The Third Commandment
God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and
without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was
the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not
overcome it.  There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness,
to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.  He wa~ not the
light, but came to bear witness about the light.  The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  He
was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know
him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  But to all
who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children
of God,  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of
rnan,: but of God.
The Third Commandment.
Remember the Sabbath day, by keeping it holy.
What does this mean?–Answer.
We should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and His Word, but
hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it.
The Sabbath is rest, and one may rightly ask” A rest from what?” It is true to the
natural man, just as to the one who has been born from above, or the Christian alike
that resting from work is a great principle, the fields need to rest, our bodies need to
rest etc. but this doesn’t really get to the heart of the Sabbath, for everyone in
principle agrees that it is good to have a day or resting from your vocation or work. IN
his Large Catechism explanation of this commandment, Luther gets to what the Lord
gives in this day that is to be kept holy. It is not the day that needs us, but it is us who
need the day. It is we who need to be made holy. Try and work as we may to make
ourselves so, will end up in utter futility. In fact, it only ends in death, “For the wages
of sin is death,” Rom. 3:23 and we are sinners by birth and by nature the Word
declares. “From my mother’s womb, I was brought forth in iniquity … ” Psalm 51
reminds us. The Sabbath then, which is given for us, is about this issue ultimately. The
real problem, the problem of sin.
What then do we do? Do we refrain from working so that we are made holy or clean?
This certainly doesn’t remove our sin and make us holy. Do we perform good deeds,
praying and fasting as some sort of credit for our sin? This doesn’t make us clean and
holy. Maybe we attend church meetings and volunteer in soup kitchen, we help
someone across the street or you can fill in your list of the best of good deeds
here … AII of this in the end is vanity. Even our best of deeds are damnable before God
because our real and ultimate problem is the inherited Original Sin which we inherit by
birth. So, our actual sins are not even the greatest issue but our inherited sin, the
Original Sin into which we are all born. It infects and affects everything we do. So the
prophet Isaiah rightly declares that All of us like sheep have gone stray, each one to
his own way.” Even in our “good deeds” or our own righteousness, they are like filthy
rags before the Lord who alone is holy. Therefore, we need something from outside of
us, “for the heart of man is sinful above all else, who can trust it?” And it’s not what
goes into a man that defiles him, but what come out of us? Advent is here, and the
Sabbath is given that we might have One come for us, and to us. One to deliver us
from ourselves, from sin, death and the devil. Our only hope is not anywhere to be
found “in us” but outside of us. We need a Savior to rescue us. We need Him to make
us holy. We need His Word of all sins forgiven spoken to us. We need true Sabbath
The good news is that the Word of God always active and living. When our Lord
speaks, He creates and re-creates.
“so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but
it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent
it. ” Isaiah 55: 11
Therefore, Luther in his Large Catechism explanation of the 3rd Commandment
“How does such sanctifying (or being made holy) take place? Not when we sit behind
the stove and refrain from hard work, or place a garland on our head and dress up in
our best clothes, but as has been said, when we make use of God’s Word and exercise
ourselves in it.” The day itself (speaking of the Sabbath) does not need to be made
holy, for it was created holy. But God wants it to be holy for you. ”
For it is Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the one whom
our Gospel text from St. John tells us, “Is the light of men.  The light shines in the
darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This light or the Gospel of the
forgiveness of sin on account of Christ alone is delivered to you, brought from heaven
to earth, by this Word spoken to you. You are clean, Jesus said, because of the Word
spoken to you. Therefore we keep the Sabbath holy, by receiving the gift of holiness
brought to us by the Holy One of Israel, by Jesus, the Word who has become flesh,
the one who comes to save His people from their sin.
Our refraining and resting on the Sabbath then, is not about physical work, but any
working to make ourselves clean and holy. That is futile and impossible for man. But
Jesus reminds us that what is impossible for man, is possible with God. For He gives
and does, what we cannot do, by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and so
condemns sin in the flesh. Dying in our place for our sin on the cross. The Sabbath is
the ultimate eternal rest, the receiving of Jesus’ Word for you that “It is finished!”
Our services of worship then on the Sabbath, which is any day we rest in God’s Word,
are the Lord’s service to us and for us. To deliver to us what He already won for us.
Our works, our striving do nothing to advance us, make us holy, therefore God
through His Word of Gospel speaks us holy, clean, forgiven, so that we rest and
rejoice in His great love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for
us. Jesus is the Word made flesh for you. The light that shines in the darkness of your
sin and death, He makes you alive and His very own, Jesus is your rest, your Sabbath
and the Ones who has made you holy, from this time forth and forevermore.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
In the Name of Jesus. AMEN.