Monday, January 5, 2015

Jesus and the Sabbath

It has been claimed by many that Jesus upheld the law, especially the sabbath. What we will be doing in this article is examining the examples of Scripture where Jesus and the sabbath are discussed, and what can be concluded as a result.

(MAT. 12: 1-4) At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn (grainfields); and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day. And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue: And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.

Mark contains this added information:

(MAR. 3: 4-5) And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand.

Jesus and His disciples walked through a field of grain and His disciples began plucking the grain and eating it. The Pharisees see this, and decry that what they are doing is breaking the sabbath law. Sabbatarians are quick to claim that they didn't actually break the sabbath, but rather transgressed the added sabbath restrictions created by the Pharisees, et.al. The problem with this claim is that the claim ignores the context.

Jesus cites the example of David, who, when he and those who were with him were hungry, ate the show-bread that was “unlawful” for him and those with him to eat. This too gets its particular twist by sabbatarians, claiming David had the right of a king to do so. But this "right of a king" response would mean that those who were with David did sin, and that God is a respecter of persons.

Jesus then makes this comparison between His disciples, and David and his men, pointing out that they all essentially did the same thing; broke the letter of the law, yet were blameless due to their genuine need at the moment. They were hungry, and here was food. In the one case, it was unlawful to eat the showbread, and in the other case, it was unlawful to acquire food on the sabbath by picking it from a field. Jesus did not claim the Pharisees were in error regarding the law. He did point out to them that to charge them with sin for doing something similar to what David did, and what the priests do continually on sabbaths regarding work that was done in the service of the temple, was to be hypocritical, seeing as David and the priests were blameless for having done essentially the same thing His disciples did, as they were in the service of God in the personage of Christ; the One there who was greater than the temple where the priests served on the sabbath, desecrating the sabbath, as the temple service was more important than the sabbath, and Jesus being more important than the temple.

(MAT. 12: 7-8) But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.

Sabbatarians tend to focus on the second verse here, excluding the first. Yet, the statement here needs to be taken together:

(MAT. 12: 7-8) But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless, for the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.

Mercy and sacrifice are being contrasted by Christ. He is saying they do not understand the statement; the implications.

They sought perfection through that law. Anyone not living up to their standard, found in the legalities of the law, was seen as inferior and a sinner, to be avoided. Jesus elsewhere chided them for being so focused on the minutia of the legalities of the law, they neglected the “weightier” matters; justice, mercy, and faith. These are the things God desired, and not “sacrifice” in the guise of self-denial and dedication to the legalities of that law.

Here in Matthew 12, the Pharisees sought to judge and condemn over the sabbath, which Jesus puts in its proper perspective, given the circumstances. It was of no consequence, and He should know, being Lord of the sabbath also. The focus should have been on mercy, given the need and hunger of those men, and not condemnation. The examples in the law were contrary to the judgment of the Pharisees.

Jesus then proceeds to a synagogue and further confronts and confounds them over the sabbath by again doing a work of healing. He declares to them that it was lawful to do well on the sabbath, healing a man, assigning to the man greater importance than that of an animal any one of them would take hold of and pull out of a ditch on the sabbath. They maintained a double standard, devoid of faith, mercy, compassion.

The religious leaders of Israel attempted to put a hedge around the law, with an emphasis on the sabbath, having interpreted the sabbath to the point that it became burdensome; the people served the sabbath instead of the sabbath being the servant of the people. The modern day sabbatarian, also intent on ignoring the teachings of Christ, seek to alter the sabbath command by creating exemptions to the sabbath regarding types of work deemed acceptable, while claiming in the next breath that the ten commandments, especially the sabbath, remains inviolate down to jots and tittles, citing Matthew 5:17-18. They have transcribed justice, mercy, and faith to a modified list of do's and don'ts in an attempt to reconcile the sabbath with the actions of Christ, while ignoring what He taught regarding the sabbath and the law. It is lawful to do well on the sabbath.

The Pharisees and religious leaders emphasized and focused on the legalities of the law, so much so that true Justice, mercy, and faith were essentially ignored; the things Jesus focused on to the exclusion of the legalities of the law.

(LUK. 13: 10-17) And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day? And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.

The ruler of the synagogue was indignant. To him, that work of Jesus was seen as making light of the sabbath. Mercy was the furthest thing from his mind. Yet Jesus referred to him as a hypocrite. Hypocrisy is where a person maintains a double standard regarding judgment. There was no true justice with his perspective. Justice without mercy is tyranny. It was okay for someone to loose an animal from his stall on a sabbath so as to see to the needs of the animal, but it was not okay to loose a poor woman from her bondage on a sabbath. Jesus not only makes this comparison, but goes even further, stating it was even appropriate that she be healed on the sabbath, attributing her bondage to Satan. She was given rest from her infirmity on the sabbath. The sabbath heralded her freedom.

(JON. 5: 1-18) this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath. The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

The modern day Christian Pharisees, who hold a legalistic view of the sabbath, insist John was writing from the perspective of the Jews, for they cannot abide the idea and belief that Jesus actually broke the sabbath; something anathema to them. They rationalize that to break the sabbath was to sin, and Jesus could never sin without disqualifying Himself as our sacrifice for sin. They have trapped themselves in this paradigm where their beliefs drive their interpretation of Scripture. In the process, they miss what was being taught by Jesus – teachings that are also incompatible with their paradigm based also on the legalities of the sabbath, sans justice, mercy, and faith.

The idea of being able to break the letter of the law in favor of the spirit of the law cannot be comprehended by those focused strictly on the letter of the law; the legalities of the sabbath. What the apostle Paul wrote in II Corinthians chapter 3 bears this out, where Paul describes those whose focus is on the legalities of the law (the writings and teachings of Moses) cannot “see” or comprehend the true Jesus – the One whose focus was not on the legalities of the law, but on justice, mercy, and faith.

This may come as a surprise to many, but Moses did not write about the Israelites practicing justice, mercy, and faith. He wrote of God's justice and mercy, and foretold in prophesy Israel doing these things, and related God's reference to those Israelites as being faithless. Justice tempered with mercy and faith came later in the writings of the prophets, and the prophets are seen as being a part of the overall law.

If, as most sabbatarians claim, they reject as “nailed to the cross” all else sans the ten commandments, claiming them to be, collectively, “sacrificial and ceremonial law, then, logically, they reject justice, mercy and faith as it could relate to the ten commandments, specifically the sabbath commandment.

Knowing personally the mindset and paradigms of the sabbatarians, having been one for 25 years, they will conclude that moral law, which they attribute to the ten commandments, cannot be compromised with. Yet, Jesus refused to condemn the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8) that was brought before Him by the scribes and Pharisees, who no doubt used the situation as a means to bring an accusation and subsequent condemnation upon Him. His reply, based in justice tempered with mercy, demanded that they examine themselves; whether they were any better than her so as to justify their condemnation of the woman. To uphold the law of Moses regarding the law of adultery, they would prove themselves to be hypocrites of the greatest order. They saw Jesus as a sinner and a threat. To expose themselves as hypocrites before Him was too much to bear. Jesus did not condemn the woman, but rather extended mercy to her, something the legalities of the law, written and taught by Moses, did not allow.

Judging Righteous Judgment Versus Judging According to Appearance: The Sabbath Perspective

(JON. 7: 19-24) Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me? The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee? Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel. Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

“I have done one work, and ye all marvel.” (v.21)

What was this “one work” Jesus did? What was it He did that He called “work”? Healing a man on the sabbath. What did the law demand in regard to “work” in relation to the sabbath?

(EXO. 20: 10) But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

(EXO. 31: 14-15) Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.

Another interesting observation is the relationship between the sabbath and circumcision. Circumcision took precedence over the sabbath. A “ceremonial” law trumped a “moral” law. How is that possible? Isn't a moral law a law where there is never a case where it can be violated? There is never a time when murder is acceptable. There is never a time when adultery is acceptable. There is never a time when having other gods is acceptable.

The only explanation I have ever heard from the sabbatarian perspective was that circumcision predated the sabbath, and as such, took precedence as a result. Yet, sabbatarians have also insisted that the weekly sabbath was established during Creation Week, which would mean sabbath keeping would take precedence.

“If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” (JON. 7: 23) 

By applying the letter of the law regarding the prohibition against “any” work, the detractors of Jesus were judging according to appearance, which contextually is seen by Jesus as being unrighteous judgment. His actions of healing people on the sabbath were examples of mercy, and mercy is a “weightier matter” of the law. Instead of working from the perspective of mercy, the modern day Pharisees again defer to to the letter of the law, and make modifications to it. The earlier Pharisees added prohibitions in an attempt to build a fence around the law and sabbath, making the sabbath more of a burden. The modern Pharisee adds to the law categories of work now that are “acceptable”, still ignoring the spirit of the law and intent of heart. Even with these added categories of acceptable work (working without pay, for example), they are still judging according to appearance. The “unavoidable” conclusion of the matter is avoided at all costs by the modern Pharisee: The letter of the law is ultimately incompatible with true justice, mercy, and faith, where one practices righteous judgment (II COR. 3: 6).

The Man Born Blind

(JON. 9: 1-6) And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he. Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight. Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not. They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.

Jesus produced His arguably greatest miracle up to that point, again going out of His way to do it on a sabbath. This resulted in no small confrontation with the religious of the time. The Pharisees saw the sabbath as an absolute unless they decided otherwise, based on their own criterion.

The modern legalist will argue that it was not really work, despite how Scripture defines work. This however overlooks what was actually going on. Jesus knew it was work, and the religious leaders knew it was work. What they could not (would not) concede was that this “itinerant self-appointed uneducated bastard prophet” was not going to usurp their authority when it came to such matters. They, however were self-appointed experts of the law, just like today's modern legalists.  It is Jesus who is the real expert.


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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11
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