Topic Scripture: Mark 1:21-39
Where did Labor Day come from?
I did some checking and was surprised by what I discovered.
The first Labor Day in America was celebrated on this day in 1882 in New York City, but this did not become a national holiday until 12 years later, in response to a national crisis.
A railroad workers strike in 1894 shut down the railroads. President Grover Cleveland sent 12,000 Army troops to break the strike; 13 railroad workers were killed, 57 were wounded, and 6,000 rail workers did nearly $9 million in damages (in today’s dollars). Fearing further conflict, legislation was rushed through Congress six days later to make Labor Day a national holiday.
In short, the government has given us tomorrow off so we won’t riot.
This week I’ve been wondering what Jesus did when he had a day off. This summer we’ve been watching Jesus perform miracles, learning how to experience his power in our lives today. We’ve watched him feed 5,000 families with a boy’s lunch, walk on water, turn water into wine, heal the sick and raise the dead. Today we’ll wrap all of that up by seeing what he did on the day after such a time of miraculous work. How did Jesus spend his “Labor Day” holiday? What does his example say to our souls today?
The difference of Christianity
Our text describes Jesus’ first day of public ministry in his home region of Galilee. On the Sabbath, their day of worship, he preached the sermon in the synagogue in Capernaum. A demon-possessed man stood up in the middle of his message to disrupt him, but Jesus threw the demon out of him. The people were “amazed,” and spread the news about him around the area.
He went to Peter’s home, his adopted base for ministry, for lunch. There he found Peter’s mother-in-law sick with a fever. He touched her and healed her. After the Sabbath ended and work could begin again, “the whole town” gathered at his door; remember that Capernaum was the largest city in that part of the world. Jesus healed the sick and drove out demons. Not a bad way to begin a ministry, but an exhausting day, to be sure.
What would Jesus do the next day, on our Monday? Take the day off? Go to the golf course? Read a novel?
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (v. 35). Why?
He needed to know what to do next. Should he stay here in Capernaum and build a mega church? Should he go on the road as a missionary? Should he be a preacher or a healer? What is he to do in this ministry to which he has been called by his Father?
Peter can’t believe it—the crowds have gathered but the preacher didn’t show. Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That [emphatic] is why I have come” (v. 38).
And they did. “He traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.”
This would be the pattern for the rest of his ministry. He would go to the people, not waiting for them to come to him. He would not build a church and hope the people would find him—he would go to the people, where they were, with their needs. Taking grace to those who need it most.
This is the essential difference between Christianity and the world’s religions.
Religion is our attempt to climb up to God. Buddhists keep the four noble truths and the eight-fold noble path, seeking Nirvana and enlightenment. Hindus believe they will pass through multiple reincarnations as they learn the disciplines which will lead to Moksha, salvation. Muslims follow their five pillars, hoping to be accepted by Allah into his heaven. Orthodox Jews live by the Torah, hoping to please Yahweh.
Religion climbs up to God—in Christianity, God climbs down to us. He came to us because we could not come to him. Because none of us could be good enough to earn entrance into his perfect paradise. The Bible says that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” and that the “wages” or results of sin is death (Romans 3:23; 6:23). So Jesus came to us, died on our cross, bore our sin, went to our grave, so we could receive the eternal life his grace came to give.
And the pattern for all of that was set on this day, as Jesus went to his Father to learn how he should serve him as his Messiah.
Make God your King
What does Jesus’ Labor Day example say to us? It reminds us that God has a will for every part of our lives—for Monday, not just for Sunday. For what Jesus would do during the week, not just in the Sabbath synagogue service. For what you and I do tomorrow, not just today.
You see, the God we came to worship this morning is a King. Not a hobby, a part of our lives, but the King of our world.
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17).
As you go, proclaim this message: “The kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 10:7)
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33).
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
If he is your King, you’re sitting in his chair, breathing his air, wearing his clothes. He is King of Monday, not just Sunday. Of what we keep, not just what we give.
In our culture, of course, God is a hobby. Christianity is for church, religion for Sunday. We separate the soul from the body, the spiritual from the secular, and leave God in our chapels and churches. But he can lead only those who will follow and bless only those who will receive his gifts. He has a good, pleasing and perfect will for us. He has a plan to prosper us and not harm us, to give us hope and a future. But only when he is our King can he do for us and with us and through us all he wants to do.
When last did you make him your King?
The question is simple: will you belong fully and completely to Jesus?
John D. Rockefeller, Sr. became a millionaire by the age of 23. He formed Standard Oil Company in 1870; by 1879, it controlled 90% of oil refining in the United States and about 70% of refined oil exports. By the age of 50 he was the world’s only billionaire, the richest man on earth. His net worth would be $323.4 billion today; some consider him the wealthiest person who has ever lived.
In 1891, at 53 years of age, Rockefeller fell gravely ill. The hair on his head, eyebrows, and eyelashes dropped off. He could digest only milk and crackers, and could not sleep. Doctors predicted that he would die within a year.
Rockefeller was a committed Christian, the son of a devout Baptist mother, but his business ambitions had dominated his life. One night, as he struggled to sleep, he came to realize that he could take nothing with him into the next world. The next day he changed the course of his life.
He established the Rockefeller Foundation, which channeled his fortune into mission work, medical research and hospitals. His contributions led to the discovery of penicillin, and to cures for diphtheria, hookworm, malaria, tuberculosis, and yellow fever.
John D. Rockefeller, Sr.’s life was transformed as a result of his benevolence, and he lived to the age of 98.
God gives the best to those who leave the choice with him. Always.