Grace and peace to you from our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
The third commandment says: Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise the preaching of His Word, but consider it holy, and be happy to hear and learn it.
In one sense, this means the faithful attendance of divine service on Sundays, because this is our prime opportunity to hear the Word of God, to confess our sins and receive absolution and the strengthening of our faith with the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the eucharist.
However, no matter how perfect our attendance, we despise the Word of God when we do not learn and apply in in our lives. How do we apply it in our lives? When we show our love for God and our neighbors. A person who goes through the motions of all the rites of the church, but does not show love for his neighbor is a hypocrite.
In our text for today, our Lord Jesus Christ encountered another trap of the Pharisees, a group of which many members believed that they had fulfilled the Law of God perfectly. Jesus was invited to eat in the house of one of their leaders on the Sabbath. In the culture of the Jews, the Sabbath was Saturday, because on the seventh day the Lord had fulfilled the work of creation and rested and enjoyed His work. For the Jews, the seventh day was a day off, and usually nobody worked on that day because it was dedicated to the worship of God and the enjoyment of His blessings. For us, the Sabbath is Sunday, the day of resurrection, that is, the new creation.
The Pharisees wanted to trick Jesus in this way: Among the wealthy and important guests was a poor wretch, a man with dropsy. The Pharisees know that Jesus often healed the sick. If Jesus did not heal the man because it was the Sabbath, the Pharisees would spread rumors that Jesus really had no compassion for the poor. If He healed the man, they would spread rumors that Jesus did not observe the Sabbath.
So Jesus began with a question for them. "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" And they were silent because they knew the answer was "yes." The law of Moses permitted acts of mercy on the Sabbath. That is why Jesus said on another occasion, the law of Moses could be summed up as "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all thy soul and with all thy might" (Deuteronomy 6:5) and "Love your neighbor as yourself "(Leviticus 19:18). For Jews, acts of mercy included animals, as Jesus said, "Who of you, if your ass or his ox fall into a pit, would not then get it out on the Sabbath day?"
And having said this, Jesus healed the man with dropsy. But he had not finished. The Lord would deal with the root of hypocrisy, pride of the Pharisees. "When you are invited to a wedding, do not sit in the first place, lest a more distinguished than you be invited by him that invited you and your host comes and says: Give this man your place; and then you must with shame ttake the last place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the last place, that when your host appears, he will say, 'Friend, move up higher." Then you will have glory before those that sit together at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."
This is an echo of our Old Testament (Proverbs 25.6-14): "Do not put yourself forward in the king's presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, "Come up here," than to be put lower in the presence of a noble." The man concerned with his own position does not truly love. And Solomon wrote in these same verses: "Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of false generosity."
Better for us to do as St. Paul says in our epistle reading (Ephesians 4:1-6): "With all humility and gentleness, with patience, forbearing one another in love." Because in two ways we are equal in Christ. 1. We are all sinners and need a Savior. 2. Also we all have received the same promise of eternal life in Christ. There are no grades or ranks in these areas.
Approach God in humility and love and respect for all others, not in pride and hypocrisy. Because no one can fulfill the law by their own strength, only by the love of God who loved us before we loved Him. In this way we remember the Sabbath day.
The peace of God which passeth all understanding will keep you in heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.
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