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Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath

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1 Corinthians 4:6–15 • Psalm 144(145): 17–21 • Luke 6:1–5

 

Cornfield with sun shining, ears of corn visible

Jesus didn’t come to challenge the status quo or upset the apple cart only a little — his wasn’t a slowly, slowly approach. He came to turn the world upside down, to usher in a radically new and different way of thinking. Between Jesus and the Pharisees there was a huge gulf about how they understood the Sabbath. The Pharisees, always eagle-eyed, spotted the disciples of Jesus walking through the grain fields and picking ears of grain. Harmless enough, you would imagine — rather like picking blackberries on a country walk! Yet the Pharisees jumped on this human and harmless activity as breaking the Sabbath and not keeping it holy (set apart).

The commandment to keep the Sabbath holy was a revelation of God’s mercy and liberation. The Sabbath was a day to rejoice in God’s gift of creation. The injunction to refrain from work was a protection ensuring that workers were not forced into slavery by being made to work seven days a week. To rest on the Sabbath is an opportunity to enjoy and celebrate the fruit of our labours and to acknowledge it all as God’s gift. 

The Sabbath reminds us that in the end we are not self-sufficient: we depend Upon God’s loving goodness and mercy; It is God who gives created things their capacity to grow and multiply. We cannot create anything out of nothing! We have been given the ability to harness to our advantage the natural resources which God has given us and on which we depend.

Jesus refers to an incident in the Old Testament when King David entered the temple and took the consecrated bread to feed his men, even though the law reserved it for the priests alone. The showbread was a symbol of the covenant between God and the people of Israel. Left in the presence of God, the bread revealed God’s desire to commune with his people. Normally consumed by the priests each week, on this one occasion it was used by David and his men at a time of need. By speaking of this incident Jesus is revealing the hidden reality that his own presence among his disciples brought to fulfilment what the showbread had symbolized: God communing with his people — making it a time to feast, not fast!

Blessed are thase called to the supper fo the Lamb who feed on the Bread of Life and who live not by the letter but by the Spirit of the law.

Chris

 
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To Fulfil the Law

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Matthew 5:17–19
 
Jesus proclaimed that he had come not to abolish the law but to fulfil it.  It was to Israel that God gave the law and his great promises and God remains faithful to his chosen people.  The old law was superseded, not because it was wrong but because it was inadequate to bring people to salvation.
 
Elements of the Jewish law remain in place, such as the Ten Commandments, but there are also elements that are now obsolete, such as sacrifices, the idea of legal impurity.
 
But the main problem with God’s law is the inability of sinful humans to keep it, so we shall always be condemned by it.  Paul said, “if it had not been for the law I should not have known sin . . . I delight lin the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my mmebers” (Romans 7:7, 22–23).
 
God has set us free from this dilemma.  Christ has freed us from our sins on the cross, and we are now put right with God, not by keeping the law but by faith in Christ. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1–2).
 
This does not mean that we are not to observe the law: he sets us free so that we can keep it, with the help of the Spirit.  When we fail, we know that we can repent and be forgiven.
 
We are also called to teach this law and to communciate it to others, in an appealing way.  The law is not a burden or restriction on our freedom – it is the road to life and joy.  Jesus calls us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.  And if we rely on the power of God’s Spirit we will find that we can do what we could not do alone, for “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
 
Lord Jesus, we thank you that you have set us free from the law of sin and death and poured out your Spirit upon us.  Give us the grace to live life in the Spirit, so that we might fulfil your commands and lead others to know you.
 
Chris
 
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