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Entries in Sabbath (7)


Jesus: The Lord of the Sabbath

Mark 2:23-28.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on April 7, 2019.

Historically, many Christians have developed an odd theology concerning what the Bible calls the Sabbath day.  The word Sabbath is a Hebrew word that means rest.  Under the Law of Moses, Israel was commanded not to work on the last day of the week, which for them was sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.

Living in Israel, the first Christians found themselves continuing the Sabbath observance, mostly because it was their culture, yet also celebrating the first day of the week on which Jesus was resurrected.  They called it the Lord’s Day.  By A.D. 70, most Christians had been scattered out of Israel and many Gentiles in other countries had been converted.  They understood from the beginning that they were not under the Law and the necessity to cease work on the Sabbath.  Yet, in some ways Sunday came to replace the Sabbath of the Old Testament, even to the point of being called the Sabbath by many. 

This creates a theologically murky disconnect between what the New Testament is saying and what became the practice of many in the Church.  If we say Sunday has replaced Saturday as the New Sabbath, and true believers will not work on that day, then we are testifying that we are under a law that is similar to that of Israel.  Of course, it is impossible to find a verse in the New Testament that puts believers under such a charge.  In fact, we find quite the opposite.  We find verses which state that the day on which we worship and hold holy is not what is important.

In our passage today, we will see another complaint that the Pharisees had with the disciples of Jesus and how the answer that Jesus gives, teaches us the true meaning the Sabbath was intended to have under both covenants.

Another complaint against the disciples

Our passage opens by telling us that it is the Sabbath, which was a day that Israel would not be working.  Instead, they would go to the Synagogue and then stay at home while focusing upon the worship of God.  It seems most likely that Jesus and his disciples are on their way to the Synagogue, which explains why the Pharisees are there to see what the disciples are doing.

Before we get into the complaint of the Pharisees, we should recognize a pattern that can be seen in Mark 2 and many other places throughout Scripture.  We see the Pharisees complaining to the disciples about Jesus on one hand, and then we see them complaining to Jesus about his disciples on the other.  This is a ploy that the devil loves to employ.  It is really about trying to drive a wedge between Christ and his disciples.  It is safe to say that the weak link in this relationship is us.  This happens all the time in our society today.  May God help us to remain faithful to Christ in the midst of such manipulative questions, which surface in our culture and therefore in our own minds.  We can be assured that Christ will remain faithful to us and not refuse to stand with us, if we will not refuse to stand with him.

The Pharisees see the disciples breaking heads of grain off and eating them as they walk through a field.  They ask Jesus why his disciples are breaking the Sabbath law.  So, are the disciples actually breaking the Sabbath laws?  According to Scripture, we know that they were not stealing.  In their culture it was not considered stealing if a person walking through a field only used their hand to take some food.  It was a command from God that they take care of the poor in this way.  They would have needed to be reaping the field with scythes and packing off bundles for it to be theft.  The issue involves the meaning of the word “work.”  Israel was commanded not to work on the Sabbath.  Over the years, the rabbis had built up a whole tradition around this issue.  What constitutes work had developed a long, intricate, and even head-scratching list of rules.

Jesus knew that his disciples were not working and therefore breaking the Sabbath.  They were only guilty of breaking the rules that the rabbis had built up over the years.  By the way, this does not represent a great meal.  They clearly hadn’t had breakfast and were merely staving off hunger.  They went from feasting in the house of Levi to eating a pittance of small grains in a field.  Sometimes following Jesus doesn’t put a lot of food on the table, but always he will take care of you.

Jesus gives them an answer

Jesus defends his disciples and yet he does it in a way that teaches everyone involved the truth as to why the Pharisees are in error.  He is going to use an example from Scripture that conflicts with their view, and then give the logic behind the Sabbath.

Jesus reminds them of a passage in 1 Samuel 21.  David is one of King Saul’s generals at the time and realizes that Saul is wanting to kill him.  David and some of his men flee town and hide for three days until the dust settles.  He then goes to the tabernacle, which was in the town of Nob at the time.  It had been set up at Shiloh for over 300 years, but the Philistines had recently captured the Ark of the Covenant and destroyed the town where the tabernacle had been.  It is believed that the news of the defeat of Israel’s army had arrived soon enough for the priests to dismantle the tabernacle and remove it before the troops arrived at Shiloh.

In the story David asks the priest to give some bread to him and his men.  However, the priest explains that they only have the holy showbread, and only the priestly families could eat it.  By the way, the showbread refers to the 12 loaves that were made each week.  They would be placed on a table in the tabernacle and remain there until they were replaced a week later.  Once replaced this bread was considered still holy and not to be eaten by a non-priestly family.  It appears that the High Priest then enquires of the Lord and gets permission to let David and his men eat the bread as long as they are ceremonially clean, and they were.  Now, the thing that is amazing about this example is that it qualifies as a real breaking of the commands of the Law of Moses.  Second of all, it seems clear from the passage that God gave His permission for it.

Notice how Jesus sets up the story by saying, “Have you never read…?  Clearly these Pharisees had read the passage, but they hadn’t really taken to heart the ramifications of it.  In fact, their traditions that had been built up over the centuries stood in condemnation of David and this event.  Yet, God did not, who was the one who gave the Law in the first place.  If we are to develop opinions and traditions through our contemplations of the Bible, we must make sure that they account for all of the biblical data and not just some of it.  No matter how satisfying our ideas about Scripture are, they shouldn’t run into logical problems like this one.  If my teaching ends up condemning God Himself then there is something wrong with my teaching, not God.  I am the one who has not understood something critical in the issue.  Now, this doesn’t tell us why it was okay for David to eat the bread, but it does show us that there is something wrong with the way the Pharisees interpret the Law.

The Christian Church today has many different groups that hold to varying teachings that often are at odds with each other.  Sometimes none of the interpretations of a particular issue perfectly fit all of the biblical data.  In such cases, we should hold our interpretations lightly and not use them as a whip against our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

After using the example from Scripture to show the Pharisees that they didn’t completely understand the Law, Jesus gives them the logic behind why David could eat the bread and why his disciples were not even close to breaking the law.  He explains that the Sabbath day, or the day of rest, was given for the benefit of God’s people.  In fact, rest is a large part of the human condition.  If we do not rest 8 hours, plus or minus depending on our age, our bodies quickly begin to fail and shut down.  Yet, we also need rest on longer cycles.  Humans typically worked every day of the week during the days when Israel was coming out of Egypt.  God was promising Israel that if they would refrain from working on the 7th day and worship Him, then He would bless them so that they didn’t lack for doing it.  In fact, He often blessed them to the point they had more than if they worked all the time.  They were not born to honor a particular day for its sake.  The day was created for them so that they could have rest and enjoy their labor with God.  Yes, it was made into a command, due to our human nature.

For example, if I were to tell you that God was now promising to bless everyone who took a one-week staycation each year, would you do it?  Of course, He hasn’t told me this, but you can take my point.  It is easy to say God will bless you, but then as you approach the week, you look at your bank account and start to waffle in your faith.  There is nothing inherently sinful about working on Saturday.  However, once God makes it a command it becomes a moral issue of loyalty to Him. 

God wanted something better for Israel than working seven days a week.  The Sabbath taught them that they didn’t have to rely solely upon their own work.  They could trust God to bless their work to the point that they didn’t have to drive themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually into the dirt in order to get ahead.

Now, Christians are not under the Law of Moses and the command not to work on Saturday.  However, we still need rest, and we still need to learn the lessons of the Sabbath from the Old Testament.  The answer is not to create a new, Christian Law which changes the day to Sunday, but to hear God’s heart for us.  He wants you to be blessed, but He doesn’t want you to kill yourself trying to be blessed.  He doesn’t want you deceiving yourself about the true source of your blessing.  That is a life that is anything but peaceful and filled with rest.  You can work hard, and yet take breaks at appropriate intervals because God is not a slave driver, but our flesh is.

The Pharisees had lost sight of the whole purpose of the Sabbath day.  Just like the purpose of the showbread and the prohibitions upon who could eat it, the prohibitions of the Sabbath were not intended to make things harder and worse for Israel.  These men were hungry and had nothing to eat in both cases.  God is not an uncaring legislator.  These laws were symbolic of spiritual truth and not inherently about a moral issue.  Thus, in times of difficulty, the symbol could be put aside for the sake of God’s people.  Yet, all of this misses the further point, that the disciples were merely picking heads of grain.  The Pharisees have lost the heart of God who was behind the law.

So how should Christians view the Sabbath Day?  The New Testament equivalent to the Old Testament Sabbath is not that it has now been moved to Sunday.  I know that historically this is what it seems like.  Christians should not take Sunday off and worship the Lord because they are commanded to do so.  We could meet on any day of the week that we want.  We could meet on multiple days.  It is just that over the years, Sunday became that day, and for many good reasons.  It is now a part of our culture and the easiest day to have Church gatherings.  We need rest and should take a day off, gather with other believers, and worship the Lord.  However, we should do it because it is good and healthy for us in every way, not because we believe we are staving off the anger of God.

Yet, the Old Testament Sabbath law was pointing to something greater than just a change of the day upon which we rest.  It was about believing in Jesus and resting from the work of trying to save ourselves, trying to measure up through our excellent law-keeping.  Technically, everyday for the Christian is the supposed to be the Sabbath Day because in Christ we have entered into that peaceful place, that rest, which God intends for us in Jesus.  Sure, we continue to work for God, but not in order to be saved and measure up.  We work for Him out of joy, not drudgery and fear of breaking a law.  God wants us to have a spiritual peace in our hearts.  Yet, He doesn’t want us to cast off all restraint and walk away from His Holy Spirit.

Are you resting in Jesus today, and every day?  Has He become your peace and joy?  This is what the Father desires for you.  He wants to bless you as you trust Him each day!

Lord of Sabbath Audio


Society under Siege: Neo-Pagan Green Movement

Genesis 1:27-28; 2:15; Mark 2:23-28.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 9, 2016. 

Our modern era is often presented as a very scientific, technologically advanced, and non-religious.  However, what is often missed is that there are many streams of spirituality that are thriving within this society besides Christianity.  A few of which are: Wiccans, Neo-Pagans, the New Age Movement, mediums and channelers, many Hindu/Buddhism influenced groups, Extraterrestrial groups.  Many of them have a view of history that sees a spiritual evolutionary leap coming ahead for mankind.  What is interesting about these groups is that they are tied in to a common view of the spiritual realm, which is the same view as the ancient pagan religions, and that is an All-Is-One spirituality.  Today, I am using the term Neo-Pagan in a very broad description to cover this resurgence of the old spiritual world view.

Our society is not getting less spiritual and becoming atheistic.  On the contrary society is only pushing certain spiritual ideas aside and grabbing onto others.  In this environment, the Christian world view has been put in the bull’s-eye of many of these groups.  Sometimes this is seen in an open clash of ideas.  But, other times it is hidden in the background slowly chipping away at the foundations of our society that are built upon a Christian world view.  We see this in the rise of environmentalist groups that have a neo-pagan world view.  They are actually a mixture of some very good ideas with a very bad world view.  These groups see the earth as a quasi-sentient consciousness that we need to be in harmony with along with the rest of the cosmos.  This should concern Christians because God reveals to us in the Bible that mankind is not headed towards a scientific atheism.  Rather, we are actually headed to a society that will worship a particular man as a god and surrender the control of the nations to him.

Man Should Care for the Earth

In Genesis 1:27-28 and 2:15 we find that God put mankind on the earth with a purpose, and part of that purpose was for mankind to care for the earth.  Let’s look at the descriptions that God uses in telling Adam what this purpose was.  At first He tells us to be fruitful.  At first look that could just be a metaphor for “multiplying.”  However, in light of what the rest of Scripture says about fruitfulness (especially Jesus), we should recognize that this fruitfulness goes beyond the population of humanity.  God made mankind to be fruitful in other ways as well: mentally, occupationally, and spiritually.  Man should express and live out the life-giving image of God.

God also tells mankind to fill the earth.  Thus the Garden of Eden was not just a fabulous prison.  God’s plan was for mankind to fill the whole earth.  That doesn’t mean we have to keep going until there is 1 person for every square foot of land.  But, neither does it support the idea that mankind shouldn’t touch most of the earth and the population should remain under 500 million, which is what many of the elites of the earth believe.

Another term that is used is that mankind should “subdue” the earth and “rule/take dominion” over the all of its creatures.  The term subdue is the idea of bringing something under your control.  Of course this has a negative connotation if you are talking about subduing a person.  But in this case we are talking about a planet that is in a wild condition.  The whole earth was not a paradise, only a portion.  God creates the earth in a wild state that has all the raw materials for mankind’s purpose, but would need to be brought under control.  In its wild state it would not be fully useful.  The Garden would then be a kind of template for mankind to expand as they multiplied.

We are not told to subdue the animals, but rather to rule over them.  Again, ruling itself can seem negative.  But the truth is that the real problem lies in how one rules and not that they do at all.  Our rule of the creatures should reflect the image of God and respect that they ultimately belong to Him.  Thus we should be good stewards of the earth and its creatures, just as God is good.

Lastly Adam is told to work and tend the Garden.  This fixed up area would be expanded and the fruitfulness was to be good for both man and creatures.  The work would then involve watching over the threats against the garden’s fruitfulness and the eventual expansion of it.  Notice that the Bible does not present the Earth as some kind of sacred space that mankind should not touch.  Yet, neither does it present the Earth as man’s to do with as he wishes without any accountability to the Creator.  We are to care for the earth and make it fruitful.

Although the Christian has a strong foundation for being staunchly concerned with the environment and keeping it fruitful, we arrive at it from a very different world view than these Neo-pagan, green groups.  To them mankind must make a spiritual connection to the Earth and the spiritual forces of the cosmos.  Although they would look at many things as evil, that is only a remnant of Christian thinking.  In truth, the Neo-pagan world view doesn’t believe in evil, only imbalance of actions.  Thus mankind is out of balance and needs to be brought back into balance.  If that takes actions that Christians would describe as evil, then so be it.  They would deny any existence of fallen spiritual beings that are deceiving mankind and even promote a seductive desire to connect with the enlightened spirits who have gone before us.  It is here that we see the insidious twisting of biblical truth.  Movies like Avatar use a false dichotomy to promote this new spiritualism.  So your two choices are a capitalistic, greedy company that destroys everything in order to get a rare, non-earth metal called Unobtainum on the one hand and an indigenous culture that lives in harmony with the planet and its creatures by plugging into them with a kind of mental, spiritual connection on the other hand.  Believing in right and wrong, that will be ultimately judged by the personal Creator who is both within and beyond that creation, is anathema to these groups.  Now let’s finish this study by looking at a passage in the Gospel of Mark concerning the Sabbath day.

Everything Needs Rest

In Mark 2:23-28 the word Sabbath literally means rest.  The most well known application of this was the one day of the week that Israel was supposed to refrain from working.  On that day they would enjoy rest and worship God.  Now, I am not preparing to teach that we should be following the Law of Moses.  However, we can gain wisdom from God’s commands in the past.  In this passage Jesus deals with a legalistic view of the Sabbath that existed in Israel at the time.  They had developed many nit picking laws of what you could or couldn’t do.  So the Pharisees accused the disciples of Jesus of  “harvesting” when they were simply walking through some fields and picked some heads off of the grain to eat.

Notice that Jesus does not quibble with their expanded definition of harvesting.  Rather he points out the true intention of the Sabbath Law or the spirit of the law.  The Pharisees had turned the day into a dictatorial overlord that the people had to satisfy at any cost.  It was man who must always yield and not the law regardless of the consequences.  Jesus points to the reality that God gave the law of Rest for the benefit of the people.  It was created in order to help us not put restrictions on us.  Thus we can learn the wisdom that it is not good for man to drive himself 24/7/365.  Physically he would breakdown, and spiritually he would see himself as his own source and go down a bad path.

Now this was also true for the land that they used to grow crops.  It needed a break as well.  Thus they were told to not work the land one year out of every seven.  They were to let the land rest.  If they would do this then God would bless them and their land would continue to be fruitful.  Thus God qualifies man’s subduing of the earth in order to make it fruitful, by also teaching us that it needs rest as we do.  When you couple this with man’s other purpose to image God in how he fulfills his purpose, you have two powerful restraints that God gives to the greed and wickedness that can infect that purpose.  In fact, isn’t this the sense of the modern business world?  There is practically no concept of rest and “this is enough.”  This driven, ungodly desire to keep squeezing more out of everything is not how we were designed to thrive.  This is partly why many turn back to the ancient pagan ideas of spirituality.  They know that there has to be something better than this perversion that we see today.  We were created to be in relationship with our Creator, and when we aren’t a vacuum is created in our hearts that haunts us until we try to fill it with something.

So what should we do?  In some ways technology and our increase in knowledge can either destroy us or help us.  We can do powerful things, more quickly than ever before.  However, it should be done in a way that honors God as the Creator and the Earth as His creation.  The leaders of the world today do not and will not honor the Creator.  Thus they will only use these tools to honor themselves, and the spiritual power that many of them are connecting to through the occult, and other spiritualistic means.  The baseline of this tragic choice is that the ancient pagan world view devalued mankind.  Christianity teaches that God has given mankind a great value and we must seek His help to fully realize it.  However, Neo-paganism devalues mankind to a place as just one of many animals that is causing the world to be out of balance.  This is why a baby seal garners more compassion than a baby in the womb.  The idea that the Earth would be better off if humans were eradicated, or at least subdued by the enlightened ones, comes from this world view.  We are in the middle of falling into the greatest slavery that mankind has ever known. How about you?  Have you found the rest that God has designed for you to have?  Are you growing to be like Him?  Are you fruitful in every way?  Turn back to the Creator and learn to rest in Him so that we can truly enjoy all that God has given to us to enjoy.

neo-pagan Audio


The Death and Burial of Jesus

Luke 23:44-56.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on May 1, 2016.

More than any other man, the death of Jesus has impacted the whole world.  In fact, it impacted even the heavens.  His death brings condemnation to the fallen angels and the wicked of the world that join with them in rebellion against God.  However, it also pays the price of our sins so that those who believe in Jesus can be saved from their judgment.  Thus Jesus told us that everything the Old Testament prophesied had to come to pass, even his own death.  It is easy to want to avoid the horrible aspect of the cross.  However, we must hear it and face the horror of what our own sin does.  My sin breathes death and destruction into my life and the life of those around me.  But, worse than that, my sin cost Jesus his life.  It is at the cross that we see the true horror of what we choose when we cast God’s way aside.  Praise God that the blood of Jesus breathes eternal life into those who entrust him with their lives and their spirits.

Jesus Dies On The Cross

Of course it is no shock that Jesus dies on the cross.  We have heard this for centuries.  Rather, it is what Jesus says and does while he is on the cross that is shocking and critical for us to pay close attention.

Luke points to two ominous signs and wonders that happened while Jesus was being crucified.  First darkness comes over the land from noon until 3:00 PM.  Jesus had been on the cross from some time after 9:00 AM.  The darkness itself would be spooky and cannot be explained by an eclipse.  The time of the lunar cycle is wrong (a full moon), and it lasts far too long to be a solar eclipse.  I am not saying that it is a completely supernatural darkness.  I am saying that something is going on that we do not know.  If you picture the average person watching this controversial execution, you would have to recognize that they would be somewhat freaked out at such a heavenly disturbance.  When the “lights go out,” we are easily scared.  Darkness is a symbol of evil.  This event would fill the average person with dread.  “Have we done the wrong thing?  Is God angry?”  Of course the power of spiritual darkness is exactly what Jesus had come to shatter.  God promises in his word that weeping may last through the night, but joy will come in the morning.

The second ominous sign is seen in an earthquake that tears the temple curtain in half.  Luke does not mention the earthquake, but we are told of this by the other Gospel authors.  Most likely the tearing of the temple curtain is caused by the earthquake.  What would this symbolize?  The curtain veiled the Holiest place where the Ark of the Covenant and the presence of God were.  It was pictured as his throne room.  Only the High Priest could go past this curtain and then only once a year.  God’s holiness could only be approached by one man, once a year.  This veil represents access to God.  God was beginning to remove the obstacles that kept mankind from approaching his throne for mercy and grace.  It represents an end to the old system.  The way to the Father has been once and for all opened up by Jesus.

It is important to recognize that most supernatural wonders in the Bible are not amazing solely because the event can’t be explained.  Earthquakes happen all the time, and they had seen the sky go dark before (however, probably not as often).  Rather, it is the coincidence of these wonders with the words of God’s prophets.  Thus it is not amazing that an infestation of frogs comes out of the Nile.  Rather, it is amazing that it happens at the warning of Moses.  The same is true with a darkness that came upon the land of Egypt as Moses challenged Pharaoh, “Let my people go!”  Thus it is ominous that the leaders are claiming that Jesus is a deceiver.  But, when he is being killed the sky is darkened and an earthquake hits the city.  A person experiencing all of this could not help but be scared by all the strange things that were happening.  “What have we done?”

Luke then tells us of the last statement of Jesus on the cross.  “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  Before I deal with this, let me just say that John’s Gospel records another thing Jesus said right before he died, “It is finished!”    This phrase was used in the culture of that day to describe a bill that had been paid off.  It was equivalent to saying, “Paid in full.”  Thus, the work of paying for the sins of mankind had been completed by Jesus.  There was no more to be done, but die.  Thus, Jesus gives this final statement of committing his spirit to the Father.  It should be noted that these same words are recorded in Psalm 31, where David depicts his own dire straits and yet, his hope in God’s salvation.  Similar to his statement, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” Jesus draws our attention to a Psalm that helps us to understand what he is feeling and what is going on.  Even though Psalm 22 and Psalm 31 are not penned by Jesus, but rather by David, Jesus directs our attention to them.  Thus these Psalms take on deeper meaning when they are read in light of the predicament of Jesus.  Jesus was being attacked on every side, but he still trusted in the Father.  Perhaps that is why Jesus uses the term “My God” when he speaks of feeling forsaken, and why he uses the term “Father” when he stops trying to stay alive.  Yes, he felt abandoned, but at the end of the day, he trusted his father.  This statement is a statement of complete trust.  He puts his spirit into the hands of the Father to do with what he will.  So, every person who wants to follow Jesus is challenged to learn to trust the Father in the same way that Jesus did, completely and over the top of the feelings of our flesh.

Next Luke records some of the reactions of those who witnessed the crucifixion.  He tells us of a Roman centurion who is supervising the execution of Jesus.  He is amazed at how Jesus died and declares that he must have truly been a righteous man.  In Matthew and Mark we are told that the centurion also declared that surely Jesus was the Son of God.  This hardened soldier who had watched many men die, recognizes something different about Jesus and the ominous signs attending his death.  In it he is convinced that Jesus was innocent and the Son of God.

After this Luke turns to the crowd.  They are shocked and beat their breasts as they return to the city [beating the breast was a common sign of mourning].  Whether they are repentant or not will be proven by what they do later.  At least in this moment, a window is opened in their heart that something very bad has just happened.  There are times when God breaks open our crusted eyes and we recognize that our life is going the wrong direction.  We may beat our breast as we go to our house, but that is not what will change us or justify us before God.  It is not enough to be shocked into awareness by what God does.  We must go on to repent of our sin and put our trust in His way.  Otherwise, the moment will be lost and we will go on down the same path of sin.

Lastly, Luke tells us that some of the acquaintances of Jesus stood at a distance.  We have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating.  Those who were closest to Jesus before the cross were not the ones to take a stand with Jesus.  Rather it was a man who had been a criminal and another man who had been a Roman soldier.  Thus the words of Simeon that Mary was given back in Luke 2:34-35, while Jesus was only a baby, echo in our ears. “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against.  (Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

This brings us to perhaps the greatest sign of all.  Jesus himself, who demonstrated no wickedness and did not curse those executing him, is a sign of the love of God.  As he hangs on a cross, bloodied and torn, he is a sign to mankind that God is willing to die in order that we might live.

Jesus Is Buried In A Tomb

It is nearing the Sabbath.  The Jewish day did not begin at midnight, but rather at the beginning of evening.  There was not much time to take the bodies down and dispatch of them.  So what would be done with the body of Jesus?  Criminals were usually tossed aside and left for the birds to pick clean.  Yet, Luke tells us that a member of the Sanhedrin, named Joseph of Arimathea, goes to Pilate and asks for the body.  This is a man who is similar to Nicodemus in John 3.  They were both members of the high council and secret followers of Jesus.  Though they objected to the decision to push for the execution of Jesus, they were careful to keep their distance, until now.  We are told that Joseph was a good and just man who was waiting for the Kingdom of God.  This was supposed to be the description of all the religious leaders and one that they would all lay claim to.  However, is was only true of a few.  Too often, while we are waiting for God and his plan, our hearts can become hard and we can forge our own way.  This is true whether you are a believer in Jesus or not.  Am I really waiting for the promises of Jesus?  Or, have I become busy forging my own way.  What Jesus was doing threatened all that the Pharisees had built up.  Thus they put him to death in order to protect that which they could not keep.  This seems to be the situation today.  Many religious people cling to things that they have built and in the scramble to keep those things they can destroy the very faith in God that they claim to have.  Beware, waiting on God is not easy nor is it for the faint of heart.

Joseph and Nicodemus prepared the body and put it in a fresh tomb that was nearby.  This was a tomb that had been cut out of the rock.  It was not normal to bury a criminal, but Jesus was not a criminal.  The reference to the Preparation day has to do with the Sabbath.  God had commanded Israel not to work on the Sabbath, even to prepare a meal.  Thus, the day before became a day of preparing extra food and the things that would be need for the next day.  As the body of Jesus is put into the tomb we can hear his words from John 12:24, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.”  They go forth weeping as they sow the seed of the body of Jesus, but they will doubtless come again rejoicing as God raises up a harvest from this act.  There are many times in life that doing the right thing (obeying God’s Word) seems to kill the hopes that we have.  In those moments we can be like Joseph and Nicodemus putting into a sealed tomb all that we have lost.  Yet, put your trust in God.  He will not leave you nor forsake you.

Lastly, Luke records that they rested because it was the Sabbath.  Yes, on the surface this is just a part of the details.  However, it sets up an interesting picture.  The work of Jesus on the cross, and the work of his disciples to put him in the tomb, ends with them resting on the Sabbath.  Whether Luke does so purposefully or not, this parallels the Genesis 1 account.  When God finishes creation he enters into a time of rest.  So, Jesus finishes creating our salvation and enters into a time of rest.  Even after his resurrection this time of rest continues.  He ascends into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father.  It pictures Jesus as beginning a new creation by his own death and resurrection, and providing for his people a new place of rest.  Today, we can experience the spiritual side of this new creation and also enter into a spiritual rest.  We are not called to a life of slavery to commands in order to be saved.  Rather we are set free by the grace of God so that we can live for him out of love and not threat.  Even this spiritual life affects our natural life from day to day.  However, we must recognize that all things on earth and in the heavens are destined to be recreated.  Thus we have a picture of the followers of Jesus resting from their labors and living a life of worship to him as they wait for what he has promised to do for them.  This is what it means to be a Christian today. We rest in the grace of Jesus, and live a life of worship to him, as we wait for his Second Coming.  Let us run the race with all our hearts in such a way.

Death and Burial Audio


Invitation to a Supper

Today we will be looking at Luke 14:1-14.

The setting of our passage today is a Sabbath meal to which Jesus has been invited by a high-ranking Pharisee in Israel.  This is going to give rise to several teachings by Jesus that we will look at over the next several weeks.  This supper will give rise to the wonderful truth that God is inviting us to participate in a marriage supper that He is preparing for His Son.  However, in this case, God allows us to participate in our own invitation.  He in a sense invites everyone who will believe upon His Son, what he taught, what he foretold, and what he accomplished.  Thus only those who properly respond to the open invitation are allowed in to the meal.  In fact, we could say that the presence of Jesus within Israel was technically a wedding feast that went horribly awry.

Legalism Binds Us

As we look at the passage we are at the meal where Jesus sits with a ruling Pharisee and all the others he has invited.  Now the problem with the Pharisees was that they were very legalistic.  They focused upon the letter of the law to the exclusion of the spirit of the Law.  When we are focused upon the letter of the law we really want to know what we can get away with and what we can’t.  It is not about wanting to please God, but rather about wanting to please self without getting in trouble.  However, when we ask ourselves why God gave a certain law, we are drawn into His heart and purposes.  Legalism tends to bind us to things that actually run counter to the purposes and the heart of God.  In fact several are on display at this meal.

First, legalism bound them to looking at each other wrongly.  It says in verse one that they watched him closely.  Now it is not wrong to watch our brother if we are doing it in a humble way that serves him.  We would normally call this “watching out” for our brother.  But legalism binds us to watching our brother for the sole purpose of finding fault.  God wants us to watch each other’s back rather than become nit-pickers.  Most legalists have forgotten that they not only were sinners but are still sinners in need of God’s grace.  Yet, there is one caution here.  It is common today to believe that anyone who points out a problem in our life is being mean-spirited and a legalist.  This is not true.  A true brother will not only watch his brother’s back, but also warn him about pitfalls in front of him.  The legalist does this because they take joy in putting you down a peg or too (i.e. raising themselves).  But the true brother does this because they don’t want to see you killed.  Even then, a true brother realizes that they are not their brother’s Lord.  They will remain humble and stand beside you not over you.

Legalism also binds us to misunderstandings about God’s purposes.  It just happens that a man who has dropsy (a condition where the body is swollen with fluid) is sat across from Jesus on the Sabbath.  Now we know why they were watching him like a hawk.  This meal was a set-up in order to find fault with Jesus.   You see, the Pharisees had developed an interpretation of the Sabbath laws that saw healing as a form of work.  I’ve talked about this in greater depth before.  They saw the Sabbath primarily as a restriction upon us.  Thus it was a bleak and difficult day in which we couldn’t enjoy a lot of good things.  However, God did not give the Sabbath to restrict man.  The word Sabbath means rest.  God wanted his people to quit being driven seven days a week as if they had no hope in God.  The Sabbath was supposed to be a day of rest and “smelling the roses.”  It was a day to gather with friends and family, and give glory to God for His great benefits.  It was about declaring God as our ultimate source rather than our own hand.  Thus God’s purpose was not to prevent us or restrict us from helping each other when one was sick or in need.  But, the Pharisees couldn’t see this.

Legalism also binds us to treating one another as less than human (in fact, less than animal).  After Jesus boldly heals the man of his condition and sends him away, he then challenges them.  If they had a donkey or ox fall into a pit on the Sabbath, every one of them would “work” to pull it out.  But they wouldn’t do a similar thing for this man.  Whenever you see people being treated as animals or especially less than animals, you know that the enemy of mankind has been at work twisting the minds of those involved.  Today we have become a people who will obsess over the death of certain animals and yet not blink an eye at the murder of countless unborn babies.  This dehumanizing of groups is the mode of operation of the devil and those who listen to him.

Humble Yourself Before God And Man

They had been watching him like a hawk.  However, Jesus had been watching them and gives a parable to point out a fault with those who were seated with him at the table: pride and self-exaltation.  He warns those who are invited to a meal not to try and sit in the highest place.  No doubt there had been much jockeying going on before the meal.  Self-promotion and ambition are powerful traits that enable us to succeed in many things.  However, they lead us to promote ourselves beyond what God has given to us.  It knows no bounds and will often come in conflict with God.  Clearly our attempts to curry favor with the rulers and those with power in this life can reap benefits.  But in the end this mentality leads us into gross sin.  One more honorable than us may have been invited and we will be asked to move down to a lesser seat.  Now that would be a humiliating moment that most of them would seek to avoid at all cost.  Jesus is “the one more honorable.”  Even though the host of that meal may have not recognized Jesus, God the Father does.  Ultimately he is the one having a great supper.  Jesus is the groom who has come to the wedding feast of his bride.  Yet, the Pharisees and their followers wanted to sit in the seat that belonged to Him.  Now that was fine and all before he came.  Someone had to lead.  Yet, now that he arrived, they should have been stumbling over themselves to give the seat to him.  Even worse they seek to put him to death so that their seat will never be threatened again.  When you walk in pride you ultimately offend those with greater honor than you.  In the end you will receive the fruit of pride, destruction.

There is a day coming when the host, God, is going to manifest to the world that Jesus is the one more honorable- the One to Whom the seat of power belongs.  God will render a decision.  Sometimes He settles things in this life.  But do not be deceived, He will settle it in the Age to come.  Our proper place will be established and woe to the person who has kicked against his proper place.  Instead, be humble in this life and let God promote you, so that at the judgment you will have nothing to fear.

Bless Those Who Cannot Bless You Back

Jesus then turns to rebuke the ruling Pharisee who was hosting the meal.  The previous fault focused on what we shouldn’t do, but this fault is couched in terms that encourage us to what we should do.  When you have a meal don’t invite those who can pay you back in some way (social prestige, invite you over to their place, business contacts, etc.).  It is spiritually smarter to invite people who cannot help you back in any way.  Bless people with a mean who cannot bless you back.  Instead of worrying about our position and using our good to increase that position, we should use those good to bless others, period.  Which raises a question, who do we tend to bless?  Eating with others is a social act which strengthens our bonds together and so we tend to invite friends and family.  Jesus warns us to beware this tendency.  Now we shouldn’t be legalistic with this statement.  Yes, we should obey Jesus.  But it is not his purpose to rebuke a family from eating together.  Rather, this is a special meal the Pharisee is throwing.  Jesus is not making a law that we can never invite friends over.  Rather, he is giving us wisdom about how we should live in light of the judgment that is coming.  Whom are you seeking to be blessed by?  If you seek to be blessed by people then all you do will be corrupted by it.  However, if you seek to be blessed by God, then you will learn to be a blessing to others especially when you get nothing out of it in this world.

Jesus mentions that he should invite the poor, maimed, lame and blind.  There are two levels to this instruction.  Believers are called to help those who are less fortunate in one way or another.  In Galatians 2:9-10 Paul recognizes that the “Pillars” of the church instructed him to remember the poor, “the very thing which [Paul] also was eager to do.”  In doing so, God becomes our reward.  Yet, this also has a spiritual parallel.  Jesus has come to heal those who are spiritually poor, maimed, lame, and blind.  Too often we are trying to reach the rich and famous of the world to join our church at the expense of those who do not appeal to us.  This comes from the spirit of pride and self-ambition.  But when we are humble before God and our fellow man, we serve regardless of the station of another.

Ask yourself the question, “Am I seeking to be blessed by men or God?”  Men can reward you, but they can also make you pay.  But God has a reward for those who live this life in service to Him.  To serve Him is to serve one another in His name.  The humble person knows that the only sure reward and the only sure position is that which God gives.  All else is simply grasping after the wind, here today and gone tomorrow.  Are you able to say with Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord!”? 


Invitation to supper audio