August 21, 2016
Text: Isaiah 58:9-14
Set Free on the SabbathIt started out a typical Sabbath Day, Jesus was teaching in the synagogue- when a womanappeared through the door. She was bent over and crippled- and after enduring 18 hard years, notonly was her body crippled, but her hope had been crippled also.We are not told if she had been there before or came often, or was just seeking someone orsomeplace to find rest and acceptance. Maybe she had heard of a young Rabbi by the name ofJesus who was known for his compassion and healing was there. Never-less- she came- andwhen she came through the door- Jesus saw her- and what he saw was not only her crippled bodybut her crippled soul also. He stopped in the middle of his sermon and called her over- spoke toher and laid his hand on her-and she was healed of her ailment- “set her free” it says. Her healingwas immediate- and she stood up straight and began praising God. Another typical Sabbath Day.Pray.“The local church is the hope of the world” Bill Hybels- lead pastor at Willow Creek Churchdrills into anyone who is listening. The local church is the body of Christ- the hands and feet andheart of Jesus among us that can change the world one person, one community at a time. Thelocal church is a community of believers where people can come just as they are to meet Jesus-to be healed and forgiven- and find rest for their weary souls.You and I know that first hand. As Christians, whenever we find ourselves in need, the first thingto do is immediately go to our knees in prayer- and then to reach out to our church family forhelp and support- knowing we will be received with open arms.But that was not what happened that day. Instead, the leader of the synagogue was upset at Jesusfor healing the woman- and then more or less scolded the woman for seeking help at thesynagogue-in the church- and of all the days of the week on the Sabbath- a day of rest- a holyday. What was she thinking? She should have known better he seemed to imply- and if she didn’tknow better- surely Jesus- a Rabbi- would have known what was right and acceptable under thelaw.The Sabbath Day was given by God Himself. It was to be the Lord’s day- dedicated to keeping itholy. And as God rested on the seventh day from his labor, so we are to rest and not work.Numerous other laws were given to clarify what that meant.And so- as keeper of the law, it appeared to the synagogue leader that Jesus was ignoring thelaw- but we know that Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law- but came to fulfill the law perfectly.What was going on here? In fulfilling the law perfectly, we would learn from him a deeper
understanding of the law and righteousness that a holy God required than simply an outwardappearance. “You have heard it said” Jesus said: “whoever murders will be subject to judgement,but I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement.” Andanother: “you have heard it said, do not commit adultery- but I tell you, everyone who looks at awoman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”In the book, “Matthew, the gospel of Identity” Michael Card writes: “Jesus redefined a newrighteousness that went beyond the righteousness of the Pharisees by redefining sin itself bysaying: “sin begins with the intention of the heart. Sin begins not in dark alleyways but in adarkened imagination.” Jesus concluded: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father isperfect.” What he is saying is not a request to do your best- it is a demand by a holy God to fulfillin it’s entirety.It does not take long for anyone trying to save themselves under the law to realize they cannot doit- not outwardly- and certainly not inwardly. We need someone to save us- the demand is toogreat- the requirement impossible to fulfill to do on our own. But God sent His son to rescue us-and by the blood of Jesus our sins have been paid in full! And by the victory of the resurrection,death no longer has any power over us! And Jesus did it all for you and I. It is not our works thathave done it- not our striving that can save us- but by receiving and trusting and resting in whatGod has done for us.Ever feel restless? Ever lay awake at night exhausted but can’t get to sleep because you can’tseem to stop thinking of all the things you have to do the next day- or lying there awakeworrying about things- loved ones-about the future- about the past-as if it were up to you to savethe day and make things right? And although you may have appeared outwardly like you wereresting, inwardly you were in turmoil.What if Jesus’ healing the woman on the Sabbath was not breaking or abolishing the law- butwas showing us and teaching us a deeper understanding of what the Sabbath day of rest is meantto be- just as he had done to redefine sin and righteousness?What if resting outwardly was to teach us how to rest our souls inwardly. What if the SabbathDay was meant to be more about resting from our fears and anxieties and resting in God’sprovision, protection and love?In Hebrews, chapter 3-4 the writer talks about how we need to enter into God’s rest by faith-trusting God. When I was a little boy, I sometimes had bad dreams and would wake up crying-terrified. I remember mom and dad coming into my room and holding me, comforting me. Andbecause they were with me, because I knew I was loved- I was able to slowly let go of my fearsand simply rest in their arms. And they would lay me down in bed- and all was peaceful oncemore.The writer of Psalm 23 tells us that the Good Shepherd makes his sheep lie down in greenpastures- and leads them beside still waters. It is a picture of peace and tranquility. But whatmakes it a place of rest? If you are like me, when I read that passage, my thoughts immediatelyturn to pictures of green meadows and still waters. I can almost feel the warm sun on my face
and feel the cool breeze. But is that what makes it a place of rest? Without the Good Shepherdthere to guard and protect from wolves and other dangers, it really makes no difference whereyou are-no matter how peaceful and tranquil it looks.We often seek out places of quiet to find rest as we should- but without the assurance of Godwith us- that with God watching over us to guide and protect, there can be no real peace and rest.Jesus said: “Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”Our Sabbath rest is found in surrendering all our striving that cripples us from being all that Godhas created us to be-all our fears and anxieties- all our wrongs done or received- all ourdisappointments and broken dreams- and lay it all at the foot of the cross- and there receive hisrest- realizing, assured that Jesus has done it all- and that Jesus is more than enough- all we are todo is to rest in Jesus.And once we have entered into God’s Sabbath rest, God calls us to follow Him into the worldand make disciples of all nations- to be instruments of peace and justice- to speak truth withgrace-to be an instrument in God’s hands for healing and restoration and transformation.The church is not a building- the church is where the spirit of the Lord is- moving and workingin the hearts of believers. That can certainly happen in buildings we call church- but we dare notlimit God to four walls. Jesus healed the woman in the synagogue- but most of the healing wasdone outside the four walls. Jesus brought hope and new life wherever he went- and as light andsalt of the earth- we should also wherever we go- into our work place, home and family-communities-As it turns out- Jesus was not breaking the law by healing on the Sabbath as the leader of thesynagogue thought. Rather Jesus was fulfilling the law of the Sabbath in it’s deepest meaning.The woman had it right in coming to the synagogue- had it right in seeking out Jesus any day-but even more appropriately on a day of rest-as she rested on the saving grace of God madeknown to us in Jesus.Where are you this morning? Are you well rested? Spiritually I mean? Are you carrying a burdenthat is wearing you out? Come to Jesus- lay down whatever it is that God never intended you tocarry and may you find rest in the presence of Jesus. Amen.