What the Bible says about
Jesus Christ as Lord of the Sabbath
(From Forerunner Commentary)
These verses contain a number of things critical to Sabbath keeping:
- Jesus refers to the Sabbath as a specific day; it is the Sabbath, not a Sabbath.
- The Sabbath was not made for its own sake as were the other six days, but as a service to mankind. An alternate translation would be that it "was made on account of man." Jesus presents it as the Creator's specific and thoughtful gift to man.
- It was not made just for the Jews, but for mankind. When God created the Sabbath, He intended it from the beginning as a UNIVERSAL blessing to benefit mankind. He made it to help ensure man's physical and spiritual well-being.
- The broader context reveals a disagreement over how to keep it. Jesus claims to be its Lord, its Owner or Master, and He thus lays claim to His right to show by His example and verbal instruction how to keep it, not whether to keep it. Since He expresses no disagreement with keeping it, He implies that He expects man—not just Jews—to keep it. He has a perfect opportunity here to reply that it does not matter if men keep it, but He gives no such indication.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part One) (1997)
Why do some push to do away with the law and commandments that we now see Christ created? Have we ever wondered what is so terrible about them? What is so bad about honoring one's parents and not murdering, committing adultery, stealing, or lying that they must be done away? Is it because to justify rejecting one commandment a person must reject all?
While most Christians would not outrightly reject nine of the Ten Commandments, there is one that most do—the Sabbath.
In Mark 2:28 and Luke 6:5, Christ says, “The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” “Lord” here is from the Greek word kurios. Zodhiates defines kurios in this way: “Lord, master, owner, as the possessor, owner, master, e.g. of property.” Christ, as the Creator of the seventh-day Sabbath, is rightly claiming to be the owner of that Sabbath. Nowhere in the New Testament does He trade that day for another. A Catholic cardinal concurs:
But you may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify. (Gibbons, James Cardinal. Faith of Our Fathers. First published 1876)
Cardinal Gibbons is correct. No such scripture exists that shows the owner of the Sabbath, Christ, ever relinquished ownership over the day nor that the writers of the New Testament ever traded it for another day (nor could they, as they did not have the authority from God to do so).
Therefore, by what authority do some observe a Sunday “Sabbath”? Christ, His disciples, and the first-century Christians kept Saturday, the seventh-day Sabbath. Who authorized a Sunday “Sabbath”? Who made this change? How did it occur?
The law created by Yahweh Elohim, Jesus Christ, included a seventh-day or Saturday Sabbath. Neither Christ nor the apostles sanctioned the change to Sunday. Nearly three hundred years after them, the Church of Rome did. That church and her daughters, the Protestant churches, continue to bow to that church's authority rather than that of Jesus Christ, Yahweh Elohim.
It is interesting that many in Christianity do not know who the God of the Old Testament is, even though the Bible teaches it plainly. It is also interesting to see how that blind spot has colored their view of God's law and commandments, particularly the Sabbath. Finally, it is sobering to realize how that blind spot has led many to unwittingly accept papal authority—human authority—over the authority of the Creator God, the God of the Old Testament, Jesus Christ.
The God of the Old Testament
In Jesus' inaugural address, He is associating His work of being man's Benefactor through redemption—the freeing of man from bondage to Satan, the world, and our nature—to the beginning of the fulfillment of God's redemptive function for the Sabbath. In Luke 4:16, He was beginning to magnify the Sabbath law. At the very beginning of His mission on earth, the very first law that He begins to make clear is the Sabbath!
This should remind us of something that happened in the Exodus. What was the first law that the God of the Old Testament revealed to the children of Israel? It was the Sabbath! Does that give any indication that He is preparing to do away with it? Not in the least! In one sense, because of its position, it is the law in the Ten Commandments around which all the others revolve. Yet mankind seems to think of it as being "the least" of the Ten Commandments, but anybody who breaks it consistently is going to lose his liberty.
Until the time of Christ, the Sabbath had not really been used for the purpose that He was beginning to reveal. Christ is magnifying and re-establishing God's original intent for the Sabbath, just as He does in Matthew 5-7 for the other commandments. By identifying Himself with the Sabbath, He is actually affirming His Messiahship.
How, then, did Christ view the Sabbath? Did He actually uphold it? There are some who say that His acts on the Sabbath were intentionally provocative, designed to show that it is no longer binding. So, was He genuinely observing the Sabbath, or deliberately breaking it?
Christ did a lot of things on the Sabbath. It is very evident that, as His ministry progressed towards its end, the things that He did on the Sabbath became more and more bold, open, clear. At the beginning, He "low-keyed" what He did on the Sabbath. Being wise far beyond men, He knew that there would be an explosive reaction to Him. Luke 4 is His announcement of how He would use the Sabbath.
And then— right within the chapter on the very same Sabbath day—His announcement is followed by two healings (Luke 4:31-39) that clearly reveal God's intended use for Sabbath time.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 2)
The charge does not accuse Him of healing but of breaking Sabbath regulations. In both cases, Jesus repudiates the charge by arguing 1) that the works of salvation are contemplated by the Sabbath commandment (see Deuteronomy 5:15, where redemption is the focus of the keeping of the Sabbath), and 2) that what Jesus did—being contemplated by the Sabbath law—is equivalent to God doing the same thing. It was this that really angered the Jews because they surmised that He not only had "broken the Sabbath" but in their eyes did something far worse: blaspheming God by making Himself equal with God.
It ought to be obvious that Christ did not regard the Sabbath as a time of idleness. He certainly looked at it far differently than the Jews did. He admitted that what He was doing here could be considered as work.
But what kind of work is it? Since He equated Himself with God, what He was saying is that He was doing the work of God. That is His justification. "My Father is working until now," and He did not break the Sabbath!
It is interesting that the word "answered" in verse 17 also appears in verse 19. It is the only place in the New Testament where this particular Greek word is translated "answered." It is a particularly strong word. What it means is that Jesus was heatedly defending Himself. It is showing that He considered their accusation to be "personal," as it were, and He reacts to it very strongly.
What comes out of His mouth is, "My Father has been working till now, and He works on the Sabbath!"
Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do." (John 5:19)
Jesus is saying, "I am imitating what I have seen My Father do. Therefore, I am not breaking the Sabbath because God does this on the Sabbath!"
What we have to figure out is what kind of work does God do on the Sabbath? This is important to understanding the principle of the kind of work that is permitted on the Sabbath. What does God do that Jesus is copying?
God shows that He rested from His work. The kind of work that God is doing on the Sabbath does not involve the work of physically creating something. So we can eliminate that right away. Notice John 1:1-3:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made [past tense] through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
John is referring to the physical Creation. Those works were finished, as it were, from the foundation of the world. Jesus is not referring here to the work of earning a living. The work that God is involved in is something else entirely!
God does His work ceaselessly and effortlessly. Jesus is telling us what kind of work it is: the work of redeeming. It is the work of salvation. It is the work of healing people, particularly their minds.
In John 5:31-36, Jesus Christ says, in essence, "What I am doing proves that I am the Messiah." At that time, He had just healed someone, redeemed him from bondage to an illness, from uselessness. He just gave to him the liberty to have hope. He just delivered someone out of his discouragement. That kind of work is the work of salvation. God "is working salvation" (Psalm 74:12).
Also consider John 6:29: "Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.'" God is working to produce in us faith in Jesus Christ because salvation is by grace through faith. Faith is the foundation from which everything in God's purpose grows. God is working to get us saved. He is able to do it, but we have a part in this salvation in that we have to make choices. The basis of our choices is whether or not we believe in Jesus Christ. If we believe Him, then we will make the right choices. It is essential, then, that our faith be increased.
So, the purpose of the manifestation of the works of God in Christ is to produce faith. If one has faith in God, then what will he do? He will apply God's Word, and that produces liberty in himself and in others. We can now begin to see the part that the Sabbath plays in this. It is essential to increasing our faith.
The work that God is doing is not the work of a physical creation but the work of a spiritual creation. He is creating sons in His image. Christ is Redeemer, Deliverer, Savior—and that is His work! What does He spend His time doing? He spends His time healing, forgiving sin, teaching the way of God, and doing good. That is His part in the work of God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 3)
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