Sermon at St Mary’s Church Hadlow on 25th August 2019 –
10th Sunday after Trinity
Jeremiah 1 vv 4 – 10 The call of Jeremiah
Luke 13 vv 10 – 17 Jesus heals a crippled woman on the Sabbath
1. Introduction. Why oh why didn’t Jesus tell the crippled woman to come back at 9 o’clock the following morning for a consultation rather than deliberately arousing the indignation of the synagogue ruler and others by breaking the fourth commandment? It wasn’t that the woman had approached him. Jesus took the initiative. She had been crippled for 18 years. One more day wouldn’t make much difference.
Many people today would say that the Ten Commandments are important for society. We have them here behind me on the E wall of the chancel. How though do we today apply the fourth commandment? These are two basic, related, questions for us to consider this morning.
2. The Fourth Commandment. Firstly, let us be clear what the fourth commandment says. We find the Ten Commandments in two places in the Old Testament, in Exodus chapter 20 and Deuteronomy Chapter 5.
Exodus Chapter 20 verses 8 to 11, as on p2 of our service booklets, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you nor your son or your daughter, nor your manservant or your maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, but he rested on the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
The first part is almost identical in Deuteronomy, but the supporting reason is different, namely, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day”.
What a blessing that commandment was when the Israelites left Egypt with its slave labour, making bricks day after day with no let up. What the Exodus version reveals is that there is something in our natural created beings which responds well to the 7-day weekly pattern of work and rest. The fourth commandment is the basis of our modern pattern of life.
3. Jesus and the Sabbath. There are many occasions when Jesus healed people on the Sabbath. Perhaps partly that he often taught in synagogues when congregations were gathered on the Sabbath and healing was an integral part of his ministry. Is healing any more ‘working’ than ‘teaching’? I note that Mark records early on in Jesus’ ministry, that in the Capernaum synagogue, where He was teaching he also exorcised a demon. People were amazed and his action was entirely accepted. It seems that the incident recorded in today’s gospel reading occurred in one of the Jerusalem synagogues, where members of the congregation were more critical. Jesus is seeking to challenge their critical thinking because it is fundamental to their relationship with God. Jesus challenges them on the basis of simple logical and compassionate reason. His hearers would be quite happy to untie oxen or donkeys and lead them out to water on a Sabbath; should not he release this woman from her burden? He sums it up well elsewhere, when he says ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’ (Mark 2 v 27) God didn’t introduce the fourth commandment as a burdensome restriction, obedience to which would please God and earn his favour. No, the commandment was given for their benefit and freedom.
4. Application to us. Very early own, in a largely Gentile Church, the day of worship became Sunday, to mark the supreme saving act of God the Father in raising his son Jesus from the dead. It wasn’t for another 300 years or so, with the Christianization of the Roman Empire, that the fourth commandment was recognised generally with worship and rest from work coming together on Sunday. It is good that we continue to keep Sunday holy, with worship as a priority. But what is work? An especially relevant question for those of us who do not have a regular Monday to Friday job and are not in full time paid employment. Is it not those activities which are tiring? I regard almost any work on a computer as tiring or for that matter, conducting services and preaching. Gardening and cycling are relaxing activities.
5. Conclusion. May we go out from this service refreshed in spirit, our relationship with God through our Lord Jesus Christ strengthened, to meet the challenges and opportunities of the week ahead.
796 words Christopher Miles