The third* use of the law is to show how we might live in God’s way. So in relation to the Sabbath, how we might bring glory to God by keeping his 3rd commandment to ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy’. It is not helpful when we add to God’s law (as the Pharisees were in the custom of doing which today’s text points out). Nor is it helpful for the body of Christ when we go around being Pharisaic looking for the opportunity to condemn others for what we think are their departures from God’s guide for living. Yet neither is it really helpful when we get obsessed about the idea of the law, versus the fact that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath… that is, Lord of everything. So today we pick up on the ‘Here I am Lord; Send me!’ of last week’s text (Isaiah 6:1-8) and think about what it is go ‘un-pharisaic’ into the world, especially as we remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
*Did you know there are two other ‘uses’ of the law? The first is the societal curb by which God appoints government to direct law and order for our good (although yes – governments err!) The second use is the mirror by which our need for Christ is shown – what the Gospel addresses as, led by the Spirit, we repent. It’s never helpful when we confuse them – like thinking doing ‘more’ Sabbath, like the Pharisees with their extra rules, is a way to earn more of God’s favour. As baptised, forgiven child of God we already enjoy God’s favour through the suffering and death of Christ. Yet the third use of the law shows us how we can step into his sure guide as we rejoice in the freedom Christ has bought each of us. As Psalm 1:2 says: ‘Blessed are those … whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.’
Back to Mark. I love the pace, emotion and intensity of Mark’s Gospel (see Mark 3:5 for an example of Christ’s emotions). Over the Easter season just past the order of readings goes back to John (which I also love). But this week as I came back to Mark, which we largely left in Epiphany, I felt a bit sad that Mark had been put on the shelf – like when you get diverted away from a lovely part of your usual daily walk due to road works or something, but the temporary walk is just as good. Needless to say, it’s great to be back, as it has been, to be looking elsewhere… but now why not read through Mark a couple times and reacquaint yourself with the Son of Man? You’ll be hearing a lot from him between now and Advent in December.