Jesus, the Son of Man, Is Lord of the Sabbath!
Dear heavenly Father, as I enter into Your presence this day for worship, may I secure from Your gracious hands the rest that I seek for my soul. I need Your forgiveness; I need Your strength; I need Your presence; I need Your guidance as I seek to follow You each day and live my life with faithfulness. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Paul urges his readers not to allow anyone to judge them in connection with Old Testament laws, for they were “a shadow of things to come” and found their fulfillment in Christ. Man by nature assumes that salvation is gained by works in our day as well, but it is not, for salvation is gained by faith in Jesus Christ!
Truth and freedom are not found in man’s opinions or works, but rather in the grace and forgiveness of God revealed through the words of Jesus Christ. Let us listen to those words and abide in the truths they reveal!
Text: Mark 2:23-3:5
Now it happened that He (Jesus) went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; and as they went His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to Him, “Look, why do they do what is now lawful on the Sabbath?” But He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him: how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the showbread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?” And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”
And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.” Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.
In Christ Jesus,the Fulfiller of the law and Dispenser of His Father’s grace, dear fellow redeemed:
Jesus’ ministry was conducted often in the midst of great controversy. Jesus was not a “go-along-to-get-along” type of guy, as many people would like to think of Him today! The reason was because Jesus was not just another guy, another preacher, another religious leader, or even another prophet sent by God. He was and is, as He claimed to the Pharisees in this text, the “Son of Man.” This is a direct reference to a Messianic prophecy found in the Old Testament book of Daniel. Daniel wrote: “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14). Jesus was, in other words, the Savior sent by God the Father into this world, as promised to deliver us from sin and its consequence death and from Satan and his ultimate end hell!
Jesus, however, makes an additional claim in our text, which is so very fascinating as well as enlightening. He claimed that “the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” The name “Son of Man” certainly emphasizes Jesus’ humanity, but the claim to be as well the “Lord of the Sabbath” demands recognition of His divinity. The implications of that claim not only for Jesus, but also for each of us as Jesus explains the true nature of the Sabbath are tremendous. Let us, therefore, consider the fact that JESUS, THE SON OF MAN, IS LORD OF THE SABBATH! As we shall see, first of all, He made the Sabbath to be a blessing for us! Then we shall see, secondly, that He wants us to bring a Sabbath blessing to others!
Indeed, JESUS, THE SON OF MAN as LORD OF THE SABBATH made the Sabbath to be a blessing for us! Before considering that thought, it would be wise to review the background of the Sabbath concept, for we are quite frankly most familiar with the concept of Sabbath as part of God’s law requirement in the form of the Third Commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8).
In the Genesis account of creation we read, “On the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:2-3). While the word “Sabbath” does not appear in our English translations, it does appear in its verbal form in the original Hebrew, for our English word “rest” is in Hebrew “shabbat.” On the seventh day of creation God “rested.” He ceased from His work and simply observed, enjoyed, and took great delight in His absolutely perfect created universe.
Sadly God’s creation was stripped of its perfection, including the perfection of the image of God into which we human beings were created, when Satan rebelled against Him and seduced our first parents to join in that rebellion. God’s day of rest, which had been intended both for Himself and for us to be a day of joyous reflection upon the beauty and magnificence of creation—a day of thankfulness and praise—now became a necessity for mankind because of the exhaustion that we encounter due to the burdens sin has placed upon us. Moses told the children of Israel in the wilderness as he outlined God’s instructions regarding manna, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning’” (Ex. 16:23). Sadly, even when it came to enjoying the physical rest God offered His people on the Sabbath, they did not all listen. Some of them went out to do the work of gathering manna the next day and found none (cf. Ex. 16:27). It was in view of mankind’s sin that God in His Ten Commandments tied the Sabbath day to the blessing of His promised salvation. God told Moses to tell the people after giving them the Third Commandment, “Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you” (Ex. 31:13).
The Old Testament Sabbath, therefore, became a “sign” or picture of our salvation. We need to be sanctified—made holy—in order to stand before our holy God. We cannot and do not sanctify ourselves through our own good works. The apostle Paul clearly informs us that cannot be done when he tells us: “By the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). It is God alone who sanctifies us! He has done it through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, for as the apostle John assures us: “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7). God’s Old Testament Sabbath restrictions on work, therefore, had nothing to do with the morality or immorality of working on a particular day, but that restriction on work was a weekly reminder that we are not saved by our works, but rather by the grace of God. The Sabbath day was to be a constant reminder that our salvation is a gift to be received with joy, thanksgiving, and praise to God.
This truth had been lost by Jesus’ day. The Pharisees had replaced God’s plan of salvation by grace through faith in the Promised Savior with a system of work righteousness. They established over 1,400 man-made laws defining the meaning of “work,” and thereby limited what could or could not be done on the Sabbath. That is why the Pharisees in our text complained to Jesus about His hungry disciples plucking the heads of grain and eating them on the Sabbath. They defined such an action as falling under the work of harvesting and so forbidden!
In response Jesus reminded the Pharisees of an incident in the life of David. At one point when David was fleeing from Saul, he stopped with his weary companions at the LORD’s tabernacle in search of nourishment. Abiathar, the High Priest at that time, had nothing to offer David and his companions other than the showbread—that bread dedicated to God and reserved by Mosaic law for the priests alone. Abiathar, however, out of love for these weary and hungry men gave them that bread. Neither Abiathar, David, or his men in that case were condemned by God, for as Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” The Old Testament Sabbath, as also our New Testament Sabbaths are not a list of do’s and don’ts intended to restrict our activities on one day of each week. Rather, our Sabbath—our day of worship and thanksgiving is to remind us of the rest we have as we place our faith in Jesus. It is the spiritual rest to which Jesus refers when He invites us: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Mt. 11:28-30). JESUS, THE SON OF MAN, IS LORD OF THE SABBATH! He made the Sabbath to be a blessing for us!
Secondly, He wants us to bring a Sabbath blessing to others! In the second portion of our text, Jesus and His disciples enter a synagogue—a Jewish church and were confronted by a man with a withered hand. There were also Pharisees present, whom we are told were watching Jesus carefully to see whether He would heal the man on the Sabbath. One of the over 1,400 man-made Sabbath laws that I mentioned earlier was a restriction on physicians. They could not practice the art of healing unless someone’s life was at stake. Clearly, a withered hand would not fall under this exception. They hoped to accuse Him of breaking their laws.
Jesus, who came to fulfill the law of God perfectly on our behalf, could not but respond in love to this man’s need. He urged him to “step forward.” He then asked the Pharisees, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” They remained silent for they had no answer. Clearly their man-made laws contradicted the essence of all of God’s laws, which is love. We are told that when Jesus looked around at them, He became “angry” and was so very “grieved by the hardness of their hearts.” He, therefore, simply told the man without even touching him to stretch out his hand, and the man was immediately healed.
My dear friends, God’s will for us is that we too love. He wants us to bring a Sabbath blessing to others! We live in a selfish and unsettled world—a world filled with turmoil, pain, and suffering. People are physically weary, often living at their wit’s ends, worried about family and friends, their finances and their futures. They need rest—a rest for their bodies, but even more so a rest for their souls. That rest ultimately can and only will be found in Jesus. Can we be the lips and the hands that lead people to Jesus? Can we bring them that rest?
The apostle Paul encourages us: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:29-32). Yes, Paul says, we are to “speak the truth in love, (so that everyone we speak to) may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Eph. 4:15). The apostle James suggests: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (Jam. 1:27). And the apostle John reminds us: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in Him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn. 3:16-18).
Truly, JESUS, THE SON OF MAN, IS LORD OF THE SABBATH! He made the Sabbath to be a blessing for us! He wants us to bring a Sabbath blessing to others! May His will ever be done among us! Amen.