Stop Day: Mark 2.23-3.6

Title: Stop Day

Text: Mark 2.23-3.6

Introduction: We’re in Mark 2.23-3.6. We’re in the midst of a passage filled with Conspiracy or Conflict stories.

When David Green built his first craft store in 1972, he wanted to keep it closed on Sundays. He wanted it that way so that his families, his employees and everyone involved with his store could have the day off. He wanted to, but he didn’t. His competitor had made threats about running him out of business. So, in order to keep up with the competition, he caved in and kept his store open on Sundays. But it always bothered him.

His business thrived and so he expanded. He donated his money to charities and supported ministries, but his conscience still got the best of him. It really was good for his customers. He worked by that motto: the customer always comes first. That was until two decades into this successful business, a voice told him, “I must come first” – not the customers.

He did some research and saw that Sunday was his most profitable day. He made $100 million alone on Sundays each year. So he prayed diligently about it. Well, you know what he did. You know the story. Hobby Lobby began closing its doors on Sundays. And that is when things really took off.

David Green’s story is pretty dramatic. A couple of years ago, Forbes listed David Green in the top 100 wealthiest Billionaires in America. Your story is probably much less dramatic and doesn’t seem to compare to losing $100 million of business if you close for the day: Little league or soccer, a mid-term or final exam, a research paper that is due; A spelling test? But let me ask you: what would it be like to live your life to its fullest extent six days a week, and on the 7th to shut it down? That’s right – for 24 hours during the week, you decide to shut life down.

This morning I want to ask you a set of questions – just like that one. Hopefully, to get you to thinking. This morning, these questions will simply guide our conversation.

I.      What does it mean to Observe the Sabbath day? More importantly, what does it mean to you as a Christian?

Is this one commandment any less important than the other 9? Deu. 5.12:

12 “ ‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

There are 10 commandments and this commandment begins in a different manner than the others. Do’s and don’ts, shall’s and shall not’s and this one starts with Observe. I’ve heard that more is written on this commandment than the others. Not just in Exodus and Deuteronomy where these Commandments are, but in the whole of Scripture. More is written concerning the Commandment to Observe and keep the Sabbath than any of the other commandments.

When God created the heavens and the earth, he said it was good. Repeatedly! When God created man and woman, and put them together, he said it was very good. Then, on the 7th day, he rested from his work. He stopped his work and he didn’t say it was good. He didn’t even say it was very good. No, he said it was holy. Gen. 2.3; So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

The early Hebrews didn’t have a name for each day of the week. They simply called it one day, two day, three day, four day, five day, six day, and stop day.

So, why? What was God’s reason for creating seven days to a week and then commanding that the 7th day be kept holy? Obviously, God gave the command – but why? What was his intention? What is the principle behind the command? It isn’t just about being legalistic…it’s about God’s character. God is revealing to us a part of his character. Think about this: God worked for 6 days. He created the earth, the seas, the skies. He created the things that go into all of them: he placed the lights where he wanted and the flying things where he wanted and the creepy crawly things where he wanted. He did all that he planned in 6 wonderful days. And then, on the 7th day – not because he was tired mind you – but because he is holy – he then rested. Have you ever thought of resting as holiness?


The 1st 3 commandments – they’re all about God. The last six – they’re about our relationship. The 4th one in the middle – it really is the connection between the two. It seems to connect closely with both sides.

What I find funny about myself – maybe you do about yourself – is that I’m squarely focused upon the other commandments. Pick any of the other 9 commandments and I square up, I lock down, I get serious. This commandment, for many years, didn’t feel too bad about breaking. It doesn’t seem as serious as the others. But should I be as concerned about this one to the same degree as I am about the others?

The Jews were! The Religious leaders were! Their problem is that they took it too far. My problem is I take it too lightly. Do you know both are just as wrong?

Deut. 4.2: “And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.

Here’s where the Pharisees have failed: they made much about the Law, when all of it is to make much about the Lord.

We’re in Mark 2.23f. Read Mk 2.23f; you might remember from last week that the Law established a policy for folks to eat from someone’s crop (Deut 23.24f). The Law also established that it was wrong to work on the Sabbath. You cannot reap a harvest on the Sabbath. These religious leaders had clarified what “Reap a Harvest” meant and they crossed the line by making wrong what God had made right. It is against the law to reap a harvest on the Sabbath, but it is never wrong to feed the hungry. The laws against working were made for people – not the other way around. In other words: there is a spirit of the law and an intent in the law.

Time and again we see Jesus set people free from their burdens – that is, giving them rest from their burdens. That is the case in Chapter 3.1-6; I love the drama here. Jesus enters into the synagogue and there is within, a man with a withered hand. Now, they’re watching Jesus, to see if he is going to break the Sabbath by working – that is healing. And their intention, is listed clearly in v. 2 – in order that they might accuse him. (Whistle to demonstrate the showdown). You can almost here the spurs of Jesus click as he walks across the floor. Come here he tells the man with the withered hand. In the drama I’m playing out in my mind, he sounds a little bit like Clint Eastwood. He asks the Religious Leaders point blank: “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” Let’s pause the story right there. For some reason Mark leaves the story as it is: Matthew and Luke expound on it further. In Mt …11 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? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”  

That’s the spirit of the law.

The Sabbath day, in keeping its observance, was never a day intended to hurt people. It isn’t a day intended to make the hungry continue in their hunger. The hungry person doesn’t rest when they are hungry. To watch someone languish in pain isn’t holiness in action. The person in bondage doesn’t rest when they are still in bondage. Jesus is saying that you have more compassion for your animals than you do another human being. He isn’t saying don’t have compassion on your animals, but your compassion should be extended to humans, too. Let’s get back to our drama being played out like a western…

He asked them (in a Clint Eastwood voice): “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. Of course they’re silent. They know the correct answer, but they’re more worried about their laws and traditions than they are the Word of God. And, they’re more worried about their laws and traditions than they are people. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart… because they cared more for their manmade principles than people.

I wonder if Jesus has ever looked at me with anger, and grieved because my heart was hard toward the very things that are precious to him? I’m sure the answer to that is yes. Forgive me, Lord.

And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” Man this is great cinema! He’s talking to the man with the withered hand, but he’s staring down these religious leaders with hard hearts. And, He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. But, instead of marveling – like this is something super cool – they get mad.

That is so like the legalist. The legalist doesn’t care about rest. He doesn’t care about restoration. He doesn’t really even care about the Sabbath. He only cares about the rules and how he has manufactured a way to keep the rules.

II.    This brings me to another question: Just what does it mean to rest?

There is a feeling I have – a place I go in my mind – where I think: that’s what rest is. In Worland, Wyoming, in the summer months, the days are long. On one particular day, and there were many like it over the 8 years we lived there, I was laying in the grass staring up into the dark blue sky. As I lay on the ground looking up into the blue, it looked like it was snowing – big, heavy snowflakes. It wasn’t snow, though; it was cotton wood spores. I don’t know if you’ve ever laid out on a green lawn against a blue sky and just watched it snow cottonwood spores. You can YouTube it and watch. I remember just laying there with my kids. Dolly, the old lab that ran the farm was there with us. We just laid there and watched it snow cottonwood spores.

No care in the world. No hurry to get anywhere. No cellphone. No deadline. I’m sure I’ve rested before. But that moment in my life, as a young father will stick with me – probably forever – as a moment of rest.

Can I pause for a moment and list a few points about the Sabbath made so far – maybe just a quick way of review?

  1. The 4th Commandment is in two parts:
    1. Observe the Sabbath day. You are conscientious of that day. Planning for it. That means, you set that day apart from the others. The Hebrew literally says, Be careful to observe
    1. To keep it holy. The idea of keeping is guarding, observing.
  2. The Sabbath day is holy. It is set apart. It is special, that is, compared to the others. It is a Holy day.
  3. The Sabbath day is a day of rest. Remember it is called Stop Day. Rest from your labor – a day of rest from making money, yes, but even more. It is a time also to rest your spirit, soul and mind. Free yourself from tasks undone. Don’t pick them up again until the Sabbath is over.
  4. In our text, it is a day of restoration – that is giving rest to the burdened from their burden. It is healing.
  5. In this context, then – The Sabbath is something that involves others. It can be eating together and enjoying each other’s company. It can be meeting someone else’s need – giving them rest, as it were.

III.   So, how can someone observe the Sabbath and keep it holy in today’s context?

I say, first, to look for the reason behind the rule, the principle behind the precept. Why did God put that command before us? I’m not saying this is the only reason, but this sure makes sense: I think it helps us prioritize our lives.

  1. God takes precedent on that day. Really, he does everyday. But on this day in particular, you’re not saying it, you showing it. You show it by when you go to bed. You show it by when you get up. You demonstrate it by picking out your clothes, and shinning your shoes. You teach it to your kids by doing those things with them. Sunday dinner gets planned earlier. You put on the roast, the crock-pot, whatever. Everything you do shows that God is taking precedent on that day. You plan the day out, so that on that day – you don’t have to work through it. You plan the day out, so that God takes precedent.
  2. You get your work done, because you know you’re not going to do that work on the Sabbath. You organize and structure your workweek with the full intention of resting on the Sabbath. It helps prioritize. Let me personalize this. My Sabbath rest is Friday night to Sunday morning.
  3. All week long, work has taken precedent. Your schedule, your priorities, your duties focus on work. You’ve not had time for family like you wish. But that ends. On this day, you spend more time with your family: kids, grand kids, your wife, your husband. They take priority over what has pushed them to the back. The Sabbath helps us prioritize our lives.
  4. All week long your family has taken a back seat to your job. Maybe your wife has been burdened with a task she can’t finish because something she needs is broken or it isn’t working right. So, you fix it and set her free from that burden. Your kids haven’t been able to ride their bikes. You make that right. You make the repair or you take them somewhere. You set them free, so to speak.


Application using the commandment:

  1. Be Careful. Don’t add to or take away. You can add things to the Sabbath like the Pharisees that will detract for what God intended. You can also become so lax about it, that before you know it, it ain’t holy anymore.
  2. Observe and keep it holy. Plan your week around the Sabbath. Get stuff done, so that you can rest. Make plans for those repairs or for teaching your little girl how to fish or shot a rifle. That might mean stopping by the store before hand and getting some tackle or bait or ammo. It might mean ordering the part. It might mean making plans to go to bed a little earlier. Do what needs to be done, so that you can observe the Sabbath more simply.
  3. Unburden others. Not only are you supposed to rest and be unburdened, but so also are others. Don’t burden someone else. If you go out, don’t be a burden to others. Tip in such a way that those who have to work will feel like it was nothing. Try 100%. Matter of fact – don’t be a burden to them. Some people won’t go out on Sunday for that very reason – not to be a burden to others. If you see someone in need – do what you can to meet that need. Pay for their meal. Leave their server a tip.

I’d like to read a story: Matthew Sleeth, 24/6, p. 131.


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Filed under Deuteronomy, Mark, Sabbath

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