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Studies in Mark - Part 16

"Lord Of The Sabbath"

by David Legge | Copyright © 2007 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com

'Preach The Word'Now we're turning again to Mark's gospel, as we have been meditating these Sunday mornings, to chapter 2 this morning - and the title of my message, which will be taken from verses 23 to 28, is 'Lord Of The Sabbath'. So we begin to read at Mark chapter 2 verse 23: "And it came to pass, that he", the Lord Jesus, "went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath".

Here again we find our Lord Jesus in the midst of serious controversy. His behaviour and the behaviour of His disciples has ridden roughshod over the established religious norms of Judaism in that day...

Here again we find our Lord Jesus in the midst of serious controversy. His behaviour and the behaviour of His disciples has ridden roughshod over the established religious norms of Judaism in that day. The revered rabbinical tradition and interpretation regarding the sabbath, the Lord Jesus and His disciples had, it seemed, disregarded. They were flying in the face of the tradition of the elders, and it was causing a storm. So great a squall was being stirred that the religious establishment, after this event in particular and the beginning of the verses of chapter 3, would - as we see from verse 6 of chapter 3 - begin to plot His death. Of course, as we have led up to this particular event, we have seen how the Scribes, or the scribes of the Pharisees, had questioned the Lord and His disciples. You remember after the four friends of the paralytic man had put him through the roof to be healed of the Lord Jesus, and He not only healed the man but He forgave the man's sins, in verse 7 we see that they said, the Pharisees: 'Who can forgive sins but God? This is blasphemy!' - they question Christ and His authority to forgive sins.

Then in verse 16, again of chapter 2, we see that Levi has believed on the Lord Jesus and followed after Him. He gathered a number of his friends together in his home, and the Lord Jesus was eating with them. When the Scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with publicans and sinners, 'They said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?'. 'How can He do this? Have contact with these unclean people?'. You remember that 'Pharisee' literally means 'to be separated', 'separated ones'. Then in verse 18, in the same context, you remember that we believe that this was an actual Jewish fast day that the Lord was feasting with these sinners, and they ask the question: 'Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not?'. Again, ignoring the tradition of the elders - and our question this morning in verse 24: 'Why do they on the sabbath', after the Lord and His disciples had gone through this cornfield and plucked some corn, 'Why do they do on the Sabbath day that which is not lawful?'.

We are confronted again with the stark contrast between dead, legalistic, mournful religious forms, and the living liberty of the joy of the life of grace that is found in our Lord Jesus...

Now this particular incident we are looking at today, as the others of course, graphically demonstrates the truth of the three illustrations that we studied in our last Sunday morning from verse 20 to 22. We are confronted again with the stark contrast between dead, legalistic, mournful religious forms, and the living liberty of the joy of the life of grace that is found in our Lord Jesus. Remember how He illustrated the difference? It's like the difference between a funeral and a wedding feast. It's like the difference between an old garment that you try to patch up with new cloth, and a new piece of clothing that is completely new. It's the difference between putting new wine in old wineskins that will be burst eventually, and giving new wineskins to hold the new wine. The difference between dead legalistic religion, characterised here in Judaism in Jesus' day, and the new life that is found in the grace and joy of Christ.

Now this particular incident that graphically illustrates that stark contrast, I want to bring it to you this morning under four headings. First of all there is an accusation of the Pharisees to the Lord and His disciples in verses 23 and 24, then there is an answer, the answer that the Lord gives in verses 25 and 26. Then the Lord gives, in verse 27, an application to that answer, so that we would know how to apply the principle that is found in His response to the Pharisees. Then finally, and most greatly, in verse 28 there is an annunciation concerning who the Lord Jesus, the Suffering Servant, really is.

So let's begin in verse 23 and verse 24 with this accusation. It's simply stated like this: 'Why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?'. Now at the beginning of verse 24 it tells us that the Pharisees said these words unto the Lord Jesus. Now that, in the Greek language, is not in the ares past tense when it says 'The Pharisees said', it is in the imperfect tense which emphasises that the Pharisees kept on saying - that's the sense, the Pharisees kept on speaking to Him about this matter. They had seen Him going through the fields, His disciples with Him, His disciples plucking the corn on the Sabbath day, and they would not let it go - for, as far as they were concerned, He, the Lord Jesus, and His disciples had transgressed the law on the Sabbath. So they kept at it: 'Why do you do this?'.

Now of course previously at Levi's home, on this fast day we presume, they had spoken to the disciples: 'Why do John the Baptist's disciples fast, and the followers of the Pharisees fast, and you disciples don't?'. They hadn't the guts to face the Lord Jesus, but now they're getting more brazen, and they come to the Lord and say to Him: 'Why do You do this?'. Now, it doesn't record that the Lord was plucking grain in the field, He may well have been, but it doesn't say that: it was His disciples - but what you have to understand is that a rabbi was held responsible for the behaviour of his disciples in Judaism. So if your disciples were doing something, it was assumed that you had condoned it or even allowed them or taught them to do so.

So here we have, and Kenneth Wuest translates it very well, 'The Pharisees kept on saying to Him, 'Behold', or 'Observe that you will, why are they doing on the Sabbath that which is not lawful?''. Here's the big question: was the Lord Jesus doing something that was wrong? Was the Pharisees' accusation correct regarding the behaviour of Christ and His disciples? Well, we need to understand a little bit about the Jewish sabbath to answer that question, and to discern whether there is any weight in the Pharisaical accusation. Of course, the sabbath was cherished by the Jews as a sacred institution. Though the sabbath day principle, the sabbath rest was established at creation, the Jewish ordinance of the sabbath law, the religious rite and practice, was only given to the nation of Israel after they came out of Egypt in Exodus 20, and we read of it also in Nehemiah 9. It was a special sign between Israel as the covenant people, and Jehovah as the covenant-keeping God. Now if you want to read more about that, you can from Exodus 31. So it was unique to the nation of Israel.

What you have to understand is that a rabbi was held responsible for the behaviour of his disciples in Judaism. So if your disciples were doing something, it was assumed that you had condoned it or even allowed them or taught them to do so...

Now the law of the sabbath expressly says that it is not illegal for a hungry soul to take some of his neighbour's fruit or grain, provided that he doesn't fill a vessel with it, or take a threshing, harvesting tool to it. Let me show you this from Deuteronomy 23, if you turn to it with me, Deuteronomy 23 verse 24. The law of Moses states: 'When thou comest into thy neighbor's vineyard, then thou mayest eat grapes thy fill at thine own pleasure; but thou shalt not put any in thy vessel. When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbor, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbor's standing corn'. So, as far as the law of Moses is concerned, neither the Lord Jesus nor His disciples were doing anything wrong - so what was the Pharisees problem? Well, the problem was, as with much of the law of Moses, the Pharisees and the Scribes had developed their own extra rules, and elevated their own human laws to the point of infallibility, to the status of being equal to Scripture.

Now as an aside, let me just express a word of warning to us as believers today who are people of the book, particularly the New Testament, but the Old also. There is a danger, even in our adherence to New Testament Scripture, that we develop the scriptures further than the scriptures allow and permit us to be developed. There is a danger that we say more than the scriptures say, and we fill in the spaces and read between the lines, and then begin to think that those particular interpretations are infallible. Now Jewish tradition did this regarding the sabbath by stating 39 acts that they said were strictly forbidden. Now, if you were to turn to Exodus 20, where the law of the sabbath is enshrined, Moses said: 'But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates'. Moses had prohibited work on the sabbath day, but he didn't give any specific incidents of what would be wrong to do on the sabbath. Now we have some - in Exodus 35 the law states that it's wrong to kindle a fire for cooking a meal; in Numbers 15:32 and following, it's wrong to gather fuel, and you remember the incident of the little man that gathered sticks on the sabbath day for his fire, and he was condemned for it. Jeremiah 17:21 tells us that it is wrong to - as far as the Old Testament, of course, is concerned - carry burdens on the sabbath day. Nehemiah 10, Nehemiah 13, tells us it was wrong to transact business on the sabbath.

But here is where the problem arose: these Scribes and Pharisees and Rabbis, in their tradition, went further than the scripture. They even went to the point of informing people how far they could travel on the Sabbath day. You'll not believe the verse that they used as evidence for that. They said, 'You're only allowed to travel 200 cubits on the sabbath, a sabbath day's journey' - and their proof text for that was Joshua 3 and verse 4, where Joshua is taking the children of Israel across the Jordan into the promised land, and he is told: 'There shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore'. That was their proof text, that's all you're allowed to travel, though they said - I think - it was 200 cubits on the sabbath.

Now here's the problem, personally for the Jew that was brought up in this particular religious culture: in short, the sabbath day, like most of the other Jewish practices, had become a crushing burden upon these poor souls. The sabbath itself had become a symbol of a suffocating religious bondage that was squeezing any life that was in these people, and effectively it was robbing them of their joy in God as individuals, as families and as a whole nation. If I could use the Lord's own illustration: the sabbath had ceased to become a celebration, a wedding feast, and was now a funeral. It was no longer a wonderful new garment day, but it was a useless, worn and torn vesture; it was a leaking wineskin, it couldn't hold the new life of their Messiah who had come to them.

Now it's interesting - I mentioned these 39 extra rules of interpretation that were added to the law concerning the sabbath by these Pharisees - 4 of those 39 rules prohibited these: one, reaping; two, winnowing, which is simply blowing away the chaff of the corn; three, threshing, which is separating out the grain by beating it; and then fourth, preparing a meal. That was 4 of the 39 extra rules. Now, as far as the Pharisees were concerned, the acts of the disciples walking through this field on the sabbath day, plucking the corn and eating it, could be construed as transgressing these four extra rules. As far as they were concerned, they were lawbreakers, and because they were the disciples of Jesus the rabbi, He was a lawbreaker also.

According to their hair-splitting traditions the disciples, as they plucked, removed the husk from the corn, and ate the corn, had broken the sabbath, they said, by reaping, by winnowing, threshing, and preparing a meal. How ridiculous can you get!

So get the point: the Pharisees weren't upset because the disciples picked the grain - Deuteronomy 23 allowed them to do that - but according to their hair-splitting traditions the disciples, as they plucked, removed the husk from the corn, and ate the corn, had broken the sabbath, they said, by reaping, by winnowing, threshing, and preparing a meal. How ridiculous can you get! Do you know something? That's how ridiculous legalistic religion is. So Jesus and His disciples were not breaking God's law, but they were transgressing a man-made interpretation of the rabbi's law that they had enshrined to equal status with God's law - there is where the problem lay.

Now let's look at the answer: how did Jesus answer? Verse 25 and 26 - now let me first of all, I'll deal with what the Lord's answer was in a moment or two, but I can't get past how the Lord answered. I love how the Lord answered these Pharisees throughout the gospel writings, it's masterful! Often He answers a question, you'll notice, with a question that these Pharisees couldn't answer without condemning themselves. The irony of His answer here in verses 25 and 26 is that He's asking these scribal Pharisees, who claimed to be experts in the Old Testament law, 'Have you not read?'. These Pharisees knew the Old Testament back to front, and yet, with all their knowledge, with all their supposed expertise in interpretation, they had missed the whole point of them!

Let me remind you of a couple of other occasions the Lord Jesus used this answer, 'Have you not read?'. We dealt with it looking at heaven not so long ago, this incident where some religious people who did not believe in the resurrection were questioning Him about that fact, and they referred to the Levirate marriage in Mark 12, and they said: 'Now there were seven brethren', giving a hypothetical situation, 'and the first took a wife, and he died and left no seed. And then the seven had her, after each brother died, and there was still no seed left. Last of all the woman died', and they posed to the Lord Jesus, 'In the resurrection therefore' - if you believe, the Sadducees are implying, in such a ridiculous idea - 'In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them?'. We read on: 'Do ye not therefore', the Lord Jesus said, 'err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? Have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?'. 'Have you not read? You experts in the law, have you not read?'.

Then we read later in Matthew 19, when the issue of divorce and marriage is presented to the Lord, 'The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder'. 'Have you not read about this matter of marriage?'. Then the triumphal entry of the Lord Jesus, when everybody is praising him in Matthew 21, 'When the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were sore displeased, And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?'.

In Luke 10, just before Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan, 'A certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?'. He supposedly was an expert in it, but he didn't understand it. Now let me say: there is such a lesson in this phrase, that is only part of the answer of the Lord Jesus, to us. What is the lesson? Well, first of all, from the Lord's perspective, the lesson is: we must read and know the scriptures. It is only through this book that we will discover God's will. In times of crisis and personal dilemma, the Spirit of God will bring out of us the word of God that we have put into us. A case in point regarding that is the temptation of our Lord Jesus Christ, where three times - from the book of Deuteronomy, mind - He answers the devil's accusations.

But there is another lesson from the Pharisees' point of view that we need to learn, and that is: mere knowledge of Scripture is useless - did you hear that? Mere knowledge of Scripture is useless, if you do not interpret it correctly and you do not apply it correctly. Here is the heavy import of that principle to us as far as the Pharisees and the Lord were concerned, and the Jews of His day, their interpretation and application of the Sabbath Law was robbing others of joy and satisfaction in God, and it proved that they had gotten it wrong somewhere! Friends, you see if interpretation of scripture and application robs us of joy in Christ, we can be sure we've got it wrong somewhere!

Their interpretation and application of the Sabbath Law was robbing others of joy and satisfaction in God, and it proved that they had gotten it wrong somewhere!

Now, what was the Lord's answer - that's how He answered, but what was His answer? Well, look at it: 'What did David do?', verse 25 and 26, 'What did David do in this similar situation?'. Now He's referring to 1 Samuel 21, you can read it when you go home: David had been anointed king, and of course he was rejected. Instead of reigning in Jerusalem he was hunted down by Saul like a partridge, and when he got to the stage of having no longer any provisions the Bible says he went hungry to the house of God, that was the Tabernacle in Nob. He asked five loaves of common bread from the priest, and the priest couldn't give him any common bread because there wasn't any, and all the bread there was was the shewbread that was only permitted to be eaten by the priest - Leviticus 24. What happened, you see, there were 12 loaves of shewbread baked every Friday, and then those 12 loaves of shewbread were placed on the golden table of shewbread, which is in front of the Holy of Holies, and they were placed there on the Sabbath - and then others were removed later on and given to the priests. So the old bread was given to feed the priests, and it was probably this old bread that David was given, and his men also ate.

Now here's the point: the Lord is implying from this story that though, theoretically, it was illegal, according to Leviticus 24, for David to do this, God didn't rebuke David, God didn't judge David. Now notice the connection in verse 24 and 26, the Pharisees' accusation is: 'Why do you do on the Sabbath that which is not lawful?'. Now they were accusing Him wrongly, according to Deuteronomy 23 - what they were doing was lawful, it was their added rules that He was breaking. But the answer that the Lord gives in verse 26 is: 'David did eat the shewbread which is not lawful' - it is really not lawful, he was really breaking God's law. Now here's the Lord's point: if David had actually broken the law of God by eating the shewbread, and yet God didn't rebuke him, how more blameless are my disciples when they, under similar circumstances - they're hungry - are eating and not breaking the law, but only breaking the tradition of the Pharisees?

The underlying truth of this is very instructive, because the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, like King David, had been anointed King. He was their Messiah, and yet He's not reigning, He's rejected. Here are His disciples, His followers, like David, picking grain as they travel - which showed that just as Israel was in Saul's day, Israel was in Jesus' day, they were not right with God. The Pharisees should have been feasting in the presence of the Lord Jesus and His disciples, but what were they doing? There were plotting to kill Him.

What is the practical lesson in this answer to us? Well, when David, God's anointed, was rejected, as far as the priests were concerned in his day it was far more important to minister to David and to the needs of his followers than to preserve the order of the Tabernacle. That might shock you, but after all, what is being said in this story is: men are more important to God than ordinances. God is surely more concerned with meeting people's needs than He is with protecting the religious traditions of men. The Pharisees had got their priorities totally confused. In Matthew's account of this same event that we're studying this morning, he adds this little phrase and statement - the Lord says to them: 'But if you had known what this means, 'I will have mercy and not sacrifice', you would not have condemned the guiltless - you've got it all wrong! You're protecting your religious traditions at the expense of the needy. I would have mercy upon them rather than your sacrifices'.

So we've seen the accusation and the answer, now an application. The Lord doesn't leave it up to us to apply it. Verse 27: 'The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath'. Now, interestingly 'He said to them' is also in the imperfect. You remember how I said in verse 24 that 'the Pharisees saying to them', was 'continuing to say to them'? Well, now He is continuing to say to them, it's not something that He's just mentioned as He bypasses in conversation, but it's taking Him a lot of talking to get across to these legalists who have been warped by religious rites and tradition what the point of the message is. The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. Now, believe it or not, some rabbis actually taught and believed that human beings were created in order to keep the sabbath day. Our Lord Jesus had to teach these experts in the law that the Sabbath was instituted by God for man's benefit, not for his bondage. It was God's loving provision, the law says. God gave it to man for rest, He gave it that they might worship Him and enjoy worship of Him. Certainly what the Lord is implying is that the sabbath was never intended to prohibit works of necessity, deeds of mercy and kindness, and love and grace. These legalists had turned what God had given to Israel for a benefit into a bondage, and it was killing people, it was squeezing all the joy and satisfaction in their faith out.

Every spiritual practice that we are engaged in should be judged upon this principle, is it a benefit or is it a bondage? If it robs us of our joy in God, if it prevents us helping others, that means it has become a bondage not a benefit - and, according to Christ, it has outlived its usefulness...

The principal the Lord is giving us here is: the sabbath was given to Israel only as a means to an end. It was a means to the end of benefiting, helping these poor, sinful people. Can I take out of that a general principle which I think will follow through right throughout the Gospels, and right throughout the epistles? It's simply this: every spiritual practice that we are engaged in should be judged upon this principle, is it a benefit or is it a bondage? If it robs us of our joy in God, if it prevents us helping others, that means it has become a bondage not a benefit - and, according to Christ, it has outlived its usefulness. That's the application: spiritual ordinances, spiritual practices are for our benefit, not for our bondage.

Fourthly, in verse 28, there is an annunciation, and this is the greatest part of the text as far as I'm concerned: 'Therefore', the Lord said, 'the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath'. You see the Pharisees, where they were coming from was this - and it was the same with these other questions, like 'Who can forgive sins but God?', etc - 'Who does He think he is? This rabbi Jesus, He's just overturning all our traditions, our laws as far as we are concerned, what gives Him the right to make a pronouncement like this?'. 'This is what gives Me the right', Jesus says, 'The Son of Man is Lord also of the sabbath'. Now the Greek word for 'Lord' there is 'kurios', which is used simply to mean a person to whom a thing belongs, an owner, 'I own the sabbath'. It's talking about a person who has the authority to possess or dispose, to keep or give away a thing. The Septuagint is the Old Testament in Greek, and the word 'kurios' is used there to translate the title of God, Creator, the One who has created all things. What Jesus is saying here is, 'The Son of Man, I am the one who gave the sabbath for your benefit, I am the Lord of the sabbath, and I am telling you that you are using it as a bondage not as a benefit'. He gave it in the first place, so He has the right to pronounce what is permissible, what is forbidden on that day. Again and again in the scriptures you find out this title for God, 'The Lord of the Sabbath', or 'The Sabbath of Jehovah'. Here He is claiming to be God in a roundabout way, and they would have understood this statement as a claim to deity. Here we have Mark setting forth this lowly Servant, who is suffering, as the Lord of the sabbath - and these religious Pharisees couldn't see it, because they wouldn't see it; and the less they would see it, the less they could see it.

I wonder is there someone here today, and you are unwilling, you are resisting seeing the wonder that is in Christ as the Saviour of the world, and potentially your Saviour too? Beware, there is a spiritual law here that we see embodied in the Pharisees: because they would not see Christ, and refused to see Him as Messiah, they got to a point in the gospel writings where they couldn't see any longer! That could happen to you.

Let me conclude in the words of a commentator, and a lot of the stuff this man says is erroneous and absolute nonsense, but he got this right - listen: 'If ever the performance of a man's religion stops him helping someone who is in need, his religion is false. People matter far more than systems and ordinances, and one of the best ways to worship God is to help men'. Now please don't misunderstand what I'm saying this morning, it's not that we reject spiritual ordinances and religious practices - no, no. We don't reject them, we don't get rid of them all - no, no - but we keep them in perspective! Listen to what the Lord said to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23: 'Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone'.

Now did the Lord say, 'You shouldn't have done these things'? No, He says, 'These you should have done, but not left the greater, weightier matter of the law undone'. Indeed, the best way to use sacred things and religious practices is to use them to help men, that's why the sabbath was instituted, that's why I believe every spiritual ordinance is instituted: to help us as believers, and to help even the lost. That, in fact, is the only way that we can really offer up all these ordinances to God: if we are using them to serve others! That commentator goes on to say: 'The shewbread was never so sacred as when it was used to feed the starving men of David. The sabbath was never so sacred as when it was used to help those who needed help. The final arbiter in the use of all things is love, not law'. Oh, please don't miss that: the final arbiter in the use of all things is love, not law.

The things that we do for Him, the practices that we are engaged in: are they for the benefit of others? When they are, then they will be gifts to God...

Can I finish this conclusion with a story? I don't know whether you've ever heard the story of the fourth wise man, have you? Anybody ever heard that story before? I know it's news to some of you that there were three wise men - of course, we don't know that there were three wise men, and this is not a true story by the way, so don't be adding it into the back of your Bible! It's a fictional story by Henry van Dyke, and was made into a film in 1985, and Martin Sheen starred as the fourth wise man, and his name was Artaban. The story goes that he set out to follow the star, like the rest of the three wise men, and he took with him a sapphire, a ruby, and a pearl beyond price as gifts for the King. So he was going to join in with the gold, frankincense and myrrh of the others. He was riding, and as he was going along to meet his three friends at the agreed meeting place, he was hurrying because the time was short and he knew that if he was late they would go on ahead of him. Suddenly a dim figure was on the ground lying before him, and it was a traveller who had been stricken with fever.

Now if he stayed and tried to help this man, he would be too late for the other three wise men, but he decided to stay. He helped the man, he healed the man, but now he was alone. Artaban needed camels and bearers to help across the desert because he had missed his friends and their caravan, so he had to sell the sapphire - because he helped the man, he had to sell the sapphire to buy the camels and the caravan. He was sad that that would mean that he wouldn't be able to give the sapphire to the King when he met Him. So he journeyed on, and in due time he came to Palestine and to Bethlehem, but again he was too late - Joseph and Mary and the baby had gone. Then there came soldiers to carry out Herod's command that the children should be slain. Now Artaban was lodging in a house where there was a little child he had come to love. When he heard the tramp, tramp of the soldier's feet coming to the door, and the weeping stricken mothers crying out because of the death of their offspring, Artaban stood in the doorway tall and dark, and he had the ruby in his hand. When the captain of the soldiers came, Artaban bribed him, gave him the ruby not to enter, and that child was saved. The mother was overjoyed, but the ruby was gone. Artaban was sad because he thought the King would never have his ruby now.

Well, for years he wandered looking for the King, for more than 30 years he wandered around Jerusalem. Until one day, the story goes, he heard of a crucifixion. Artaban heard of this man Jesus who was being crucified, and as far as he was concerned, He sounded wondrously like the King. So he decided, 'I'm going to go out to Calvary', he thought, 'Maybe this one pearl that I now have left, the loveliest pearl in all the world, could buy the life of the King'. So down the street he went, and down the street came a little girl - she was fleeing from a band of soldiers. She cried out, 'My father is in debt, and they're taking me to sell me as a slave, and to pay the debt - save me!'. Artaban didn't know what to do, he hesitated, then sadly he took the pearl and gave it to the soldiers, and bought the girl's freedom. She was safe.

At that moment, all of a sudden the skies grew dark, there was a great thunder over Golgotha's hill. Then came an earthquake, and a flying tile from a roof hit Artaban in the head, and he sank half conscious to the ground. That little girl pillowed his head on her lap, and suddenly his lips began to move. He said: 'Not so my Lord, for when saw I thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw I thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? When saw I thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? Thirty and three years have I looked for Thee, but I have never seen Thy face, nor ministered to Thee my King'. Then, like a whisper from very far away, there came low and sweet a voice: 'Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me'. Artaban smiled in death because he knew that the King had received his gifts.

Does He receive ours? The things that we do for Him, the practices that we are engaged in: are they for the benefit of others? When they are, then they will be gifts to God.

Father, at the beginning of our service we sang 'O Christ, in Thee my soul hath found, and found in Thee alone'; then we sang 'My faith has found a resting place, not in a form or creed'; and we have just sung now 'Thither may I, in simple faith, draw nigh, and never to another fountain fly, but unto Thee'. Lord, let us not draw life, or even draw death, from anything else but Christ. Let us, in all that we do as Christians, all that You have given us to do in Your word, may we use all these things to our benefit, to our joy, and to the benefit and joy of all people that they too may be filled with the love of Christ from that living fount above. Hear our prayer, and help us to offer up all that we have to You in the service of others. Amen.

Don't miss part 17 of our Studies In Mark: "The Sabbath Setup" Jump To Top Of Page

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Transcribed by:
Andrew Watkins
Preach The Word.
May 2007
www.preachtheword.com

This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Evangelical Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the sixteenth recording in his 'Studies In Mark' series, entitled "Lord Of The Sabbath" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.

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