Trinity XVII - St. Luke 14:1-11 - September 27, 2015

Order of Service - Pg. 15
Hymn # 298 "Baptized into Thy Name Most Holy"
Hymn #342 "Chief of Sinners Though I Be"
Hymn #34 "My Soul, Now Bless Thy Maker"

1 Samuel 2:1-10
Ephesians 4:1-6
St. Luke 14:1-11

Collect for Trinity XVII

Lord, we beseech Thee, grant Thy faithful people grace to withstand the temptations of the devil and with pure hearts and minds to follow Thee, the only God; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon on the Holy Gospel

1)         Jesus never misses an opportunity to teach. In today’s Gospel lesson Jesus, invited to the home of a Pharisee to dine on the Sabbath, preempts the usual Pharisaic ‘gotcha’ question. St. Luke writes that they watched him closely. Knowing this, He beats them to the punch by pointing out the elephant in the room. That elephant happens to be a man with dropsy. The Pharisees know Jesus is a compassionate healer of the physical and spiritually ill. It’s no coincidence that they man with dropsy is present, neither is it coincidence that they stage this to happen on a Sabbath. They want to see if Jesus will break the Sabbath. If they can catch Him doing that, then they have what they need to discredit Him and drag Him through the proverbial mud. Before they can ask Jesus, Jesus asks them Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath? The lawyers and Pharisees remain silent. If they say yes, then their plan is foiled. If they say no, they expose themselves as hypocrites. While Mosaic law threatened the Sabbath breaker with death, and actually imposed that sentence on a man in Numbers 15, the law also proscribes that man loves his neighbor as he loves himself. If you could heal or help someone on the Sabbath, even though it would mean physical labor, and you don’t help your neighbor, that would also be breaking the Law because you didn’t help your neighbor in every bodily need. By healing the man afflicted with dropsy, Jesus shows the Pharisees the true meaning of the third commandment.

2)         The Third Commandment, Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, is about far more than resting on Saturday for the Jews. Rest was not rest for its own sake. Nor was Sabbath to be a day for idleness. The day is to kept holy, that is set apart for sacred use. It’s a day for dealing with the sacred things of God, which are the Word, prayer, and the sacrifice of praise. Sabbath isn’t kept holy merely by refraining from work. It is, as St. Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:5, sanctified by the word of God and prayer. If these Pharisees had of truly been keeping the Sabbath, the question would be easy for them. Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath? Absolutely. The very same law tells us that we are love our neighbor and help them as we have opportunity. These Pharisees were holding only to the external aspect of the Third Commandment, taking physical rest, while putting a moratorium on helping their neighbor if they thought it might interfere with their fulfillment of the commandment. After Jesus heals the man and lets him god, He points out the ignorance of their hearts regarding the true nature of the Sabbath. Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day? They care for the well-being of their animals but not for the well-being of their fellow man. If it is within the realm of the Third Commandment to pull a farm animal out of pit on the Sabbath to save its life, which would require a good amount of physical labor, then it is surely in keeping with the commandment to do works of love and charity for our neighbor, even if it requires physical labor. If you’re truly hearing the Word and taking it to heart, you will go no thought to your own fulfillment of the Law but devote yourself outwardly to the service of neighbor.

3)         For Christians, living after the death and resurrection of Christ, this brings up an interesting topic. You are not under the Mosaic Law. The Ten Commandments are still in force because they are the moral Law that God inscribed onto your heart at the creation. But you don’t have to worry about resting and worshiping on Saturday because Sabbath observance is a ceremonial aspect of the law. The same is true in regards to the graven images part of the First Commandment. Both are ceremonial aspects of the Law because both deal with the “how” of worship that applied only to the Jews. The Christian, even the Christian of Jewish descent, is free from all these statutes because Christ has fulfilled the entire Law perfectly in our stead. Christ applies His perfect righteousness to all who believe the Gospel that Christ has atoned for their sins. By faith you have fulfilled the Law of Moses perfectly because faith receives Christ’s righteous as its own. This is why St. Paul tells the Colossians in chapter 2[16-17] when he writes, Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the abbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. There can be no such thing as an “Old Testament Christian” because all the festivals, Sabbaths, ceremonies, and rituals were but shadows of a reality to come. The reality is Christ Jesus our Lord. He is the Passover Lamb, thus Passover ceases and is replaced by the Lord’s Supper. Circumcision ceases as the means of bringing infants and adults into the covenant God makes with Israel and is replaced by water baptism. The Sabbath command comes to an end because as Prudentius reminds us, Jesus is our Sabbath rest because faith in Christ brings true rest for the shiftless soul burdened by sin. Everything, the Law, its institutions, its priesthood, the kingdom and the crown, all of it prefigures Christ that that none of it remains for the Christian to live under. The Christian lives by the Gospel.

4)         Some in the greater community will protest that the word ‘Sabbath days’ which Paul uses is plural, not singular and that is correct. They will say that Paul is therefore referring to the Sabbath Festivals of Leviticus 25, Passover, Tabernacles, Day of Atonement, etc., and not the weekly seventh-day Sabbath. But Sabbath is Sabbath is Sabbath. Christ supersedes all of it because all of it points to Him and His work in His life, death, resurrection, and His work through the means of grace until His return on the Last Day. Still they will claim that Sabbath has existed before Moses because Sabbath was instituted as the capstone of creation. But in Genesis God only sanctifies the Sabbath so that He may command Sabbath observance to His chosen people in the Mosaic Law in the future. There is no command to rest on the Sabbath in Genesis. In fact we note that God does not continue to rest every Saturday. Instead He continues to preserve all creatures. Christ attests to this in John 5:17 when He says, My Father has been working until now, and I have been working. The Lord put forward Sabbath observance as a temporary ceremony for the Jews to separate them from the pagan nations surrounding them, as a test of their faithfulness to His Word, and as a picture of the work of the coming Christ. Let no one deceive you into thinking the Christian must or even ought to worship on Saturday. To do so for their reasons would be to place the yoke of Moses back on your shoulders as St Paul tells the Galatians regarding circumcision.

5)         This is the very reason that the Apostles chose the first day of the week, Sunday, as the day of worship for Christianity. There were those who have said from the beginning that Christians are to be bound by Moses since Moses is the Word of God. The Apostles rejected this idea in the first church council in Acts 15. In Acts 20:7 the saints gather for the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week. The Apostles set this example to teach Christian Liberty from the Law of Moses, that Moses is not necessary for salvation and can even be harmful when mixed with the Gospel. They also established this precedent to testify to the resurrection of Christ. Sunday is the first day of the week but it is also the eighth day of the week, the beginning of the New Creation. Circumcision was to take place on the eighth day of the male child’s life for that same reason. Circumcision brought the child into a new relationship with the Lord. So Sunday is the Lord’s Day, the day of the Lord’s resurrection, and each time we gather is a mini-Easter, causing us to meditate on the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus in faith so that might continually grow in that faith.

6)         The moral aspect of the Third Commandment remains for the Christian. We are to have a day dedicated to rest for the sake of hearing the Word of God, time set apart to meditate upon it, and to receive the Sacrament. This is why Luther translates the commandment and explains it in the way he does in the Small Catechism, You shall sanctify the day of rest. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. So we gather to hear God’s Word read and preached. We gather to speak God’s Word back to Him in the liturgy which is nothing but Scripture. We confess His doctrine back to Him in the Creed. And we receive the Word in the Sacrament of the Altar, the forgiveness of all our sins by faith in His Words given and shed for you for the remission of sins.

7)         As we fulfill the moral heart of the third commandment, no longer constrained by the outward ceremony of the commandment, we are free to love our neighbor as ourselves as well. It would be wrong for us to go away from this place, having heard the Word and believed it, and not bear the fruits of faith, most notably good works for our neighbor in need. The Pharisees were so wrapped up in their observance of the ceremony that they neglected their fellowman. Let it not be so among us who hear the Gospel and believe for the forgiveness of our sins. The Lord fills us with faith toward all His precious promises. He also fills us with love for our neighbor, so that, having heard the word, we can pull the ox out of the ditch when its needed and serve our neighbor, not according to the old law, but the law of love that constrains us in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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