“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” This is the third commandment. And Luther’s explanation, easily committed to memory, goes “We are to fear and love God so that we do not neglect his Word and the preaching of it, but regard it as holy and gladly hear and learn it.”
You may have noticed that all of Luther’s explanations begin, “We are to fear and love God.” This calls to remembrance the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods,” and the explanation, “We are to fear, love, and trust God above anything else.” That is intentional by Luther, and built on the conviction that the first commandment is the most important commandment and the key to all the others.
I would also like to call to your attention that the first three commandments have to do directly with our relationship to God. The remaining seven have to do with our relationship to and with our neighbors. For teaching purposes there is a traditional identifying of these two objects of the commandments as the Two Table of the Law. The first Table deals with our relationship to God, and the second with our neighbor.
Luther insists the focus on the third commandment is on that which makes something holy. And Scripture assigns this to the Word. Jesus once prayed to his heavenly Father, “Sanctify them in the truth, thy Word is truth” (Jn. 17:17).
For our Hebrew ancestors, the seventh day of the week, or Saturday, was the commanded day of rest. Ceasing from our regular daily labors affords an opportunity for the community of God’s people to gather and be sanctified in the Word. In the New Testament, certain Jewish rituals and ceremonies were updated and modified to better fit the fulfillment of Scripture in Christ. The first day of the week, the Day of Resurrection, quickly became the day for the gathered community to be fortified by Word and Sacrament.
Since You Asked…
What is the meaning of the Incarnation?
The word incarnation is taken from Latin term incarnatio. It literally means “taking flesh” and in the Christian Faith it refers to God becoming human. In John 1:14 we learn of God the Son becoming flesh with the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Indeed the child born to Mary was a man, but it is the insistence of the Christian Faith that Jesus was also fully God. He is sometimes called the God-Man. Without ceasing to be fully divine, inseparable and equal to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit; God the Son also fully assumed our humanity in the womb of the Virgin Mary. In this way Jesus mediates God to man and then also represents man to God. The mystery of the Incarnation becomes a necessary means by which Jesus’ death and resurrection accomplishes our salvation.