Mark 2:27 says, Then [Jesus] said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” What does Sabbath mean? Sabbath was the day of rest. God says in Leviticus 23:3, “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation.” Is God saying that all of us who work for a living ought to have a day off where we just put our feet up and rest on our laurels? No, not really. But God is saying that we ought to find rest at Church in Him who is our Sabbath rest, Jesus Christ.
What is offered in Church is the Sabbath rest that is not only rest for our tired bodies but also for our weary souls. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The rest that we need is rest that only Jesus can give. He is the only one who can remove the burden that we have. That burden is sin, and it is a burden that each of us carry. We are sinful and unclean, and try as we might to get rid of that sinful nature on our own, we fail miserably. Sinning against man and before God is serious business, and the wages of sin is indeed death as the Word of God says in Romans 6:23. This burden of death over our heads only makes us feel worse about ourselves. Yet, it is in this state that we are ready to hear the wonderful news of Jesus Christ and Him crucified for the forgiveness of our sins and raised to new life for our justification. And this is the point of Church to prepare us through the Law to receive the saving Gospel and truly believe it by the grace of God.
John, the apostle writes in 1 John 2:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In confessing our sins, our burdens are laid upon Jesus Christ, who has taken all sins upon himself at the cross and died that all sins would be atoned for; even the sins that we might think are unforgivable. Upon the confession of sins, the pastor is bound by the will of God to forgive all sins in the name of Christ who died that we might live and find rest in Him.
The Sabbath is indeed a day of rest, but in that day of rest, we get to hear the news that our burden of sin, shame, and death has been lifted off us at Church in the proclamation of Christ by the pastor. It was all laid on Jesus, and at the cross Jesus atoned for it by his death, and so conquered death by His resurrection. We no longer live in the fear of sin, death, and the devil. Jesus has destroyed the power that the devil had over us; our sins are atoned and forgiven, from this time and forevermore and we are spoken by God to be righteous in His sight in the proclamation in the Divine Service.