So on December 14, 2020, the Inter-Agency Task Force For Management Of Emerging Diseases or IATF issued a solution 88 requiring all persons to wear full coverage face shields on top of face masks in all public places to control the spread of the Corona virus. It was a command that everyone must comply to as a reminder that there is a contagious virus that can possibly kill us. The law must be obeyed not only to control the spread of the virus, but also to protect ourselves to some extent. To anyone living within that period, within that year, there is one thing in our minds — when will it end, when will it be back to normal, when will wearing face mask and facial shield be gone? In September 2022, the outdoor wearing of face masks became optional. A month later, the rule on indoor wearing a face mask was also lifted. Now we can rest from the burden of being unable to breathe properly because of our face masks and the fog in our faces, or in our face, in our face shield. It’s as if everything is back to normal, and we live now in a post-pandemic era. But the virus isn’t completely gone, just that we have to live with it. We have become more resilient to it.
But in the Christian life, we are also given a command that serves as a reminder that we are in Christ. Yet, we are still waiting for the consummation of our rest, that our rest be made complete. That is the fourth Commandment — the observance of the Sabbath day which is God’s command to us given for our good, and it serves as a reminder of what Christ has done for us. Turn with me to our passage this morning that’s Matthew 12: 1-14. At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” He went on from there and entered their synagogue. And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. May the Lord add blessing to the reading of His word.
Matthew chapter 12 narrates four confrontations Jesus had with the Pharisees that escalated their hostility, their anger towards Christ. In the closing passages of chapter 11 provides a background to our text this morning. In verses 29 through 30, Jesus calls on those who are weary and heavy laden to come to Him and they will be given rest. Those who will come to Him are to take upon His yoke to learn from Him and quoting from Jeremiah 6:16, He states that when they learn from Him, they will find rest for their souls for His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
In contrast, the Pharisees who were the religious leaders at the time of Jesus, were burdening the people with man-made laws which they themselves could not keep and they they themselves are guilty of breaking yet they only see the faults of others and not their own. They wanted to elevate the letter of the law, external obedience, from the intent of the law which is to show one’s love for God by obeying His Commandments to glorify Him, and loving their neighbours by doing what is right and good to them to reflect God’s glory to them. In other words, they were all about rule-keeping, but ignoring the weightier matters of the law which are justice, mercy and faithfulness. In comparison to the gentle and humble Christ, they were oppressive; they were proud, they were self-righteous. At first, Christ was gently rebuking them, correcting their misinterpretation of scriptures and making them realise that He is the Messiah, the one they were all waiting for. When Jesus ate with the sinners, they asked why is your teacher eating with tax collectors and sinners to which Jesus replied that it is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means, He commanded the Pharisees quoting from Hosea 6:6 I desire mercy and not sacrifice for I came not to call the righteous but the sinners. And the same rebuke, I desire mercy and that sacrifices repeated in our text. Both instances rebuke them for their legalism and encourage them to extend mercy towards their neighbours. The first two confrontations were about the discussions over Sabbath keeping; what is allowed and what is not allowed to do on the Sabbath. And here, Christ emphasised that works of necessity that’s eating, drinking, defending yourselves from enemies, quenching the fire of houses or visiting the sick; they are necessity, work of necessity and works of mercy doing good to your neighbour. Those are allowed in the Sabbath. Yet in light of the public. disagreement between Pharisees and Christ, comes our message this morning which also applies to us — that Sabbath-keeping is vital for Christian living. Sabbath- keeping is vital for Christian living. And to expound on this message, we’ll look at how it is still a binding command and how Sabbath-keeping is related to Christ’s authority. That is my first point, The Lord Of The Sabbath. Lastly, we’ll look at the Sabbath’s purpose and how it impacts our lives as believers. That’s my last point The Heart Of The Sabbath.
So let’s tackle the first point. You see in our text, we can observe from our text that Christ rebuked the Pharisees who accused the disciples of breaking the Sabbath. Sinaway ni Kristo ang mga Pariseo na nag-akusa sa mga disipulo Niya na nilabag nila ang Sabbath. At one Sabbath, Jesus and His disciples went through the grainfields. They were hungry, they plucked heads of grain and ate it. When the Pharisees saw it, they accused the disciples of breaking the Sabbath. And to further understand the importance and gravity of the consequence of this accusation, we must look back on how the Jews lived. Sabbath-keeping comes from the fourth Commandment. Six days they were allowed to work; on the seventh day, they must cease from work, they must stop working, they must rest. As God’s command, Jews regarded Sabbath-keeping as very important. It is a sign of a covenant, sign of obedience to God’s covenant to Israel and a display of their loyalty to the Lord of the Sabbath, that is Yahweh. In fact, the punishment for Sabbath-breaking is execution, death. And according to the writings of Josephus, it was because the Jews insisted on keeping the Sabbath law that Pompei was able to take Jerusalem. See, their laws allowed them to protect themselves but they can’t do anything to their enemies if they are not attacking them. So, ang ginawa ni Pompei in military strategy, you need to build a mound higher elevation and then bombard them from that higher elevation. So Pompei built a mound on a Sabbath day and the Jews simply looked on Pompei and refused to lift a hand to stop him. Additionally, due to the desires of the Pharisees to keep the Sabbath which was a good intention, the Rabbis defined work which was forbidden in Sabbath into 39 different categories which resulted to their man-made loss. They added their own rules to God’s command. And among the categories that was considered work was reaping, threshing and winnowing. Stripping grains from the stock was both gripping and threshing. Rubbing the grain between the hands to remove the husk from the kernel is seen as winnowing. And by this man-made laws, the Pharisees saw the disciples of Christ as Sabbath-breakers. And in response to the Pharisees’ accusation, Christ defends their action by giving two Old Testament cases namely Ahimelech allowing David to eat the shewbread and the priests working on the Sabbath, and appealing to His divine authority as the Son of man and the Lord of the Sabbath. Firstly, Christ pointed out how the priest at Nob, Ahimelech gave David food to eat because he and his men were hungry.
That’s in 1 Samuel chapter 21. And if you will read that, that is David trying to escape from Saul because Saul is going to kill him. And when he ran, he needed to eat. So when he said, when David said that I need food because me and my men were hungry, it was a lie. And the priests desired to feed their anointed king out of necessity. The priest ruled out that David may eat of the shewbread which was only reserved for priests ‘aka’ unlawful now, because the law was made to preserve life provided that they were not ceremonially unclean, that they did not have sexual relations. Secondly, Christ pointed out that priests broke the Sabbath because they served in the temple on the Sabbath, that is the work of of piety. But as Christ said they were declared guiltless because they were only obeying what God has commanded. So there’s a hierarchy of command. And with these two cases, Christ pointed out that their man-made rules were not inspired by mercy or compassion for God’s people, and at the same time they are not directly given by God to be obeyed. So He declares Himself as greater than David and greater than the temple for He is the Son of man rooted in the Book of Daniel. The Son of man who sits at the right hand of the Ancient of Days and God Himself, He proclaims that He is God Himself, that Christ Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath. This is to inform us that God instituted the Sabbath and He is the only Lord of the Sabbath. Ang Diyos ang gumawa ng Sabbath, at Siya ang tanging Panginoon ng Sabbath.
If you have been driving along EDSA or commuting, you’ll see that there is an exclusive bus lane. And only buses and vehicles within the guidelines of the Department of Transportation are allowed to use it. But motorists often times create their own rules. Motorists who create their own rules, if they’re not complying to the guidelines, they use it to overtake other vehicles kasi maluwag, will be flagged down and will be fined 5,000 pesos. The motorists cannot make an excuse that they cannot, they can use it according to their whims. They cannot even tell the DOTR what to do or what not to do. Hindi nila pwedeng sabihing maluwag yung kalsada, pwede akong dumaan because the law says it’s only for the bus lanes and for the vehicles according to the guidelines. DOTR has the authority to make the rules and MMDA has the authority to implement the rule. The motorists are to comply to it.
Likewise, since Jesus Is God, He is the final Judge of what can be done at what and what cannot be done on the Sabbath. The Pharisees do not have the authority to tell Christ what cannot be done, neither do we. And since God is the Lord of the Sabbath, we cannot add to His command. We can only comply to what God has ordained in His scriptures. We see that God instituted the Sabbath in creation. It is a creation-ordinance. When God rested on the seventh day from His work of creation, Adam was to imitate God both in working and resting. This was a normal thing for Adam. In fact, if you’re going to read the Bible, Adam’s first day was a Sabbath day after creation. But Adam fell. Sin entered creation, became corrupted. And as a result, rather than meeting with God on the Sabbath, what did he do? He hid from God. So when we read again the Sabbath commandment in the book of Exodus, you must see that we must understand that it was given to sinners. That’s why there’s ‘you do not do this’ part. What was distorted then in the fall was now being restored in Israel. The believers at the time of Moses, were observing the Sabbath, looking forward to the day of the fulfillment of the Sabbath as they celebrate it on the seventh day. So there’s a picture there. You are there trying to… they’re looking forward and working there to rest. So they have a command to do this and then live.
Then in God’s appointed time, He sent His only begotten Son, fully man and fully God, the second person of the Trinity, assumed the form of a man and lived a sinless life to die on the cross on behalf of sinners. He defeated sin, death and the devil and entered rest from His atoning work in His resurrection. The rest that the Old Testament believers have been waiting for has been fulfilled in Christ.
And by His person and work, He gives true rest to those who are weary and heavy laden. To those who will trust in Him, they will find rest for their souls. And just as God rested in His creating work in creation, we see Christ also rested from His atoning work ushering forth His kingdom in redemption. And since Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath, Sabbath also submits to Christ. After the resurrection, we see a change in the day they gathered, we see an impact.
Before, it was celebrated on the last day, looking forward to rest. Now that Sabbath has been fulfilled, believers now celebrate it not on the last day of the week, but in the first day of the week which is Christ’s resurrection and the day He met His disciples. So it’s now the Lord’s day. And some would argue that since Christ has already fulfilled the law for His people, then Sabbath-keeping has been already revoked. We agree that ceremonial laws have been revoked since Christ has already fulfilled it. That is why we are not offering sacrifices on the Lord’s day. However, the moral law or the decalogue, is binding even to this day. Therefore, the Sabbath, as part of God’s ten commandments, must be obeyed by God’s covenant people. Pasok ito sa third use of the law. First use of the law is to show how sinful we are; second is to control, to manage society and third is to sanctify us. That is why we keep the Sabbath. You see, the world hates the Sabbath because it is a weekly reminder to them of the God whom they want to ignore, whom they hate; but to believers, to those who are in Christ — it is a badge of our love and loyalty to our King, proclaiming to the world that we are under the lordship of our Redeemer and King who is the Lord of the Sabbath. Yet even those who are in Christ are prone to take for granted His command. In the name of Christian liberty and freedom of conscience, some may intentionally do the very minimum: to attend church; that’s only enough to prevent them from being disciplined. Sabihin nila, dun ako last Sunday. Some although not providentially hindered, they don’t have duties of necessity or mercy would intentionally neglect the Sabbath for selfish reasons. The challenge then for us is this: in love and gratitude to our Redeemer and the Lord of the Sabbath, Show Your Love For God By Observing The Sabbath As Obedience To His Command.
Ipakita mo ang iyong pagmamahal sa Diyos sa pamamagitan ng pagsamba sa Sabbath bilang pagsunod sa Kaniyang utos. So you’re doing this not in order to gain salvation, but from a perspective that you have been already saved by Christ. You see in the time of the Puritans, Sabbath-keeping was hated. In fact, the Puritans were called Puritans as an insult, a derogatory term and it was specifically attributed to their desire of keeping the Lord’s Day.
In the time of John Owen, the fanatics denounce it as a mere ceremonial observance. And on the other hand, the many and the noisy disciples who hold to the book of sports, which permitted recreation the Sabbath, hated it because of its spirituality. And in response, John Owen wrote His treaties on the Sabbath. Seeking to preserve this precious fence in John Owen’s word which is.. which the goodness of God has drawn around the vineyard of the church. In the preface of the treaty he writes, the profession of Christianity in the world at this day depends upon how much it tends to the exercise and expression of the power of religion must be evident to all. Since no small part of its power consists in the constant payment of that homage of spiritual worship which we owe to God in Jesus Christ, the duties of which worship are the means appointed by Him for the communication of grace and spiritual strength for the due performance of the reminder of our obedience in this things consists the service of this day and the end of its observance is their due performance to the glory of God and the advantage of our own souls. You see how Sabbath is very important. The question then is do we hate God or do we love God? If we say we love Him, then we must be reminded that loving Him meant keeping His commandment and part of it is keeping the fourth Commandment. And again, we’re not doing this to earn something to earn God’s favour but in light of the grace that He has already given to us. Do we see the Lord’s day as an appointment with God? Then this means that it is to be treated with greater preparation and anticipation, right. If you’re going with if you’re going to a job interview, or if you’re welcoming an esteemed guest, you have to prepare, or minsan ninenerbyos ka pa mag-prepare para sa kanya. The question is do we plan our week that we may be punctual in meeting our Lord with His people in the Lord’s day? If we see God as someone who is of greater importance, more important than a job interview, more important than welcoming a guest, more important than the president of the Philippines, then there’s preparation, there’s punctuality, there’s a sense of duty. Is our desire to worship with God’s people also… and is it quenched when we are providentially hindered? We must be reminded that our duty to worship is greater than our duty to do the works of necessity and mercy. So hindi dapat nawawala yung pag-sanctify sa araw na ito..that we are to worship Him. If you are under contractual obligations to do something on the Sabbath, works of necessity, then dapat hindi manghina yung desire mo para mag-worship. If you’re coming from a night shift, Saturday, hindi mo siya pwedeng i-reschedule, then maybe you have to sleep before going to the chapel. Kasi baka andun ka nga pero nasa city of dreams ka, natutulog ka. And you will be here but you’ll be physically present but mentally absent. Or if you’re taking care of the sick; if you have someone to take care of him or her, then it’s encouraged that you still come here. Let the word of God, the fellowship of the saints, the prayers, minister to your souls. You must be reminded that we if we are to delight in God, it always entails denials of self, denial of self, denial of seeking our own pleasure recognising that His ways are higher than our ways and that it is for our good.
Sabi nga sa opening scripture natin kanina, if you reject or if you turn back from your pleasures and make the Sabbath a delight, then God will bless us. We have understood that sa Sabbath-keeping is a command. Now then what is the purpose or intent of the Sabbath?
Let’s tackle the last point Heart Of The Sabbath. We see from our text that Christ healed the man’s withered hand to point out that it is lawful to do what is good on the Sabbath. Pinagaling ni Kristo ang kamay ng lalaki upang ituro na matuwid ang paggawa ng mabuti sa Sabbath. Ang sabi dito sa Matthew, it’s like it’s one day na ginawa ito ni Christ, but in Luke’s account, it’s on another Sabbath. So on another Sabbath day, Christ went to the synagogue as part of keeping the Sabbath. According to Luke’s account, Christ was teaching and the Scribes and Pharisees watched Him to see whether He would heal on the Sabbath so that they might find a reason to accuse Him. In Matthew’s account, the Sabbath and the Pharisees ask Him to accuse them. So there’s no discrepancy there. It’s just that authors have their own perspective in writing. If Jesus healed the man of the Sabbath using any methods that may be recognised as work by exerting Himself like anointing oil, putting clay or spitting at the hand of the man, then they can tell Jesus that oh, Jesus, you breaking the Sabbath thus discrediting Jesus as a teacher. In response, Christ used their man-made laws against them. He states with, by a question, by a rhetorical question. He states that it was acceptable according to their laws that if a sheep falls in a pit on the Sabbath, one will take hold of it and lift it out. And since they would do that for a sheep, then it is also lawful to do good. To heal a man, a human being who has more value than a sheep because he is made in the image of God. But Christ did not exert Himself and only asked the man to stretch his hand and he was immediately healed. You see there the wisdom and the power of Christ. And since Jesus did not exert Himself, and since stretching out one’s hand was a considered work, neither Jesus nor the man did anything prohibited by the Rabbis on the Sabbath. So the plan then to accuse Jesus, to charge Jesus of profaning the Sabbath miserably failed. So the Pharisees left and began to develop a new plot to put Jesus to death. And this shows that they were the ones guilty of breaking the Sabbath because they were the ones exerting themselves on the Sabbath trying to accuse Jesus. At the same time, they wanted to harm Him which is also breaking God’s law. You see, the Pharisees wanted the people to follow their tradition. They saw Sabbath only as a rule to be kept; to do no work and just rest legalistically. They didn’t understand its intent, what is its purpose. The Sabbath is not only a day… the day of rest from work to worship God, but also a day of mercy. Ang Sabbath ay hindi lamang isang araw ng pahinga mula sa trabaho upang sambahin ang Diyos, kundi araw din upang tanggapin at alalahanin ang awa at grasya Niya.
Yearly, pagdating ng June 12, araw ng kalayaan, it is a holiday. Walang pasok yung mga nasa gubyerno, maliban na lamang yung mga nasa private institutions. And this very day was instituted to celebrate that Philippines is a free country. And that we are still enjoying our privileges as Filipinos because we are living in our country. No one has conquered us, we have our leaders as Filipinos. In a sense, Sabbath is like that but more than that. Mark chapter 2 verse 27 says the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath. Looking back at creation, Adam and Eve was to imitate God both in working and resting, reminding them that they are not only creatures in need of rest because they are not made primarily to work. They are, we are homo lurgicus, we are made to worship God. But since again sin has corrupted all of creation, Sabbath was corrupted. As we said earlier, rather than meeting with God, man hid from God.
When we read of it in Exodus where God has given the command to Moses, it serves not only as a reminder of creation but also a reminder of redemption that God has redeemed them from their slavery and are commanded to rest showing their distinction from other nations. Thus, restoring what was corrupted in creation, but at the same time waiting for the fulfillment of that rest to come. Pero alam naman natin, dahil makasalanan sila, they cannot perfectly keep it.
And this perfect keeping of the whole law was accomplished by Christ. In light of the New Covenant, we are new creations in Christ. And Sabbath reminds us of the reality that Christ has already atoned for our sins and reconciled us to God that we may rest in Him.
In fact, sabi ni Thomas Watson sa kaniyang libro na “Ten Commandments,” the Sabbath is not a burden. It is a friend to religion and it helps in our Christian life . Sabi niya doon, quoting, start quote: “When the falling dust of the world does clog the wills of our affections that they can scarce move towards God, the Sabbath comes and oils the wheels of our affections and they move swiftly on. God has appointed the Sabbath for this end. The heart which all the week was frozen on the Sabbath melts with the word. the Sabbath is a friend to religion it files off the rust of our graces.”
And we rest from work to reflect, to enjoy and to think about the wonderful works of God in creation, in redemption, in restoration, prompting us to respond in worship to God for who He is and what He has done. It is not like any normal day because it is a day where we experience a foretaste of heaven, a foretaste of the experience of what it means to have fellowship with the Triune God. He speaks to us through the preaching of the word, sustaining us and assuring us of our salvation accomplished by Christ that we may rest in Him, reminding us that we are justified in Christ. That we are forgiven of our sins, that there’s no anger towards us anymore, that you were once enemies but now adopted as sons and daughters of God. It is a day wherein we can have gospel-centred conversations with our fellow believers, that we may be encouraged as they remind us of God’s word, as God’s word is used to encourage us and God’s word is also used to pray for us. And we are reminded also as we commune with one another, and we commune with God, we are reminded of God’s work in our lives of how He is sanctifying us and assured of the promise of future glorification. The challenge then for us is this: that we are to Keep The Sabbath In Light Of Our Redeemed Possession In Christ. Sundin mo ang Sabbath habang isinaalang-alang ang iyong tinubos na posisyon kay Kristo. You see Sinclair Ferguson, a Scottish Presbyterian Pastor recalls his experience when he was a kid. His parents made sure that young Sinclair kept the Sabbath though they’re not attending church, they’re not going to church, sabi nila kay Sinclair, you have to observe the Sabbath. That means he wasn’t allowed to do any work in the house, he was not allowed to go out or to play. And then when he saw a boy kicking a ball on the Sabbath, he was so furious as an 8-year-old boy that he complained to his parents. He recognised Sabbath as a burden and not a day to be looked forward to. Sabi pa nga niya dun na if you’re… we didn’t do anything that we enjoyed on the Sabbath. So, but when he understood the gospel and became a believer, he thought that going to church and reading the Bible, those things that would make him a Christian, he now realised that it was not the the things he did or have been doing that saved him, it was by grace, through faith in the gospel of the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus Christ. And his conclusion was simple: ‘we need to come to Christ to find true Sabbath rest.’ If you are not yet in Christ and you’re weary and heavy laden from your sins, and restless in your pursuit of gaining more of this world, God is calling you through the gospel to repent and believe in the gospel, to trust in the person and work of Christ that you may find rest for your soul. But if you are in Christ, be reminded that God has already paid for your sins past, present and future sins has been atoned for in the cross. You are now reconciled with God and His love is poured out to you in Christ. He has given you this Lord’s day as a gift that you may be refreshed from your struggles with your flesh with the world and with accusations and temptations of the enemy. We, who are in Christ start the week enjoying God and being assured of our rest in Christ.
Sabi ni Sinclair Ferguson nung nirere-count niya yung experience niya bilang believer na nagbago na. Sinclair Ferguson puts it better when he applies this perspective about how we enjoy the Sabbath. Sabi niya dun: “We do not long to gain rest In Christ. We are those who rest In Christ. We are able to live the rest of the week knowing that whatever burdens, whatever challenges we encounter within the week, we are labouring not for rest..hindi tayo nagtra- trabaho para magpahinga. We are labouring from rest, galing sa pahinga. We are labouring not for salvation, but in salvation; not anticipating a coming Messiah but knowing that He is here and with His people and He blesses His people in the Lord’s Day. The question is: Do we see the Sabbath in light of our salvation in Christ? That we are doing this not to gain God’s favour but because God extended to us His favour through His Son and in love and gratitude for who He is and what He has done. We consider it as a delight to spend not only the hour, not only the minutes, but the whole day basking in the presence of God and with His people. Do we see the Sabbath as a blessing or do we see it as a burden, something that we must do rather than a privilege that we have as Christ redeemed?
Before, we spend our days trying to get most of the world. But now we have the privilege to start the week with a day of rest. Starting the week from rest that will shape how we live in the days to come. That when we celebrate now this very Lord’s day, we are resting. And when come Monday, we start because I have rested in God, I can do this task or the challenges ahead. And we, or in other words, we can say after we have spent the Lord’s day, we can say that God, You have blessed me, You have ministered to me, You have graciously reminded me of Your promises that I can make it throughout the whole week again.
In conclusion, for Christians, keeping the Sabbath demonstrates our love for God while also serving as a reminder of creation and redemption. Celebrating the Sabbath is like the Lord’s Supper. In a sense we do it until we are home, until we have entered God’s eternal Sabbath and rest in His presence forever. But for now, we’re waiting for the consummation of our rest as we observe the Sabbath and we are given a foretaste of heaven today.
Let us pray. Our gracious God and Father, we thank You that You have given us rest In Christ. Indeed rest from our sin, from our flesh, the world and the devil. They cannot be accomplished by us, but You have given us Your Son, who atoned for our sins, who have reconciled us to You, who has defeated the flesh, the world and the devil. And in this very Lord’s day, Your word speaks to us, comforting us, encouraging us, assuring us of Your promises. Lord, we ask that You may help us to keep the Sabbath to make it holy, to delight in it that we may truly be blessed by it. This we ask in Jesus’ Name, amen and amen.