The Pause Button

It is never the wrong day to do the right thing. If we have been truly transformed, we will not be able to pause being Christian on Monday morning.

The Pause Button ~ February 10, 2019 ~ Mark 3:1-6

Mark was a cousin of Barnabas, who was a companion of the apostle Paul. Mark also was a companion of the apostle Paul. Mark was a member of a Jewish family in Jerusalem who became early believers in Jesus. Mark had both a Jewish name, John, and a Roman name, Mark. So, it’s really, technically, the gospel of John Mark. Just like Peter is Simon Peter, Mark is actually John Mark.

John Mark was not one of the twelve disciples, those who were at the Last Supper – but the fact that he was chosen to accompany Barnabas and the apostle Paul on his missionaries (including the one to Antioch, which is the first time they were called Christians) indicates that Mark was held in high esteem by the Jerusalem church.

Mark also had a close relationship with Peter, and he took his personal experiences, he took Peter’s teaching and Peter’s eye witness testimony about Jesus, and he put those down on paper in his gospel, the gospel of Mark. It is the oldest of the four gospels, it was the first one written. He wrote the gospel of Mark somewhere between AD 55 and AD 59, which means that’s about 22 years after Jesus rose to heaven.

That’s incredible to me. We mentioned this at Bible study on Wednesday night (Bible study, Wednesday nights, 6:30 in the parlor). So, while we were at Bible study (Wednesday night at 6:30 in the parlor), we mentioned that the first dozen or so years that the disciples were out preaching the gospel and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, they didn’t have anything to reference. They couldn’t stand in front of a gathering and say, “Turn to the gospel of Matthew, chapter 7…” because it hadn’t been written yet! Mark was the first gospel written – 22 years after Jesus rose to heaven. So, for 22 years, they were preaching off the top of their heads – things that they had experienced first-hand, or things they had heard from first-hand eye-witnesses. Finally, Mark writes down his gospel, and that is what we’re studying this morning. So, let us join together in the unison prayer as we prepare to study the word of God. Let us pray.

Lord, upon the pages of this book is your story. It is also our story. Open our eyes that we may see, our ears that we may hear, our minds that we may understand, and our hearts that they may be transformed. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

So, we are in Mark 3:1.

Jesus went to the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.
Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him.
He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus.

(Mark 3:1-6)

Did you notice, right in the very first verse, “Jesus went into the synagogue AGAIN,” which means He goes there regularly. And then in verse two it says, “and since it was the Sabbath…” So, apparently Jesus goes to the synagogue a lot, but today it happened to be the Sabbath. So, what is the Sabbath? What is all this stuff about a Sabbath. If Jesus is at the synagogue all the time, and today happened to be the Sabbath, why make such a big deal about the Sabbath? What is the Sabbath? Well, let’s look at Exodus 20:8. This is part of the Ten Commandments. God says to Moses:

“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week or your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.”
(Exodus 20:8-11)

So, the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, the day on which we are supposed to rest in remembrance that God created the universe in six days and then rested on the seventh day. Interestingly, did you know, nowhere in the Bible does it say that the Sabbath is the day of worship, the day on which people are supposed to gather and attend worship services? When Exodus 20 talked about keeping the Sabbath holy, they were talking about not working, about resting. Plenty of other Scripture verses say the same thing: Do not work on the Sabbath. Rest. But nowhere is the Sabbath described as a day especially ordained for worship.

Under the Old Covenant in the Old Testament, there was no one specific day set aside to worship. Sacrifices were made daily at the Temple. You went every day to worship God. Worship was continual. The idea that there was one God ordained day of corporate worship – simply not biblical. So, what are we doing here? Let’s go home!

Hold on, calm down, James Brown. No, the Old Testament does not designate one particular day over another. Neither does the New Testament. In Acts 3 we read about the early Christians meeting every day. In Acts 17 we read about the Bereans studying the word of God, studying the Bible, every day. That’s right – every day. So, I’ll see you all tomorrow, and Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday. Right? (I’m not even going to ask for an Amen on that one!)

Now, Christians worship on Sunday because Christ’s resurrection occurred on a Sunday. This is the day we chose. We need to remember that is our choice. There is no biblical command to worship on Sunday either.

Now, I’m not giving you a bunch of reasons not to go to church. Don’t get the wrong idea! Hebrews 10:25 is clear. God desires that we worship and serve him continually. Every day, not just on Saturday or Sunday. However, obviously, with no work being done on the Sabbath day, on the Sabbath day is an ideal day to have organized worship services. So, here we are! And there is no place that we would rather be, right? Can I get an Amen to that?

So, we’re here on Sunday.

Now, Jesus is in the synagogue again. It happens to be the Sabbath. Jesus is being watched. They are trying to catch Him doing or saying something wrong. The Pharisees are waiting, just standing there looking, watching, waiting for Him to mess up somehow, someway, so that they can discredit Him in the eyes of all of His followers. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they didn’t sit that particular man with the deformed hand down in the front row so that when Jesus walked in He couldn’t help but see him, just to bait Him to see if Jesus would notice. Wouldn’t surprise me in the least. They were watching. They were waiting. They were hoping Jesus would take the bait.

Jesus comes in to the synagogue again. It happens to be the Sabbath. Not only does He take the bait, in verse 3 what does it say? Jesus goes right up to the man and He calls him, “Come! Stand in front of everyone!” He wants everyone to see this man. He wants everyone to see this man’s plight. You see, this is the first century AD. This is not 2019. They didn’t have the Americans with Disabilities Act. They didn’t have all kinds of technology available to help people who have some sort of physical, emotional, or mental challenge to be able to enter the workforce. It was an agrarian society. Most people farmed. And a man in this position would find it very difficult to farm. It’s difficult to drive a horse or donkey, use a plow with one hand. It’s difficult to fish with one hand. It’s difficult to be a craftsman, a carpenter or a mason with one working hand. In first century Judea, people with any sort of physical or handicap or illness of some sort (diabetes), we would be primarily left dependent on other people’s charity. And that’s what Jesus wanted to see. He wanted to see some compassion for this man. So, He calls him to the middle. He takes the bait. He calls him to the middle, He turns and faces those waiting to accuse Him, and He asks them a question. “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath or is it a day for doing evil?” Now, what possibly could have been something that was done evil? What’s He talking about? In my opinion? Ignoring him. Not having compassion on this man would be doing evil. See, the Bible tells us that we are supposed to do what’s right, but we also, those who do not do what they know is right, is also a sin. Sin of omission. So, He wants people to respond to this man with compassion. He asks them, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath or is it a day of doing evil? Is this a day to save a life or to destroy it?”

Now, when Matthew records this story – John Mark’s gospel is shorter. He gets right to the point. He doesn’t fill in a ton of details, he just hits the highlights. Matthew has a little bit more explanation. Matthew includes an analogy that Jesus uses. In Matthew 12:11, when He turns to these people, He asks them the question. He also uses this little analogy:

“If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course you would. And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good deeds on the Sabbath.”
(Matthew 12:11-12)

So, does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath or is it a day to do evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it? They were silent. They would not respond. It says “They wouldn’t answer him.” So much for compassion.

That’s why in verse 5 we read:

Jesus looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts.

Jesus is basically saying Saturday, Sunday, Monday through Friday, it is never the wrong day to do the right thing. The problem with so much focus on a particular day – Sunday in our case – is that it misleads people into thinking that Sunday is different than the rest of the week. Sunday is unique, special.

When I read this, there was an image that popped into my mind. One of the greatest inventions humankind has ever come up with in the history of humanity is the remote control, am I right? There are some people in this Meeting House right now that remember the days when you could not sit in your chair and change the channel. You literally had to get up, walk over, and change the channel. Now, granted, there were only four choices to begin with, but nonetheless, you had to get up, walk over, and change the channel. How many times did you sit through a program that was no good, you didn’t like and didn’t enjoy, because you just didn’t want to get up and change the channel? If I had known that the remote control was coming, I’m not so sure I would have had kids. “Hey, Jeremy, get up and change the channel.” Now we have the remote control. Now there’s 270 channels with nothing good on. And now, we have the ability to pause live television, right in the middle of our program we can go, “Nature’s calling.” “Gotta make a snack.” “Gotta take out the trash before Renée gets home.” Whatever it is that we need to do, when we get back, we hit play and it picks up where we left off. Unfortunately, for so many people Sunday night, no matter how many times you paused, every time you push play, the Patriots still won. But the remote control made me think, do we, on Sunday, do we hit the pause button on how we normally live our lives? Because it’s Sunday! Sunday is the day we are loving and compassionate and merciful. Sunday is the day we welcome people into our church who normally we might eye with some suspicion and distrust, because they look different. They’re not dressed like we are. They’re not clean. Maybe they could use a tic tac or two. But it’s Sunday, so we treat them one way. On Monday, we push play, and resume how we normally live. Until next Sunday. On Sunday we hit pause one more time, we get dressed up in our nicest, we put on our best smile, and we head to church, because it’s Sunday!

There are consequences for living a life like a remote control, and maybe not the consequences you might think. Let me tell you about a small group of people who deserve your prayers. They even have their own designation. They’re called PKs. Pastor’s kids. Now, the reason is when someone is the pastor of a church, they spend an awful lot of time at church. And because they spend an awful lot of time at church, their spouse spends an awful lot of time at church. You can’t leave the kids alone. So their kids spend an awful lot of time at church. So, that guy spent more time at church than the average bear. Didn’t have an option. I read an article in Outreach Magazine, it was written by Jeff Matson, and it hit me in the context of what Mark is telling us this morning. Jeff writes this:

I grew up liking Jesus, but wanting nothing to do with church. I was a pastor’s kid, and attended good churches filled with good people. But I also saw good people ruthlessly condemn others, resist change for the sake of tradition, ignore blatant hypocrisy, and avoid opportunities to love people in need and crisis. I questioned my faith and the validity of the gospel, because I couldn’t believe that people who claimed to follow Jesus would live in such a way. Because of these experiences, I understand why so many people want nothing to do with church.

See, Jeff spent so much time at church, he saw first-hand lots of people hitting the pause button. God’s desire is that we worship and serve him continually, every day. Someone who has been truly transformed will not be able to hit the pause button on being a Christian on Monday morning. Someone who has been truly transformed is the same person every day of the week. And I tell you, they are the most powerful evangelists. I know there’s a lot of people who are afraid of evangelism because they don’t want to walk up to someone, especially a stranger, and hand them a Bible tract – to get this close to someone they don’t know is fearful. So, they think this is the only way to evangelize.

Well, luckily, we have two EMTs right here in the front row – our Evangelism Ministry Team – they’re out every Wednesday, praise God. Not everybody has that courage. So, they don’t think they’re being evangelists, because they don’t hand out Bible tracts. They don’t talk to people on the street about the gospel. But, I know I have quoted before – let me quote again because it’s germane – St. Francis of Assisi was reputed to have said, “Preach constantly. If necessary, use words.”

You see, if you don’t push the pause button, but you are the same person on Sunday as you are every other day of the week, just by your living testimony – the fact that you treat people the same all the time, with love and caring and compassion – you are a powerful evangelist. You might not know it, but you are just as powerful as someone handing out Bible tracts. You have no idea how many people you may bring to Christ.

Now, they may show up here one Sunday morning because you’ve handed them an invite card. (We have lots of invite cards for you to take with you and stick in your wallet or your purse). And it’s very simple. You can either just hand it to someone and say, “Hey, I’d love to invite you to my church,” and walk away. Or you could throw it down and run! Whatever your style is. At the men’s breakfast yesterday – we had a great men’s breakfast yesterday, six of us showed up – I left one for our waitress. I always do that. When I leave my tip, I leave an invite card. So, they may show up here because you left them an invite card. Or they might be at the little church around the corner from their house. But they’re there because you were not a hypocrite. You did not hit the pause button. Your actions spoke louder than any words you might have shared. They looked at your life, and they asked people at work, “What’s up with this guy? He’s always helpful and he’s always happy and he’s always there to be encouraging. What is wrong with him?” And somebody said, “I think he’s a Christian.” And that lodged in their mind, and they were so moved by your living testimony that they were curious enough to check out what this whole Christian thing was all about.

So, unbeknownst to you this morning, there’s someone sitting in a pew in a church around the corner from their house. You may never know, but they’re there because you didn’t hit the pause button. Well done. Praise God. Preach constantly. If necessary, use words. May your life be a living testimony, because lots of people will never pick up this book. Lots of people will never read Mark chapter 3. You might be the only Bible they ever read. So, preach constantly. If necessary, use words. So, go. Don’t hit the pause button, and preach it, brother! Preach it, sister! Show the world that there is a God that transformed you, and in turn – I am telling you – you have no clue how many lives you can transform. Would you stand and pray with me?