Luke tells us that Jesus “went to Nazareth where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom…”
We find similar statements throughout the four Gospels. Each worship day, Jesus could be found in some synagogue or at the temple in Jerusalem.
Christ did not stand aloof from the family of believers, gathering only with the strong in faith. He did not think it beneath Him to keep company with crying children, unfinished adolescents, average working stiffs and weathered gray heads.
The book of Acts tells us that the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples when “they were all together in one place.” From Romans to Revelation, the Holy Spirit addresses “churches” in specific places with specific names: “to the church of God at Rome…Corinth…Galatia…Ephesus…Philippi…”
If you grew up in the cradle of the Church, you learned the Third Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.” Luther’s explanation is pointed: “We should fear and love God that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but regard it as holy and gladly hear and learn it.”
It is God’s commandment, not His suggestion. Judging from declining church attendance throughout our society, increasing numbers of “Christians” have a “take it or leave it” attitude toward the regular hearing of God’s Word.
New Testament Christians are, of course, not bound to the Sabbath law given to Israel (7th day only – no physical labor). The Old Testament Sabbath was “a shadow” (Col. 2) of the real rest we have in Christ who has lifted from us the burden of our sins to give us rest of heart here and hereafter.
But we cannot have the rest-giving Christ without taking time for the word of Christ. That is why the writer to the Hebrews says: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
On the evening of the first Easter, when the risen Savior appeared to the apostles, the Bible says that “the disciples were together,” but that “Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus came.” We are not told why Thomas was not present with the others. Was he off by himself, brooding over the shipwreck of all his hopes? Was there some other reason? One thing is certain. Thomas missed out on a blessing by not being there with the others.
The worst thing we can do when unbelief, doubt or grief cast long shadows over our lives, is to go off alone with our morbid thoughts, licking our wounds and cutting ourselves off from the family of believers. The best thing we can do, even when we do not feel like doing it, especially when we do not feel like doing it, is to go where the fellowship of believers gather around the gospel where Christ has promised to join us: “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Jesus meets with us where His sweet “Peace be with you,” is spoken, where the preached word, the comforting sacraments, the intercessory prayers and the full throated praises of our fellow sinner-saints can lift us up and outside of ourselves, where each Sunday is a reminder of that bright Sunday morning when the Lover of our souls came back from the grave to greet us.
Here is something sweeter than the commandment. Here is Christ’s own invitation to keep company with Him! What a good habit! Please pass the invitation to those who are no longer in the habit.