History of the Sabbath
By J.N. Andrews
Chapter 10 (Part 1): The Sabbath in the Time of Christ
Mission of the Saviour—His qualifications as a judge of Sabbatic observance—State of the institution at his advent—The Saviour at Nazareth—At Capernaum—His discourse in the corn-field—Case of the impotent man—Of the man born blind—Of the woman bound by Satan—Of the man who had the dropsy—Object of our Lord's teaching and miracles relative to the Sabbath—Unfairness of many anti-Sabbatarians—Examination of Matthew 24:20—The Sabbath not abrogated at the crucifixion—Fourth commandment after the event—Sabbath not changed at the resurrection of Christ—Examination of John 20:26—Of Acts 2:1-2—Redemption furnishes no argument for the change of the Sabbath—Examination of Psalm 118:22-24—The Sabbath neither abolished nor changed as late as the close of the seventy weeks.
In the fullness of time, God sent forth his Son to be the Saviour of the world. He who fulfilled this mission of infinite benevolence was both the Son of God and the Son of man. He was with the Father before the world was, and by him God created all things.1 The Sabbath being ordained at the close of that great work, as a memorial to keep it in lasting remembrance, the Son of God, by whom all things were created, could not be otherwise than a perfect judge of its true design and of its proper observance. The sixty-mine weeks of Daniel's prophecy being accomplished, the redeemer began to preach, saying, " The time is fulfilled."2 The ministry of the Saviour was at a time when the Sabbath of the Lord had become utterly perverted from its gracious design by the teaching of the Jewish doctors. As we have seen in the previous chapter, it was to the people no longer a source of refreshment and delight, but a cause of suffering and distress. It had been loaded down with traditions by the doctors of the law, until its merciful and beneficent purpose was utterly hidden beneath the rubbish of men's inventions. It being impracticable for Satan, after the Babylonish captivity, to cause the Jewish people, even by bloody edicts, to relinquish the Sabbath and openly profane it, as they had done before that time, he caused their doctors to so pervert it that its real character should be utterly changed, and its observance entirely unlike that which would please God. We shall find that the Saviour never missed an opportunity to correct their false notions respecting the Sabbath; and that he purposely selected the Sabbath as the day on which to perform many of his merciful works. It will be found that no small share of his teaching through his whole ministry was devoted to a determination of what was lawful on the Sabbath,—a singular fact for those to explain who think that he designed its abrogation. At the opening of our Lord's ministry, we read,—
"And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee; and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath-day, and stood up for to read."3
Such was the manner of the Saviour relative to the Sabbath. It is evident that in this he intended to show his regard for that day; for it was not necessary to do so in order to gain a congregation, as vast multitudes were ever ready to throng his steps. His testimony being rejected, our Lord left Nazareth for Capernaum. The sacred historian says of this visit:—
"But he, passing through the midst of them, went his way, and came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the Sabbath-days. And they were astonished at his doctrine; for his word was with power. And in the synagogue there was a man which had a spirit of an unclean devil; and he cried out with a loud voice, saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold they peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him and hurt him not. And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! For with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out. And the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about. And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon's house. And Simon's wife's mother was taken with great fever; and they besought him for her. And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her; and immediately she arose and ministered unto them."4
According to the record, these are the first miracles performed by the Saviour on the Sabbath. But the strictness of Jewish views relative to the Sabbath is seen in that they waited till sunset, that is, till the Sabbath was passed,5 before they brought the sick to be healed as the following account shows:—
"And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. And all the city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they know him."6
The next mention of the Sabbath is of peculiar interest:—
"At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath-day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, they 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 hungered, and they that were with him; how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shew-bread, 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-day 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."7
The parallel text in Mark has an important addition to the conclusion as stated by Matthew:—
"And he said unto them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath; therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath."8
The following points should be noted in examining this text:—
1. That the question at issue did not relate to the act of passing through the corn on the Sabbath; for the Pharisees themselves were in the company; and hence it may be concluded that the Saviour and those with him were either going to, or returning form the synagogue.
2. That the question raised by the Pharisees was this: Whether the disciples, in satisfying their hunger with the corn through which they passed, were not violating the law of the Sabbath.
3. That he to whom this question was proposed was in the highest degree competent to answer it; for he was with the Father when the Sabbath was made.9
4. That the Saviour was pleased to appeal to scriptural precedents for the decision of this question, rather than to assert his own independent judgment.
5. That the first case cited by the Saviour was peculiarly appropriate. David, fleeing for his life, entered the house of God upon the Sabbath,10 and ate the shew-bread to satisfy his hunger. The disciples, to relieve their hunger, simply ate of the corn through which they were passing upon the Sabbath. If David did right, though eating in his necessity of that which belonged only to the priests, how little blame could be attached to the disciples, who had not even violated a precept of the ceremonial law!
6. Our Lord's next example is designed to show what labor upon the Sabbath is not a violation of its sacredness; and hence the case of the priests is referred to. The same God who had said in the fourth commandment, "Six days shalt thou labor, and do all THY work," had commanded that the priests should offer certain sacrifices in his temple on the Sabbath.11 Herein was no contradiction; for the labor performed by the priests upon the Sabbath was simply that necessary for the maintenance of the appointed worship of God in his temple, and was not doing what the commandment calls THY WORK." Labor of this kind, therefore, the Saviour being judge, was not, and never had been a violation of the Sabbath.
7. It is highly probable that the Saviour, in this reference to the priests, had his mind not merely upon the sacrifices which they offered upon the Sabbath, but upon the fact that they were required to prepare new shew-bread every Sabbath, when the old was to be removed from the table before the Lord, and eaten by them.12 This view of the matter would connect the case of the priests with that of David, and both would bear with wonderful distinctness upon the act of the disciples. Then our Lord's argument could be appreciated, when he adds: "But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple;" so that if the shew-bread was to be prepared each Sabbath for the use of those who ministered in the temple, and those who did this were guiltless, how free from guilt, also, must be the disciples, who, in following HIM who was greater than the temple, but who had not where to lay his head, had eaten of the standing corn upon the Sabbath to relieve their hunger.
8. Our Lord next lays down a principle worthy of the most serious attention, when he adds: "But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless." The Most High had ordained certain labor to be performed upon the Sabbath, in order that sacrifices might be offered to himself. But Christ affirms, upon the authority of the Scriptures,13 that there is something far more acceptable to God than sacrifices, and that is acts of mercy. If God held those guiltless who offered sacrifices upon the Sabbath, how much less would he condemn those who extend mercy and relief to the distressed and suffering upon that day.
9. Nor does the Saviour leave the subject even here; for he adds: "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath; therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath." If the Sabbath was made, certain acts were necessary in order to give existence to it. What were those acts?—(1.) God rested upon the seventh day, and thus made it the rest-day, or Sabbath, of the Lord; (2.) He blessed the day, by which it became his holy day; (3.) He sanctified it, or set it apart to holy use, making its observance a part of man's duty toward God.
There must have been a time when these acts were performed; and on this point there is really no room for controversy. They were not performed at Sinai, nor in the wilderness of Sin, but in paradise. And this strikingly confirmed by the language here used by the Saviour: "The Sabbath was made for THE man, not THE man for the Sabbath;"14 thus citing our minds to the man Adam who was made of the dust of the ground, and affirming that the Sabbath was made for him,—a conclusive testimony that the Sabbath originated in paradise. This fact is happily illustrated by a statement of the apostle Paul: "Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man."16 It will not be denied that this language has direct reference to the creation of Adam and Eve. If, then, we turn back to the beginning, we shall find Adam made of the dust of the ground, Eve taken form his side, and the Sabbath made of the seventh day.16
In this way the Saviour, to complete the solution of the question raised by the Pharisees, traces the Sabbath back to the beginning, as he does the institution of marriage when the same class proposed for his decision the lawfulness of divorce.17 His careful statement of the design of the Sabbath and of marriage, tracing each to the beginning, in one case striking down their perversion of the Sabbath, in the other, that of marriage, is the most powerful testimony in behalf of the sacredness of each institution. The argument in the case of marriage stands thus: In the beginning, God created one man and one woman, designing that they TWO should be one flesh. The marriage relation, therefore, was designed to unite simply two persons, and this union should be sacred and indissoluble. Such was the bearing of his argument upon the question of divorce. In relation to the Sabbath, his argument is this: God made the Sabbath for the man that he made of the dust of the ground; and being thus made for a unfallen race, it can only be a merciful and beneficent institution. He who made the Sabbath for man before the fall, saw what man needed, and knew how to supply that want. It was given to him for rest, refreshment, and delight,—a character that it sustained after the fall,18 but which the Jews had already lost sight of.19 Our Lord here lays open his whole heart concerning the Sabbath. He carefully determines what works are not a violation of the Sabbath; and this he does by Old-Testament examples, that it may be evident that he is introducing no change in the institution; he sets aside their rigorous and burdensome traditions concerning the Sabbath, by tracing it back to its merciful origin in paradise; and having thus disencumbered the Sabbath of Pharisaic rigor, he leaves it upon its paradisiacal foundation, enforced by all the authority and sacredness of that law which he came not to destroy, but to magnify and make honorable.20
10. Having divested the Sabbath of all Pharisaic additions, our Lord concludes with this remarkable declaration: "Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath." (1.) It was not a disparagement to the Sabbath, but an honor, that God's only Son should claim to be its Lord. (2.) Nor was it derogatory to the character of the Redeemer to be the Lord of the Sabbath; with all the high honors pertaining to his messiahship, he is ALSO Lord of the Sabbath. Or, if we take the expression in Matthew, he is "Lord EVEN of the Sabbath-day." It shows that it is not a small honor to possess such a title. (3.) This title implies that the Messiah should be the protector, and not the destroyer, of the Sabbath; and hence that he was the rightful one to decide the proper nature of Sabbatic observance. With such memorable words ends our Lord's first discourse concerning the Sabbath.
From this time the Pharisees watched the Saviour to find an accusation against him for violation the Sabbath. The next example will show the malignity of their hearts, their utter perversion of the Sabbath, the urgent need of an authoritative correction of their false teachings respecting it, and the Saviour's unanswerable defense:—
"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."21
What was the act that caused this madness of the Pharisees?—On the part of the Saviour, it was a word; on the part of the man, it was the act of stretching out his arm. Did the law of the Sabbath forbid either of these things?—No one can affirm such a thing. But the Saviour had publicly transgressed that tradition of the Pharisees that forbade the doing of anything whatever toward the healing of the sick upon the Sabbath. And how necessary that such a wicked tradition should be swept away, if the Sabbath itself was to be preserved for man! But the Pharisees were filled with such madness that they went out of the synagogue, and consulted how they might destroy Jesus; yet he only acted in behalf of the Sabbath in setting aside those traditions by which they had perverted it.
After this, our Lord returned into his own country, and thus we read of him:—
"And when the Sabbath-day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue; and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? And what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?"22
Not far from this time, we find the Saviour at Jerusalem, and the following miracle was performed upon the Sabbath:—
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 there 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 stepped 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 they bed, and walk?... . The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had mad 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."23
Our Lord here stands charged with two crimes: First, He had broken the Sabbath; and secondly, He had made himself equal with God. The first accusation is based on these particulars: 1. By his word he had healed the impotent man. But this violated no law of God; it only set at naught that tradition which forbade anything to be done for curing diseases upon the Sabbath. 2. He had directed the man to carry his bed. But this, as a burden, was a mere trifle,24 like a cloak or mat, and was designed to show the reality of his cure, and thus to honor the Lord of the Sabbath, who had healed him. Moreover, it was not such a burden as the Scriptures forbid upon the Sabbath.25 3. Jesus justified what he had done by comparing his present act of healing to that work which his Father had done HITHERTO, I.E., from the beginning of creation. Ever since the Sabbath was sanctified in paradise, the Father, by his providence, and continued to mankind, even upon the Sabbath, all the merciful acts by which the human race has been preserved. This work of the Father's was the precisely the same nature as that which Jesus had not done. These acts did not argue that the Father had hitherto lightly esteemed the Sabbath, for he had most solemnly enjoined its observance in the law and in the prophets;26 and as our Lord had most expressly recognized their authority,27 there was no ground to accuse him of disregarding the Sabbath, when he had only followed the example of the Father from the beginning. The Saviour's answer to these two charges will remove all difficulty:—
"Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do; for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the son likewise."28
This answer involves two points: 1. That he was following his Father's perfect example, who had ever laid open to him all his works, and hence, as he was doing only that which had ever been the pleasure of the Father to do, he was not engaged in the overthrow of the Sabbath; 2. That by the meek humility of his answer,—"The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do,"—he showed the groundlessness of their charge of self-exaltation, and left them no chance to answer him again.
Several months after this, the same case of healing was again under discussion.
"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?"29
This Scripture contains our Lord's second answer relative to healing the impotent man upon the Sabbath. In his first answer he rests his defense upon the fact that what he had done was precisely the same as that which his Father had done hitherto, that is, from the beginning of the world, which implies that the Sabbath had existed from the same point, else the example of the Father during this time would not be relevant. In this, his second answer, a similar point is involved relative to the origin of the Sabbath. His defense this time rests upon the fact that his act of healing no more violated the Sabbath than did the act of circumcising upon the Sabbath. But if circumcision, which was ordained in the time of Abraham, was older than the Sabbath, as it certainly was if the Sabbath originated in the wilderness of Sin, there would be an impropriety in the allusion; for circumcision would be entitled to the priority as the more ancient institution. It would be strictly proper to speak of a more recent institution as involving no violation of an older one; but it would not be proper to speak of an ancient institution as involving no violation of one more recent. The language therefore implies that the Sabbath was older than circumcision; in other words, more ancient than the days of Abraham. These two answers of the Saviour are certainly in harmony with the unanimous testimony of the sacred writers, that the Sabbath originated with the sanctification of the rest-day of the Lord in Eden.
What had the Saviour done to justify the hatred of the Jewish people toward him?—Upon the Sabbath he had healed with one word a man who had been helpless thirty-eight years. Was not this act in strict accordance with the Sabbatic institution? Our Lord has settled this point in the affirmative by weighty and unanswerable arguments;30 not in this case alone, but in others already noticed, and also in those which remain to be noticed. He had left the man in his wretchedness because it was the Sabbath, when a word would have healed him, he would have dishonored the Sabbath, and thrown reproach upon its Author. We shall find the Lord of the Sabbath still further at work in its behalf in rescuing it from the hand s of those who had so utterly perverted its design,—a work quite unnecessary, had he designed to nail the institution to his cross.
The next incident to be noticed is the case of the man that was born blind. Jesus, seeing him, said:—
"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 come seeing... .And it was the Sabbath-day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes."31
Here is the record of another of our Lord's merciful acts upon the Sabbath-day. He saw a man blind from his birth; moved with compassion toward him, he moistened clay, and anointed his eyes, and sent him to the pool to wash; and when he had washed, he received sight. The act was alike worthy of the Sabbath and of its Lord; and it pertains only to the opponents of the Sabbath now, as it pertained only to the enemies of its Lord then, to see in this even the slightest violation of the Sabbath.
After this we read as follows:—
"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 to wise life 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 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"32
This time a daughter of Abraham, that is, a pious woman,33 who had been bound by Satan eighteen years, was loosed from that bond upon the Sabbath-day. Jesus silenced the clamor of his enemies by an appeal to their own coarse of action in loosing eh ox and leading him to water upon the Sabbath. With this answer our Lord made all his adversaries ashamed, and all the people rejoiced for the glorious things that were done by him. The last of these glorious acts by which Jesus honored the Sabbath is thus narrated:—
"And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath-day, that they watched him. And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath-day? And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go; and answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the Sabbath-day? And they could not answer him again to these things."34
It is evident that the Pharisees and lawyers durst not answer the question, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath-day? If they said, "Yes," they condemned their own tradition; if they said, "No," they were unable to sustain their answer by fair argument; hence they remained silent. And when Jesus had healed the man, he asked a second question equally embarrassing: Which of you shall have an ox fall into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the Sabbath? And again they could not answer him. It is apparent that our Lord's argument with the Pharisees from time to time, in relation to the Sabbath, had satisfied them at last that silence relative to their traditions was wiser than speech.
In his public teaching, the Saviour declared that the weightier matters of the law were judgment, MERCY, and faith;35 and his long-continued and powerful effort in behalf of the Sabbath was to vindicate it as a MERCIFUL institution, and to rid it of Pharisaic traditions, by which it was perverted from its original purpose. Those who oppose the Sabbath are here guilty of unfairness in two particulars: 1. They represent these Pharisaic rigors as actually belonging to the Sabbatic institution, and by this means turn the minds of men against the Sabbath; 2. Having done this, they represent the effort of the Saviour to set aside those traditions as an effort directed to the overthrow of the Sabbath itself.
And not we come to Christ's memorable discourse upon the mount of Olives, on the very eve of his crucifixion, in which for the last time he mentions the Sabbath:—
"When ye, therefore, shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoso readeth, let him understand), then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains; let him which is on the house-top not come down to take anything out of his house; neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath-day; for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be."36
In this language our Lord brings to view the dreadful calamities of the Jewish people, and the destruction of their city and temple, as predicted by Daniel the prophet;37 and his watchful care over his people as their Lord leads him to point out the means of escape.
1. He gives them a token by which they should know when this terrible overthrow was immediately impending. It was "the abomination of desolation" standing "in the holy place;" or, as expressed by Luke, the token was "Jerusalem compassed with armies."38
The fulfillment of this sign is recorded by the historian Josephus. After stating that Cestius, the Roman commander, at the commencement of the contest between the Jews and the Romans, encompassed the city of Jerusalem with an army, he adds:—
"Who, had he but continued the siege a little longer, had certainly taken the city; but it was, I suppose, owing to the aversion God had already at the city and the sanctuary, that he was hindered from putting an end to the war that very day. It then happened that Cestius was not conscious either how the besieged despaired of success, or how courageous the people were for him; and so he recalled his soldiers from the place, and by despairing of any expectation of taking it, without having received any disgrace, he retired from the city, without any reason in the world."39
2. This sign being seen, the disciples were to know that the desolation of Jerusalem was nigh. "Then," says Christ, "let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains." Josephus records the fulfillment of this injunction:—
"After this calamity had befallen Cestius, many of the most eminent of the Jews swam away from the city, as from a ship when it was going to sink."40
Eusebius also relates its fulfillment:—
"The whole body, however, of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella. Here, those that believed in Christ, having removed from Jerusalem, as if holy men had entirely abandoned the royal city itself, and the whole land of Judea, the divine justice, for their crimes against Christ and the apostles, finally overtook the, totally destroying the whole generation of these evil-doers from the earth."41
3. So imminent as the danger when this sign should be seen, that not a moment was to be lost. He that was upon the housetop could not even come down to take a single article from his house. The man that was in the field was forbidden to return to the house for his clothes. Not a moment was to be lost; they must flee as they were, and flee for life. And pitiable indeed was the case of those who could not flee.
4. In view of the fact that the disciples must flee the moment the promise token should appear, our Lord directed them to pray for two things; namely, that their flight should not be in the winter, and that it should not be upon the Sabbath-day. Their pitiable situation, should they be compelled to flee to the mountains in the depth of winter, without time to take even their clothes, sufficiently attests the importance of the first of these petitions, and the tender care of Jesus as the Lord of his people. The second of these petitions will be found equally expressive of his care as Lord of the Sabbath.
5. But it is replied that this last petition has reference only to the fact that the Jews would then be keeping the Sabbath strictly, and as a consequence, the city gates would be closed that day, and those be punished with death who should attempt to flee; and hence his petition indicates nothing in proof of Christ's regard for the Sabbath. An assertion so often and so confidently uttered should be well founded in truth; yet a brief examination will show that such is not the case. (l.) The Saviour's language, "Let them which be Judea flee into the mountains," has reference to the whole land of Judea, and not to Jerusalem only. The closing of the city gates could therefore affect the flight of only a part of the disciples. (2.) Josephus states the remarkable fact, that, when Cestius was marching upon Jerusalem, in fulfillment of the Saviour's token, and had reached Lydda, not many miles from Jerusalem, "he found the city empty of its men; for the whole multitude were gone up to Jerusalem to the Feast of Tabernacles."42 The law of Moses required the presence of every male in Israel at this feast in Jerusalem;43 and thus, in the providence of God, the disciples had no Jewish enemies left in the country to hinder their flight. (3.) The Jewish nation, being thus assembled at Jerusalem, did most openly violate the Sabbath a few days prior to the flight of the disciples,—a singular commentary on their supposed strictness in keeping it at that time.44 Josephus says of the march of Cestius upon Jerusalem:—
"He pitched his camp at a certain place called Gabao, fifty furlongs distant from Jerusalem. But as for the Jews, when they saw the war approaching to their metropolis, they left the feast, and betook themselves to their arms; and taking courage greatly from their multitude, went in a sudden and disorderly manner to the fight, with a great noise, and without any consideration had of the rest of the seventh day, although the Sabbath was the day to which they had the greatest regard; but that rage which made them forget the religious observation [of the Sabbath], made them too hard for their enemies in the fight; with such violence therefore did they fall upon the Romans, as to break into their ranks, and to march through the midst of them, making a great slaughter as the went."45etc.
Thus it is seen that on the eve of the disciples' flight, the rage of the Jews toward their enemies made them utterly disregard the Sabbath! (4.) But after Cestius encompassed the city with his army, thus giving the Saviour's signal, he suddenly withdrew it, as Josephus says, "without any reason in the world." This was the moment of flight for the disciples, and mark how the providence of God opened the way for those in Jerusalem:—
"But when the robbers perceived this unexpected retreat of his, they resumed their courage, and ran after the hinder parts of his army, and destroyed a considerable number of both their horsemen and footmen; and now Cestius lay all night at the camp which was at Scopus, and as he went off farther next day, he thereby invited the enemy to follow him, who still fell upon the hindmost, and destroyed them."46
This sally of the excited multitude in pursuit of the Romans was at the very moment when the disciples were commanded to flee, and could not but afford them the needed facility of escape. Had the flight of Cestius happened upon the Sabbath, undoubtedly the Jews would have pursued him upon that day, as under less exciting circumstances they had, a few days before, gone out several miles to attack him upon the Sabbath. It is seen, therefore, that whether in city or country, the disciples were not in danger of being attacked by their enemies, even had their flight been upon the Sabbath-day.
6. There is, therefore, but one view that can be taken relative to the meaning of these words of our Lord, and that is that he thus spake out of sacred regard for the Sabbath. In his tender care for his people, he had given them a precept that would require them to violate the Sabbath, should the moment for flight happen upon that day; for the command to flee was imperative the instant the promised signal should be seen, and the distance to Pella, where they found a place of refuge, was at least sixty miles. This prayer which the Saviour left with the disciples would cause them to remember the Sabbath whenever they should come before God. It was therefore impossible that the apostolic church should forget the day of sacred rest. Such a prayer, that they might not at a future time be compelled to violate the Sabbath, was a sure and certain means of perpetuating its sacred observance for the coming forty years, until the final destruction of Jerusalem, and was never forgotten by that early church, as we shall hereafter see.47
The Saviour, who had taken unwearied pains during his whole ministry to show that the Sabbath was a merciful institution, and to set aside those traditions by which it had been perverted from its true design, did, in this his last discourse, most tenderly commend the Sabbath to his people, uniting in the same petition their own safety and the sacredness of the rest-day of the Lord.48
A few days after this discourse, the Lord of the Sabbath was nailed to the cross as the great sacrifice for the sins of men.49 The Messiah was thus cut off in the midst of the seventieth week; and by his death he caused the sacrifice and oblation to cease.50
1 Galatians 4:4, 5; John 1:1-10; 17:5, 24; Hebrews 1.
2 Daniel 9:25; Mark 1:14, 15.
3 Luke 4:14-16.
4 Luke 4:3—30; Mark 1:21-31; Matthew 8:5-15.
5 On this point, see conclusion of chapter 8.
6 Mark 1:32-34; Luke 4:40.
7 Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5.
8 Mark 2:27, 28.
9 Comp. John 1:1-3 and Genesis 1:1, 26; 2:1-3.
10 See chapter 8.
11 Numbers 28:9, 10.
12 Leviticus 24:5-9; II Chronicles 9:32.
13 Hosea 6:6.
14 The Greek Testament reads: *******************.
15 I Corinthians 11:9.
16 Genesis 2:1-3, 7, 21-23.
17 Matthew 19:3-9.
18 Exodus 16:23; 23:12; Isaiah 58:13, 14.
19 See conclusion of chapter 9.
20 Matthew 5:17-19; Isaiah 42:21.
21 Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11.
22 Mark 6:1-6.
23 John 5:1-18.
24 See Dr. Bloomfield's Greek Testament on this text; Family Testament of the American Tract Society; and Nevins' Biblical Antiquities, pp. 62, 63.
25 Compare Jeremiah 17:21-27 with Nehemiah 13:15-20.
26 Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:8-11; Isaiah 56; 58:13, 14; Ezekiel 20.
27 Galatians 4:4; Matthew 5:17-19; 7:12; 19:17; Luke 16:17.
29 John 7:21-23.
30 Grotius well says: "If he healed any on the Sabbath, he made it appear, not only from the law, but also from their received opinions, that such works were not forbidden on the Sabbath."—The Truth of the Christian Religion, b. 5, sec. 7.
31 John 9:1-16.
32 Luke 13:10-17.
33 I Peter 3:6.
34 Luke 14:1-6.
35 Matthew 23:23.
36 Matt 24:15-21.
37 Daniel 9:26, 27.
38 Luke 21:20
39 Jewish wars, b. 2, chap.19.
40 Id., b. 2, chap 20.
41 Eccl. Hist., b. 3, chap.5.
42 Jewish Wars, b. 2, chap. 19
43 Deuteronomy 16:16.
44 Mr. Crozier remarks in the Advent Harbinger for Dec. 6, 1851: "The reference to the Sabbath in Matthew 24:20 only shows that the Jews who rejected Christ would be keeping the Sabbath at the destruction of Jerusalem, and would, in consequence, add to the dangers of the disciples' flight by punishing the, perhaps with death, for fleeing on that day."
And Mr. Marsh, forgetting that Christ forbade his disciples to take anything with them in their flight, uses the following language: "If the disciples should attempt to flee from Jerusalem on that day, and carry their things, the Jews would embarrass their flight, and perhaps put them to death. The Jews would be keeping the Sabbath, because they rejected Christ and his gospel."—Advent Harbinger, Jan. 24, 1852. These quotations betray the bitterness of their authors. In honorable distinction from these anti-Sabbatarians, the following is quoted from Mr. William Miller, himself an observer of the first day of the week:—
"'Neither on the Sabbath-day.' Because it was to be kept as a day of rest, and no servile work was to be done on that day, nor would it be right for them to travel on that day. Christ has in this place sanctioned the Sabbath, and clearly shows us our duty to let no trivial circumstance cause us to break the law of the Sabbath. Yet how many who profess to believe in Christ at this present day make it a point to visit, travel, and feast on this day! What a false-hearted profession must that person make who can thus treat with contempt the moral law ow God, and despise the precepts of the Lord Jesus! We may here learn our obligation to remember the Sabbath-day, to keep it holy."—Exposition of Matthew 24, p.18.
45 Jewish Wars, b. 2, chap. 19.
47 See chapter 16.
48 President Edwards says: "A further argument for the perpetuity of the Sabbath we have in Matthew 24:20: 'Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath-day.' Christ is here speaking of the flight of the apostles and other Christians out of Jerusalem and Judea, just before their final destruction, as is manifest by the whole context, and especially by the 16th verse: 'Then let them which be in Judea flee to the mountains." But this final destruction of Jerusalem was after the dissolution of the Jewish constitution, and after the Christian dispensation was fully set up. Yet it is plainly implied in these words of our Lord, that even then Christians were bound to a strict observation of the Sabbath."—Works of President Edwards, vol. 4, pp. 621, 622, New York, 1849.
49 Matthew 27; Isaiah 53.
50 Daniel 9:24-27.
Next: Chapter 10 (Part 2): The Sabbath in the Time of Christ Cont'd.
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