Sunday, March 26, 2023

King Jesus Christ the Lord of the Sabbath

My girlfriend and I went to the dog groomer yesterday, we took her dog Sam in. He was not at all happy when he realized where we were taking him. Sam does not like the groomer, because of the loud noises, and the strange environment. So Sam was shaking as the groomer worked. Sam was uncertain, afraid, but as it went on, the cleaning, the trimming, the washing, the drying, Sam kept his eyes on Chelsey. And when he did that he seemed to calm down just a little bit.

And I thought to myself, we need to learn from that example. As we face problems, stress, difficulties, depression, we should turn our eyes to Jesus our master.  If we do we will find success and relief, and peace, even joy, as we go through the grooming process of God, as he molds us like clay into vessels shaped into the image of Christ.

Last week we saw Jesus the Christ functioning as the Great Physician, miraculously healing those who had been living with debilitating diseases. This was shocking, as Jesus was doing something openly that was in the natural, completely impossible. 

People take notice and the growth of the Jesus movement blows up. No one in human history, has ever been able to heal someone just by touching them. People in Israel begin to realize Jesus is something special in the history of the universe. And they want to know more. We should still want to know more today. Who was this Jesus? Why did he do what he did?

Let’s go boatside as the next steps take place, recorded in Mark’s gospel, in verses 13-14:

“Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.”

Tax collectors were Jews who were working for the enemies of Israel. Israel had been conquered by Rome. And Rome recruited Jews to work for them, and they’d pay them well, and often the tax collectors would also take extra in taxes for themselves.

Tax collectors were hated. They were seen as traitors working for a foreign government. Like if you found out your neighbor was an informer for the nation of Iran, or the communist republic of China, or the Russian federation.

But Jesus again and again cut right threw those dividing lines in society. It would be like if you were with Jesus, and you saw him walk into a drug house or a bar, and call a drug dealer or a bartender to follow him.

I’m sure his disciples were shocked to see Levi joining them. But then again, Jesus had already called Mary Magdalene who had been a working woman, a prostitute.

But that’s how it is with following messiah Jesus. He doesn’t see those distinctions. He sees the heart. He sees that Levi is ready, broken, miserable, and he’s reached a point in his heart, where he is ready to give his entire life to serving the kingdom of God.

Jesus met each of us at that point in our lives. It was the point when we were finally ready to start following Him. Not everyone is at that point. Which is why when we talk to people, and invite people to church, often they aren’t ready yet. But hopefully we can be a link on that chain, as others witness to them, and pray for them. Then one day, God willing, they will reach that point when they can give it all over to Jesus Christ.

Levi is called to new service, after serving Rome all those years, now he will finally serve God. You are called to serve God too.

Later we see Jesus eating a meal with sinners. It says this in verses 15-17:

“While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

For Levi (aka Matthew) now is the time. Now is the time for hope. Now is the time to do the work of ministry. The same is true for Jesus. He’s waited his whole life for this moment.

Now is the time, and Jesus is hard at work, sitting and eating and talking with sinners. He’s with the worst of the worst. That should be our philosophy as well as Christians, I should be connecting with and befriending those that society has neglected. I should be talking with people who can give me nothing in return. I should be talking with people who are considered to be less than important. 

We’re cautious about that. We don’t put ourselves in dangerous or compromising situations. We guard against falling into sin ourselves. But Jesus called people who were broken, burned out, and lost in sin. He found them where they were. He changed them and they followed Him.

We do the same. And we see people’s lives change as a result, as we tell them about Jesus, bring them to church, read the Bible with them, and help them along in their journey with Christ.

If they aren’t ready yet. We make the offer. Maybe they go the other direction. That’s ok. We did our part. We keep spreading the message to new people. Maybe they will come around later when they’re ready. Maybe not. We will see.

So you have Jesus Christ traveling around with his disciples, eating and drinking with sinners and tax collectors. You also have John the Baptist in the wilderness, calling people to repentance from their sins. Then you have the Pharisees and the Sadducees, enforcing the old testament law of Moses, trying to make sure Israel honors God through the law.

Fasting was a common spiritual practice. Many practiced it. John's disciples fasted. The Pharisees and Sadducees fasted. So Jesus encounters a question from the Pharisees. It says in verse 18-20:

“Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.”

Again, Jesus says, now is the time. A new day has come.

I believe, in 2020, a change took place in the world. I believe the world is beginning to slowly come apart, as we move toward the end times, but I believe that this collapse will coincide with a great awakening, a great revival, where millions and millions will turn to Christ.

Now is the time. Not later, now. It's the same with Jesus in this situation. Can his disciples fast, not eat, cover themselves in ashes, while Jesus is still with them? Certainly not. They are celebrating, they are excited, they are at work. But Jesus says later, after he departs, then they will fast. Which is why we fast today, in the body of Christ. Jesus is not physically with us. The Holy Spirit is with us. But Jesus will come again. Until that time, we fast, we pray, we work.

Now is the time to evangelize. If you feel the Holy Spirit convicting you to go tell someone Jesus loves you, then go do it now. Now, not later. And if we know the good we’re supposed to do and we refuse to do it, that is sin to us. Fear God, take a deep breath, and go share the gospel with love with that person. Now is the time.

Mark includes one of Jesus’ gospels next, it says: (verses 21-22)

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”

I don’t want to get too deep into the parable at this point. Suffice to say, Jesus is the new cloth, the new wine, the new way, the true way, and can’t be forced into old patterns or mindsets.

We have a new way before us. The world has changed. And we need to embrace a new pattern. A new level of interaction. New spiritual gifts. New power. God is moving. It’s not like the old ways, we’re entering a new season. Every season is different. We have to be ready for what God is doing. 

Pray and ask God to equip you with every spiritual gift and all the spiritual power you need for this new season. 

First was the calling of Levi and the meal after, second, the question about fasting, and third, the incident in the grainfields.

In verses 23- 28: One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

The disciples are walking through grain fields. A common practice according to the Old Testament law, was for farmers to leave some of their crop left over for the poor. Kind of like having a food pantry. You set aside some for people in need. And Jesus’ disciples are plucking heads of grain and eating them, in accordance with this practice. 

The Pharisees see this and they are shocked. The Pharisees were very strict about sabbath observance. On Saturdays you did no work. That’s still true today for orthodox Jews, if you meet them. They will not do any work on Saturdays. They will even set elevators to stop automatically at each floor on the sabbath. Why? Because pushing the button would be work.

But Jesus says that isn’t the right way. The sabbath was given by God for man to enjoy restful fellowship with God. The disciples are practicing proper sabbath, they are spending time with God, with Jesus Christ himself. But the Pharisees rebuke them.

Jesus reminds them of David and the priest who gave David the bread of the presence, even though it wasn’t normally bread you’d give to just anyone. And Jesus concludes by saying, the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath as well.

Today, for our final point, we are called to serve the King of the sabbath, the king of this city, the king of this country, the king of the universe, and he is Lord of all. He does call us to sabbath rest. Yet he is also Lord even of the sabbath. So we should rest on the sabbath. But that rest is a gift, not a burden. 

We are called now to serve a King who has authority over us. Total authority. And he’s given us all we need for life and godliness from his riches of power and authority. God has gifted us with everything we need to live the Christian life successfully. He is Lord. Over everything. And we’re His. That means we just need to be bold, faithful, and loving, and we’re going to have victory. And Jesus is going to find us to be a grain field, a harvest of righteousness, bringing many people to glory with us. That is our goal.

Jesu is at work in Mark 2, and people are getting saved, people are changing, lives are changing, and he is asserting total authority in his teaching. And people either come into alignment with the authority of Christ, or they fight against him. Let's be people today who come into total alignment with the purposes of God. 

No in-between! Let's strive for total commitment, total submission, total alignment. Entire sanctification. Complete transformation. Crucified with Christ. Born again. New man. New woman. Completely yielded to King Jesus Christ, the undisputed leader and representative of humanity, now and always. Make that your goal in life. Total submission, complete love, all in, on fire for Christ! Imagine what you’ll accomplish in Jesus name!