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David Otten: 'The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath'

By David Otten
Contributing writer
Posted on 6/6/2018, 1:00 AM

Greetings from Faith Lutheran Church in Eldorado.

Worship is an essential part of the Church; therefore, it is an essential part of the life of each Christian. Many think of only what we do on Sunday morning, but it should never be defined that narrowly, as it includes the entire life of a believer. In this article I want to examine Jesus' words that comment on the Sabbath, especially Mark 2:27.28 "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath."

Jesus' words are a response to the Pharisees' accusations that Jesus's disciples, who were in a grain field plucking the grain to eat, broke the Sabbath law. (Mark 2:23-24).

Jesus' response begins with Mark 2:25-26 where he tells of how David and his men are given the bread of Presence to eat by Abiathar, the high priest. The bread was only to be eaten by the priests.

By this, Jesus is suggesting that they don't know the Scriptures and that ceremonial laws did not stop acts of mercy. In chapter three of Mark this is pointedly shown in healing of the man with a withered hand on the Sabbath.

Second and more important, the Pharisees' miss the proper relationship between the Sabbath and mankind. They see the Sabbath as supreme to man. Jesus changes the entire orientation. His concern is not regulations, but relationships. He does not speak of Sabbath laws, but of the Sabbath day. The Sabbath was to serve mankind, to give time to rest from labors and to rest in God's Word.

Jesus as the Son of Man represents all mankind as well as it identifies himself as the Son of God and so the Sabbath is subject to Him. The Puritan Blue Laws are not needed to remember the Sabbath. We don't need to continue in the traditions of the Pharisees.

In addition, Jesus's mission is to usher in the Kingdom of God, which is transforming. The Old Covenant's configurations of belief and practice are no longer obtained with the new creation. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17 17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." Jesus is both the goal and termination of the Old Covenant. This command has a ceremonial element to it. It speaks of a day to remember, but we are now free to worship on other days that suits our needs.

Sunday is the day Jesus rose from the dead, therefore early Christians, not shackled with Old Covenant requirements, chose to worship on Sunday. As the Old Testament Sabbath looked forward to Jesus, now the worship on Sunday looks back to Him and His blessed work of salvation.

Though we don't follow the ceremonial side of "Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it Holy," we still are to worship. Next week I will examine more of this activity.

• David Otten is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Eldorado.