Wednesday morning headlines in the Capital newspaper read, “Controversial candidate Peroutka wins council seat.” Now what is intended, I believe, on the part of those crafting such language is to proclaim that, although a victory was won, it was not a good thing; or another way to say it is the voters made a bad choice. But is it a slam to be controversial? In an age of evil, in a land that is increasingly degenerate, to be considered controversial may actually be a complement; though no doubt unintended by the reporters.
Consider that Jesus was a man of controversy. When you carefully read through the four Gospel accounts, you will find that, time and time again, Jesus is involved in heated controversies. In fact were you to drop into that time in history I think you would be surprised at the amount of controversy which accompanied Jesus where ever He went.
We tend to have a Sunday School version of Jesus – meek and mild, never did anything to upset anyone, never said a word that ruffled anyone’s feathers, always perfectly met the social expectations of His times and was never in hot water with the authorities—neither the civil authorities nor the religious authorities. That Sunday School version of Jesus is in sharp contrast with the realities we are confronted with in a careful reading of the Gospel accounts.
One controversy that repeatedly and almost continually dogs His steps is the controversy surrounding the Fourth Commandment. At issue was what constituted work that was forbidden by the Fourth Commandment. In fact, we read in John 5:16, “And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.” So the Sabbath controversy was so intense that it led directly to the crucifixion.
I thought that, in our examination of the Fourth Commandment, it would be most helpful to see what Jesus taught; in particular, what He taught concerning what was lawful to do on the Sabbath. I think this will be helpful for us as we seek to obey our Lord concerning our observance of the Lord’s Day.
How Jesus Remembered the Sabbath
First, let’s look at the typical Sabbath day in the ministry years of Jesus. Turn to Luke 4:16-21:
“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”
The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath
We must understand that the Sabbath is for our good, and the manmade rules might ruin the blessing that God intended for us. Quite clearly the Sabbath is a day for ministry, meeting real life needs of our fellow man. We might think we don’t have much to offer, think our gifts and talents are meager. But whatever they are when we offer them to God He will use them to His glory.
Take for example an elderly widow, restricted in her activities, who was eager to serve Christ. After praying about this, she realized that she could bring blessing to others by playing the piano. The next day she placed this small ad in the Oakland Tribune: “Pianist will play hymns by phone daily for those who are sick and despondent–the service is free.” The notice included the number to dial. When people called, she would ask, “What hymn would you like to hear?” Within a few months, her playing had brought cheer to several hundred people. Many of them freely poured out their hearts to her, and she was able to help and encourage them.
Jesus teaches that the Sabbath observance should be one where we worship together with believers, where we read and hear God’s Word, where it is soundly expounded to us, and where we minister to the real needs of those about us. So let us remember the Sabbath of the Lord our God.
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