Mark 2:21-28 and Matthew 21:1-11
The commandment to keep the sabbath is one that might not seem as important as the one about not murdering. But what, and who, suffers in our society when we are too busy to attend the important things that happen in the lives of our family, friends and community. When we are too busy to help the least of these? As we give witness yet again to the story of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, proclaiming justice for the oppressed, we must also proclaim justice and peace…and rest…for the weary of this world.
We just read in Mark 2:22, “No one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.” What did Jesus mean? Wineskins were made from goat skin and when they got old and stretched, if new wine was put into them, they would burst.
The Pharisees had become rigid like old wineskins. They could not accept that Jesus was the promised Messiah and have faith in him, because Jesus didn’t fit into their man made rules.
When my mother was snowmobiling, she would take dry roasted peanuts and wine in a wineskin. She would insist that we stop on the trail and have some peanuts and drink wine out of the wineskin. The trick was to pour the wine into your mouth without touching the spout to your lips. Most of us got pretty good at it. I must admit it’s one of my fondest memories of snowmobiling.
Are there systems of our time (“old wineskins”) that we need to “give it a rest” or be “put to rest” that are harming and oppressing the least of these among us? At the end of this “Busy” series, by Dr. Marcia McFee that we’ve been doing during Lent, I pray that you have begun some “Sabbath” practices and have experienced that these have made a difference in the quality of your life, the quality of our planet, and the quality of your time with family and friends, and people in general. I hope that you have discovered what it’s like to slow your life down and reconnect to God. I pray that you can claim some reconnection to God, not just for Lent, but from this day forward.
Some years ago a book was written by a noted American historian entitled “When The Cheering Stopped.” It was the story of President Woodrow Wilson and the events leading up to and following WWI. When that war was over, Wilson was an international hero, there was a great spirit of optimism abroad, and people actually believed that the last war had been fought and the world had been made safe for democracy. If only that were true.
On his first visit to Paris after the war Wilson was greeted by cheering mobs. He was actually more popular than their own heroes. The same thing was true in England and Italy. In a Vienna hospital a Red Cross worker had to tell the children that there would be no Christmas presents because of the war and the hard times. The children didn’t believe her. They said that President Wilson was coming and they knew that everything would be alright.
The cheering lasted about a year. Then it gradually began to stop. It turned out that after the war the political leaders in Europe were more concerned with their own agendas than they were a lasting peace; thus, WWII. At home Woodrow Wilson ran into opposition in the United States Senate and his League of Nations was not ratified. Under the strain of it all the President’s health began to break. He suffered a stroke and in the next election his party was defeated. So it was that Woodrow Wilson, a man who barely a year earlier had been heralded as the new world Messiah, came to the end of his days a broken and defeated man.
It happened that same way to Jesus. When he emerged on the public scene he was an overnight sensation. He would try to go off to be alone and the people would still follow him. The masses lined the streets as he came into town. On Palm Sunday leafy palm branches were spread before him and there were shouts of Hosanna. In shouting Hosanna they were in effect saying “Save us now,” Jesus. Great crowds came to hear him preach. A wave of religious expectation swept the country.
As Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey, we read in Matthew 21:9, “The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!”
But the cheering did not last for long. Within five days the crowds were shouting “Crucify him, Crucify him!” During those five days the people were swayed by the Jewish leaders to turn against him.
One reason that the cheering stopped is that Jesus began to talk more about commitment. During the last week of Jesus’ life, a very interesting scene occurred, and even more significantly, it occurred in full view of the people. A rich young ruler came enthusiastically running to Jesus. We read in Matthew 19:16, that this rich man came to Jesus and asked him, “Teacher, what good things must I do to get eternal life” Jesus replies in verse 21, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Matthew 19:22)
The people were stunned. They were troubled for a theological reason. They had been taught to believe that God had especially blessed rich men. Yet, here is Jesus turning a rich man away.
They were bothered for another reason. Prior to this, Jesus’ message had largely been one of grace. When the 5,000 plus women and children were hungry, he fed them. When they brought their sick to him, he healed them. When a woman is caught in adultery and is about to be stoned, it is Jesus who comes to her rescue and saves her. The message of his ministry is one of grace upon grace.
But now he seems to be saying, “The time for miracles is over. The time for commitment is now.” It is interesting to note that in all four Gospels after Jesus enters Jerusalem to the shouts of Hosanna and palm branches there is not another miracle recorded. There are no miracles done for the people. I invite you to open your Bibles and see if this is true.
Yet listen to this: While there are no miracles recorded in these chapters what you will find is a persistent call to commitment. The Jewish leaders did not believe Jesus was the Messiah to fulfill the prophecy in the Old Testament, so they began to publicly attack him. This was something new. Earlier they had been afraid to speak out for fear of the masses, but they began to perceive that the fickle public was turning on him. Soon the opposition began to snowball. When they discovered that they could not discredit his moral character, they began to take more desperate measures. Before it was all over a tidal wave welled up that brought Jesus to his knees under the weight of a cross.
Why did they crucify Jesus? Why were the people shouting, “Crucify him, crucify him?” Jesus was teaching them things that turned their thinking upside down. Instead of banishing the sick, the lame, the blind and the lepers; Jesus was healing them! Jesus also did many things that ‘just were not done.’
*Jesus healed the man’s withered hand on a Sabbath. Nobody was supposed to work on the Sabbath.
*Jesus drove demons out of people and these demons called him by name!
*He even raised the dead!
*Jesus swept the children up in his arms and loved them, instead of sending them away.
*Jesus chose humiliation over political power. He was a humble servant.
*Jesus death on the cross glorified him through his willing to die for the sins of all.
*When Jesus was resurrected in bodily form on the third day, it was the first time that had happened ever! Everyone else he had raised from the dead eventually died, yet people witnessed Jesus alive for 40 days, and we believe because he lives, we will have eternal life!
Jesus says something in Mark 2:27, that I’d like you to take to heart. Then he (Jesus) said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
I encourage you to take your Sabbath. It was made for you. Come to church on Sunday, worship the Lord and then give yourself a rest. God knew when he created us in his image that we could not work 24/7 and survive. God even rested after 6 days of work!
Prayer: Holy God, please help us to understand that we cannot work 24/7 and be our best self. Give us courage to worship you one day a week, giving thanks for the many blessings you give to each of us every day. Help us to recognize those many blessings. We cannot love you, our family and friends, or even ourselves, if we are exhausted from the pace of life we live. Help us, Lord God. In your Son and our Savior Jesus’ name. Amen
Pastor Rosemary DeHut