“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” (Matthew 5:17)
In this series, we are looking at how Jesus redefined different laws, ideas, and notions by expanding their meanings and, thus, our understanding of the Scriptures. Several times throughout His ministry, Jesus was questioned about His actions and the actions of His followers on the Sabbath day because, to the Pharisees, Jesus was breaking the law.
“One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grain fields, his disciples began breaking off heads of grain to eat. But the Pharisees said to Jesus, ‘Look, why are they breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath?’
“Jesus said to them, ‘Haven’t you ever read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God (during the days when Abiathar was high priest) and broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat. He also gave some to his companions.’
”Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.’” (Mark 2:23-28)
Over the course of a few thousand years, man had done a good job of redefining the Sabbath, going even so far as restricting the number of steps one could take on the Sabbath and viewing healing on the Sabbath as a sin. Here, Jesus and His disciples have broken the law by picking grain. Once Jesus is confronted about this illegal activity, He begins to redefine the Sabbath, explaining that the Sabbath was made for man, not the other way around. He also makes a declaration, that He—the Son of Man—is Lord of the Sabbath, which indicates the new covenant that Jesus was ushering in. As author and speaker Jordan Raynor puts it, “In other words, Jesus is saying that through Him, the Sabbath is no longer a command of the Law. Instead, it is a gracious gift for the restless. (…) It is a gift to be enjoyed, rather than a law to be obeyed.”
This changes everything! Understanding that God gave us a day of rest as a gift instead of as a rule with restrictions changes how we view the Sabbath.
In two other recorded instances, Jesus healed people on the Sabbath.
“‘Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?’ But they wouldn’t answer him. He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts.” (Mark 3:4b-5a)
“But the Lord replied, ‘You hypocrites! Each of you works on the Sabbath day! Don’t you untie your ox or your donkey from its stall on the Sabbath and lead it out for water? This dear woman, a daughter of Abraham, has been held in bondage by Satan for eighteen years. Isn’t it right that she be released, even on the Sabbath?’ This shamed his enemies, but all the people rejoiced at the wonderful things he did.” (Luke 13:15-17)
Jesus was explaining and redefining what the Sabbath truly is by His actions. We were not made for the Sabbath, the Sabbath was made as a gift of rest for us! Let us rest easy in the knowledge of what the Sabbath truly is: a gift from God! This weekend, take some time to enjoy the gift of rest that God has given you!
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.