Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Sabbath and Jesus

In a detailed study of the Sabbath, one cannot but study the words and actions of the Son of God. Our faith teaches us that Jesus, Who is God, instituted the Sabbath. Surely His attitude toward it matters. In the first three Gospels is told the story of how the disciples of Jesus satisfied their hunger one Sabbath:

Matthew 12:1-8, Mark 2:23-28, Luke 6:1-5 [using the Matthew account]. "At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath. Then He said to them, Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are blameless? But I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, I desire mercy and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

a. Here Jesus does not abolish the Sabbath, but attempts to abolish wrong thinking about it. He lets His people know that there are good reasons for not keeping the letter of the law, and that God is interested in the heart of man, and his motivations for doing things. He does much the same thing in the sermon on the mount for other commands of God. It is not only murder, but the hatred that brings the murder, that is against the law. It is not only the adultery, but the lust that leads to the adultery that is expressly forbidden of God. Here, it is not the slavish obedience to a Day, but a desire to honor the Lord, that is most concerning Jesus.

But having said all that, the law still stands. Murder, adultery, Sabbath-breaking are three ways to be outside the will of God.

b. Instead of hinting that the Sabbath is about to fade away, He declares that He is Lord over it!

c. In the Mark account of the same story, Jesus makes another startling statement:

Mark 2:27. "And He said to them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath."

a. That throws an entirely different light on things. So far we have seen a holy God demanding a holy day. Now we understand that all of that demanding is because He wants to give us- and not just the Jews, but all mankind!- a gift. A day lived in holiness before God with the saints of God can only bring a man greater appreciation of God and love for life. It is not meant to be a chore, this Sabbath-keeping, but a piece of Heaven on earth!

b. Jesus suggests here that common sense and mercy combined are more important than ritual observances. The Pharisees would deny the disciples a meal in the name of keeping the Sabbath! They would deny David a piece of bread because it was holy! They would accuse priests, whose very job is to be active on the Sabbath, of Sabbath-breaking! Jesus says that He makes rules for people, not against them.

c. Man came before the Sabbath, or Israel, came. Jesus came before all. Man, Sabbath, the people of God, all are important. But Jesus is more important than all.

The next encounter Jesus has on a Sabbath is likewise recorded in the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It is the story of the man whose withered hand was healed on that day.

Matthew 12:9-12, Mark 3:2-6, Luke 6:6-11 [using the Matthew account]. "Now when He...went into their synagogues... there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath? that they might accuse Him. Then he said to them, What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."

Mark adds the counter-question of Jesus: "... Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" and that Jesus was "grieved by the hardness of their hearts." He also notes how Jesus' life was suddenly at risk because of His Sabbath interpretation.

Slowly, slowly, Jesus' full picture of Sabbath emerges. Once more the heart is unveiled, and the Spirit of Christ is set up before the evil hearts of men. But far from abolishing the Sabbath command, Jesus shares with His people the heart of the command. Their violent reaction to His teaching shows us that these men had caught the letter of the law which kills; Jesus was showing them what the law was for.

It is fair to add here as we trek with Jesus through the many Sabbath upheavals of His ministry, that Jesus lived and died a Jew. The followers surrounding Him are Jewish. The Old Covenant will not officially die until Jesus is nailed to His cross. Let no one feel at this stage of the report that my readers, especially Gentiles, are being led to an unavoidable conclusion. Nevertheless, the facts of the case so far do point to a very holy day having been in existence for over 4,000 years, being observed by God's special people every week, and that that day is not the first day of the week, but the seventh.

Let us keep examining Jesus' life and work, and see if there is even a clue that something ought to be changing in this custom. is a website I put together a few months back to get the word out to believers that they need to pray for North Korea. Just about every day I'm writing a blog featuring some news, a book, or a story of North Korea. There's a live news feed on the site, lists of resources, picture essays, and ways to respond to the overwhelming need in North Korea. Let's love Chosun together!

And who am I? A man found of God over 50 years ago, called to the ministry, serving the Lord as needed in my world. Married, member of a local church in the Chicago area, with full time work in public education. Who are you? Would love to fellowship with believers who respond on my site.


ADieL said...
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ADieL said...
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ADieL said...
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ADieL said...

God bless you brother.

I just have a question about your belief of the Sabbath. Do you believe that Christians are bound to observe the seventh day or the first day?

I believe that the Sabbath was a shadow but the substance belongs to Christ. For this reason I do not believe that Christians are bound to neither the 7th day of the week nor the 1st for Sabbath observance. In your opinion, would a Christian who believes this be lost and in danger of hell fire?

I'm basically just trying to understand what you believe is the state of those who don't believe we are bound to seventh day / first day. Do you believe we are lost for living in unrepentant habitual persistent lawlesness by not resting on the seventh / first day?

Thank you and God bless you.