Reading Time: 4 mins

Gospel: Mark 2:23-3:6 (Pentecost 2: Series B)

Reading Time: 4 mins

We live under one Lord, Jesus. We rejoice that He is a good Lord who loves, forgives, and cares for us

This Sunday begins a long series of readings from the Gospel of Mark. As you recall, we started reading Mark 1 back in Epiphany. But then came Lent and Easter, and the Gospel readings skipped ahead and bounced around. Now we are back in Mark 2 to pick it up again. With the exception of a three-week excursus into the Bread of Life discourse during August, we will be reading Mark straight through until Advent. It will be a 26-week run, which means a sermon on the Gospel reading this week might function as a reintroduction to Jesus according to Mark.

This Gospel reading talks about two of Jesus’ encounters. At first glance, they do not seem to have much in common. The first is about hungry disciples plucking heads of grain. The second is about a man in the synagogue with a withered hand. But there is a thread that ties them together, and it has to do with when these two stories took place. Both happened on the Sabbath, and therein lies the drama.

I suggest spending time in the sermon telling both stories in succession. Since the Sabbath is key to both of them, you will need to provide some theological context, especially with respect to the Old Testament concept of Sabbath in conjunction with the Mosaic Law, and the protective hedges God’s people were tempted to build around His commands. It will help to recall Exodus 20:8-11 and remind your hearers about the origins of the Sabbath in the created rhythm of the week. Especially in a culture like ours, which has a challenging time slowing down, the idea of rest may be a foreign concept.

The first story gets to the Sabbath by means of those who were hungry. The disciples were walking through the fields and plucking heads of grain to eat. This was allowed by God in Deuteronomy 23:25 as a type of social security. To the Pharisees, however, this violated God’s command to keep the Sabbath holy. Interestingly, Jesus does not challenge their strict reading of the commandment. Instead, He relativizes it (and the Law in general) altogether: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (2:27). That is, man was not made to serve some universal moral code. Instead, the laws of God were meant to serve His people. It was for their good. Then, because they could respond, Jesus announced that He was the “Lord of the Sabbath” (2:28), which begins the second story in our text.

This next account gets to the Sabbath by means of one who was hurting. It took place in the synagogue. The Pharisees had followed Jesus there, looking for a way to accuse Him. That is when the man with the withered hand entered the picture. This man had been suffering physically, socially, and economically. As he often did, Jesus saw him and had compassion. But He also saw the Pharisees and their legalistic disregard for those who were in need. Even as He invited the man to come to Him, Jesus spoke to the Pharisees. “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” Which will it be? Legalism or love? Law or life? Jesus came down on the latter. Not only did he say He was Lord over the Sabbath, now He was showing He was Lord over all by healing the man’s hand.

Not only did he say He was Lord over the Sabbath, now He was showing He was Lord over all by healing the man’s hand.

What do these two narratives have to say to your people today? Nothing directly, for your hearers are neither Pharisees nor grain-plucking disciples nor disabled members of the synagogue. But these stories do communicate several things about Jesus which are highly significant for all people of all times and places. You might spend time in your sermon exploring at least three different things about Jesus.

First, JESUS IS LORD. Period. He is Lord of the Sabbath, and He is Lord over all. There can be no appeal against Jesus to any law, even a law revealed by God through Moses. The commands of God are relative to the One whose resurrection has demonstrated His authority over all things (Matthew 28:18). What Jesus commands and forbids is the final word (for more on Jesus’ lordship over Moses and how Christians should regard the Mosaic Law as a whole, see Luther’s “How Christians Should Regard Moses”).

Second, JESUS IS GOOD. He is good to those who are hurting. Throughout the Gospel of Mark, we will see Jesus’ compassion in action. He heals the sick, feeds the hungry, and raises the dead. What He does for the disciples and the man in our text He does for all who cry out to Him in faith. For your hearers, this means daily, and it also means the promise of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Third, Jesus GRIEVES. He grieves for those who reject Him. Yes, Jesus felt anger (ὀργῆς) at the response of the Pharisees. But He also grieved (συλλυπούμενος) the hardness of their hearts. Much like He did in His crucifixion (see Luke 23:34), Jesus even cares for those who persecute Him. This kind of compassion can only be divine. It reminds us how Jesus’ work of judgement is always an alien work.

And what of us? What does this text teach us about ourselves? We live under one Lord, Jesus. We rejoice that He is a good Lord who loves, forgives, and cares for us. Like Him, we grieve for those who reject Him. We also pray for them and do our best to invite them to live with us under Him in His Kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

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Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Mark 2:23-3:6.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Mark 2:23-3:6.

Lectionary Kick-Start-Check out this fantastic podcast from Craft of Preaching authors Peter Nafzger and David Schmitt as they dig into the texts for this Sunday!