus in the Old Testament will lead you through the entirety of the Old Testament with daily readings, questions, and discussion prompts. After a brief introduction that reviews Christ’s earthly ministry, you will dive into the heart of the Holy Books that have spiritually nourished God’s people from creation to today! Now available from Concordia Publishing House.