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Love God and Love Your Neighbor As Yourself

Jun 03, 2018

Passage: Mark 2:23-28

Preacher: Vicar Tobias Schutze

Category: Sunday, Pentecost

Detail:

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

My family has a law. We are required to attend every meal when we are at home. There is no such thing like: I am tired I want to sleep, I will eat later; I have homework to do. It was just a rule that we have-to follow.

We heard about a law earlier today in our readings. “Six days you shall labor 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 (Dt 5:13-14).”

We shall not do any work, nothing? For the Pharisees and the orthodox Jews in our days, you shall not do any work, or as Luther sarcastically calls it you shall “sit with folded hands behind the oven.”

Now, when we look at the text we see there was quite a bit of work. “One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain-fields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain (Mk 2:23).” One verse and already two things that are “not lawful” on a Sabbath by Jesus and the disciples.

Orthodox Jews in our days are very strict with Sabbath-law given by God. They are not allowed to turn on a TV, they are not allowed to cook, and they are not even allowed to press the buttons in an elevator. But where ever is a law, there is a side-step. People leave the TV on for the whole weekend, they even have elevators that stop on every floor so that you don’t have to press the button.

This has nothing to do with the great commandment: “love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind... and your neighbor as yourself (Mt 22:37 & 39).”

Jesus does not try to get around the accusation, he does not look for an excuse, he does not say: “I am not eating anything. If you Pharisees want to complain, talk to Peter!” “These few grains. That is not real harvesting, that is not forbidden.”  - No! Jesus confronts the Pharisees. He rebukes their whole definition of true “unlawfulness”.

Jesus argues with the narrative of David eating the show bread, which was only for the priests. David, the king of Israel. The king who made Israel a strong powerful kingdom; he didn’t follow a rigid, shallow idea of the law, because he knew the purpose of the law was to love God above all things and as a result love your neighbor since he also fed his companions. What we see happening in accord with the proper understanding of the law is what is summarized in Romans 13:10: “love is the fulfilling of the law.” This the Pharisees did not see.

David was indeed the hero of all Israelites, including the Pharisees even though they didn’t understand the purpose of the law. And now the Pharisees want to tell Jesus that David, the king, the lord of Israel, is allowed-to eat the showbread, but Jesus, the Son of Man, the LORD, whose day is the Sabbath and who is David’s Lord, that this Jesus has no power to prohibit and to allow his disciples to eat grains?

A week is not separated into Sunday: “love your God” and Monday-Saturday: “love your neighbour.” The disciples were in need, David and his people were in need, so they ate, and God allowed them to eat and God gave them to eat. We cannot separate the two commandments to love God and our neighbour from each other. We cannot play them out against each other. We serve God by serving our neighbour.

“I believe that God has made me and all creatures.” Or more accurately translated “together, as a whole, with all creatures” – God created us not alone so that we would enter relationships such as father, as mother, as husband, as wife, as son, as daughter. God made all of you, who are my brothers and sisters in Christ, for me and God made me, who is the brother of you in Christ, for all of you. We serve God by serving each other, because God has made all of us in his image and loves all of us. He himself who loved us, that he humbled himself and became man and went to the cross and died for us for the remission of our sins- who serves us in the most astonishing, greatest possible way - he heals people on the Sabbath, he feeds people on the Sabbath – because he loves us!

Jesus makes clear against the Pharisees in Mt 15 that you can not serve God without being a help for those entrusted to you by him, saying: “You [Pharisees] say: If anyone tells his father or his mother, ‘What you would have gained from me is given to God. He need not honor his father.’ So, for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! (vs 5-7).” And John writes: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar (1 Jn 4:20).” Dishonoring your neighbour is dishonoring God.

Love God and love your neighbour as yourself.

But why then do we even have the Sabbath?  Why are we even here then, why did we come to the divine service?

“’The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’” – We are utilitarian! The Sabbath is given to us by God for our good. This is the higher purpose. Simply keeping the Sabbath law is not the goal in-itself.

First the clear profane and physical reason in which God teaches that we need rest: God made the Sunday, the Sabbath for us to rest. To refresh, to get ready to start a new busy and exhausting week. As the Old Testament reading says, “That your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you (Dt 5:14).”

But that is not all and now we will finally come back to the beginning of the sermon: My family has a law. We have-to attend every meal when we are at home. That is surely not because the food would be cold later, or because the food would be empty, but because my parents know how important it is to spend time together, how important it is to talk, to know each other for a healthy relationship in the family. We all know couples that say after they broke up: “We didn’t talk anymore like we used to do.”

By being together, the meal becomes much more than food. It becomes a tool to build up and preserve a healthy relationship.

God selected a day for us so that we can rest in Christ. Jesus Christ died for us, so that we can have a healthy relationship with God our Father again. He died and took our sins upon himself, so that we are free to be with God. Christ tells us, he urges us: “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, I will give you rest (Mt 11:28).”

God wants to be there for us, he wants to talk to us in his holy word, he forgives us our sins and he strengthens us in the greatest meal of all, through the true body and blood of Jesus Christ, the Lord. A meal that preserves us in our faith. We need this nutrition, this rest, so that we can go out in another busy, exhausting week in which we struggle with temptations, strengthened in our faith and steadfast in God's word enabled to love God and love our neighbor, we need this so that we know that God is “with us always, to the end of the age (Mt 28:20).”

Jesus, the Son of Man, the Lord, even of the Sabbath, be with us now and in this upcoming week. Amen.