Wednesday: Jesus and His Sabbath: Part 1

Books have been written, and are still being written, with the sole purpose of showing that Jesus, when here in the flesh, was pointing people away from the seventh-day Sabbath, either toward Sunday worship or (more commonly today) toward the idea that the seventh day has been superceded and replaced with a more generic and general “rest” in Christ.1

Neither option, though, seems to be found in any of the Gospel accounts of Jesus and the Sabbath. Besides the obvious reason for such books (a need to justify the rejection of the seventh-day Sabbath by the vast majority of the Christian world for the past seventeenth and eighteenth centuries), they argue Christ’s healing on the Sabbath heralds the death knell of that commandment.

What about these arguments? A careful look at what Jesus did on Sabbath shows the opposite of what these theologians are trying to milk out of the incidents themselves.

Carefully read Matthew 12:1–13, focusing specifically on the Sabbath healing. As you read it, ask yourself, What is the context of the healing, why would Jesus have done it specifically on that day, and what is the major point that He is clearly making?  

Perhaps the key verse, the one that explains it all, is verse 7. This is what the issue was all about: it was about people, about mercy and kindness and loving others. Properly kept, the Sabbath allows us more opportunity to show kindness and mercy to those in need than would other days of the week when we are forced to earn a living. The problem was that the Sabbath day had become burdened with a host of man-made rules and regulations that soon became an end in themselves rather than the means to an end—and that end is love to God and to other people. Love, the Bible says, is the fulfilling of the law, and anything that turns the law into that which negates love, or that works against love, is something that must be discarded. The Sabbath had become law without love, which is harsh legalism. This is what Jesus was fighting against by His Sabbath healing.

The hardness of the religious establishment could be seen in the healing of the man blind from birth (John 9). Look carefully at verse 16. Talk about law without love!

In the end, if Jesus were using His Sabbath healing to start pointing people away from the literal seventh-day Sabbath, it sure was a strange way to do it.

Ask yourself, What are other ways one can manifest the law without love? Might you be guilty of doing the same thing?



Wednesday: Jesus and His Sabbath: Part 1 — 7 Comments

  1. The earlier verses of Matthew 12 have always been troubling to me in the light of our understanding of the need in the end times of being willing to die for keeping the Sabbath of our Lord. A casual reading would seem to indicate that Jesus was saying that man's needs can come before the laws of God. Man's first basic need is to stay alive! What does that say about Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego's stance on God's Law in Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom? One answer is that the situation of David that Jesus referred to was that the showbread was about to be replaced for new (1 Sam.21:6), and met the immediate need to save a human life. Adam Clarke's commentary says that "in the case of absolute necessity a breach of the ritual law was no sin." "... David and his men were starving..." The lesson beautifully brings out that Jesus rejected man's embellishment of God's Laws. Any other ideas?

  2. Dear Don,

    Thank you for your thoughts. I think your mistake may have been when you said, "Man’s first basic need is to stay alive!" This is not what I understand from the Scriptures.

    For example, in Matthew 5:10 Jesus said, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." From this I perceive that avoidance of persecution would not be the kind of need that could warrant an exception to our Sabbath observance.

    I believe our greatest need is to glorify God and to bless our fellow man. This is where I see Jesus justifying a lot of things, on the Sabbath, which the Pharisees condemned. Foremost among these was healing the sick. There may be other ways in which this concept could be appropriately applied today, whenever the penchant for "technical correctness" would override meeting the necessities of those around us.

    • Thank you, R.G., for that inspiring answer. It is inspiring because it puts us in touch with heaven's viewpoint. From the human point of view, the greatest need is to stay alive. Jesus' own example was to count not life dear to Himself, but to live for God's glory. So also, to those who have been born from above, God's glory is the highest goal of life.

  3. Satan , through some people in the early times had determined to confuse man about the Sabbath truth on rest. Jesus foresaw this and gave clear teachings by illustrations of healing on the Sabbath. this means to us that a Sabbath rest is a restoration process which we can participate in by releaving others of their burdens, share the love of Jesus and taste the rest which is the true meaning of the Sabbath

  4. Most of us mess up when we claim to know Jesus and yet we do not. I appreciate the fact that their is a lot we need to learn. The moment we let God be God and are willing to be led by his divine grace, then God's commandment will be seen from a different light - LOVE. The commandments of God are about doing good unto others. They are never self centered and harsh. Let it be a prayer that we seek the lord with all our hearts.

  5. I think it all boils down to the Pharisees. Jesus was called wrong by them because He went against their rules, not God's. I think He did the things He did because He loves people, but used those things to show the Pharisees they were wrong, that people weren't breaking rules every time the Pharisees said they were. Scripture says "He had compassion on them"- not that He was angry and wanted to get back at the Pharisees- maybe just to teach them a lesson. Jesus even had to remind the Pharisees of past events that may be considered wrong by some rule, but was allowed, because it wasn't stealing or really working.


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