A Sabbath Remains for the Weary
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
It should come as no surprise to us that Jesus would find Himself challenged regarding the Sabbath. After all, sinful man loves to put the Lord to the test, especially when it comes to His authority over His creation. Jesus knew that the Pharisees were watching Him closely as a suffering man approached. So He asked them a simple question: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” These men who made their livings with their mouths found themselves speechless. They were very good at teaching the letter of the law, but very poor at living the true spirit of the law. Any answer they gave would convict them. Since they would not respond, Jesus answered His own question—not with words, but with actions. He healed the man and sent him on his way.
It wasn’t supposed to turn out that way. They thought they had this upstart Rabbi over a barrel. They had invited Jesus so they could keep an eye on Him, so they could find a way to trap him. They didn’t care one way or another for the sick man, whether he lived or died; they just want to show Jesus what was what. They wanted to show Jesus that they were the big thing. They were the ones who mattered. It didn’t matter what Jesus did; He would be in trouble either way. If He healed the man of his dropsy on the Sabbath, Jesus would be accused of ignoring the Law of God by doing work on the holy day of rest. If he didn’t heal the man, he would be accused of being unloving and insensitive to the man’s needs. Either way, the Pharisees would accuse Jesus of being a fake. But Jesus doesn’t care about passing their tests. Everything Jesus does, He does to glorify His Father. He heals the man, and He does no wrong in doing so. Jesus has the impossible answer; they Pharisees are speechless.
That’s where the Law left the Pharisees. And that’s where the Law leaves us. Just like our Father, we children are to rest for a day from the labors of our hands and mouths and minds. The Sabbath is about rest—godly rest. The Sabbath is a day of mercy, not a day of rules by which you may earn eternal life. But how often do we take our rest in things apart from Jesus? Why do we constantly seek our peace in worldly things to the exclusion of Jesus? When our Sabbath is constantly all about the Cardinals, when it is only about the comfort of our bodies, when our Sabbath is constantly opposed to the Word of God, it is then that we despise preaching and the Word of God. It is then that we stand silent with the Pharisees, when any word which we could utter would convict us.
With all that in mind, let us answer the question: Yes, it is, indeed, lawful to heal on the Sabbath. In fact, it is the very spirit of the law to love your neighbor on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a day for healing. And more than that, the Sabbath is a day to remember deliverance. Just as Jesus delivered the afflicted man from his disease, the Lord has delivered you from your bondage to sin and death. Those chains which held you in captivity to the power of the devil have been dissolved in the waters of Holy Baptism—the water combined with the Word of God which washes away the dreaded disease of sin. Instead of leaving you to drown in those waters, the Lord Himself pulls you out into new life in His name.
All of this is yours through the death and resurrection of Jesus on your behalf. We remember the Sabbath day as the day when Jesus rose from the dead, celebrating the healing He gives us in His body and blood. Every celebration of the Lord’s Supper is a celebration of the Sabbath, for we receive our promised rest. As He did with the man with dropsy, He reaches out and touches you, blessing and healing you with the forgiveness of your sins. And as forgiven children of God who have found rest in Him, we are ready for another week of labor in the midst of our various vocations. And we are blessed that we may receive a measure of that Sabbath rest every day, for we may return to our baptism daily to receive rest for our souls in His holy Word.
Just as it is lawful for Jesus to heal on the Sabbath, it is lawful for us to seek healing from Him on the Sabbath; for we know that He will graciously hear our prayer and deliver us. God grant that we always seek our rest in Him. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.