JMPC Lenten Devotional: Messages of Hope

Messages of Hope

March 30, 2020

If you are like me, you might be getting a bit stir crazy right now. Lockdown is hard on folks who are usually pretty active. Two days ago, I recommended that we use these days as a kind of sabbath. Does that mean we do nothing? Well, that is not what Jesus says. Take a look at this.

Mark 2: 23-28

23 One sabbath he was going through the cornfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24The Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?’ 25And he said to them, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? 26He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.’ 27Then he said to them, ‘The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; 28so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.’

According to the New Interpreters Bible Commentary:

… [S]abbath concerns the periodic, disciplined, regular disengagement from the systems of productivity whereby the world uses people up to exhaustion. The disengagement refers also to culture produced expectations for frantic leisure, frantic consumptions or frantic exercise.

The fourth commandment, if followed, frees us from these things. It allows us to be God’ image bearers. It illustrates our devotion to God. It is a sabbath to the Lord. But it is also a sabbath to us. And so, we will do not “work”. But what does that mean? The Rabbis of Jesus time spent a good deal of time on that. It is one of the most frequent criticisms of and accusations against Jesus. Jesus “works” on the sabbath.

What does Jesus do that creates this conflict? He heals. He preaches and teaches. What does Jesus condone ass a response to the accusations and criticisms? Caring for God. Caring for ourselves. Caring for others. Caring for creation.

I like the way Miller summarizes the distinction Jesus makes when responding to his critics.

… “[Jesus said] [T]he sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath (Mark 2: 27). That has been the point all along. “To sanctify the Sabbath means to save lives and do good, not just to rest and give rest to others” [citation omitted]. Human need is not all the Sabbath is about, but it is at the heart of the matter. In Jesus’ actions on the Sabbath Day, the commandment becomes an embodiment of the love of neighbor.

Sabbath is a day of meeting need. For God. For us. For our neighbors. For creation. So, what do we do with this in lockdown?

Well, we are doing something by staying away from others. As I heard it put last week, “The best demonstration for Christian love today is not being together.” When we do this, we protect ourselves, others, and all those people who are caring for the sick, keeping grocery stores and pharmacies open, and driving the trucks that supply them – among many others.

So if you are feeling like doing something, you are. Stay home and stay well.

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