God Required Man to Observe
The Old Testament records that Jehovah God issued laws and commandments for man to obey, one of which was the observation of the Sabbath day. The fourth commandment says, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shall you labor, and do all your work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD your God: in it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: why the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11). Jehovah God set the seventh day of His creation as the Sabbath day. On this day, the Israelites had to stop all their work to worship God, make sacrifices to Him and praise Him with the psaltery and harp. They couldn’t go out causally or do any work on the Sabbath. If the people didn’t observe the Sabbath, they would be stoned to death; if priests didn’t observe the Sabbath, they would be burned by heavenly fire Jehovah God sent down. From these, we can see that the observation of the Sabbath should be strictly kept.
The Worked on the Sabbath
We know Jehovah God required man to observe the Sabbath; on the contrary, in the record of the Four Gospels in the New Testament, we see the Lord Jesus didn’t keep the Sabbath when He came to do work. For example, Matthew 12:1 records: “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.” Luke 14:1-5 also records: “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 spoke to 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?” From these two verses, it can be seen that when the Lord Jesus came to work He didn’t keep the Sabbath. On the Sabbath day, He healed patients; in leading His disciples through the corn, He didn’t rebuke them for plucking the ears of corn to eat. Here we know, the Lord Jesus opened up a new way for the Israelites who lived under the law.
Why Did the Lord Jesus Work on the Sabbath? What Was His Will?
The Lord Jesus said, “For is Lord even of the sabbath day” (Matthew 12:8). His working on the Sabbath was to let people know that God is Lord of the Sabbath day, and that all is up to God. He can work in the temple and also outside; He can issue the law and also abandon it; He can use the prophets to convey His words, and can also become flesh as the Son of man to redeem mankind in person; He can begin to work in Israel, and then spread the of His redemption to the very ends of the universe. … With God there are no rules or prohibitions. He does His work flexibly; He does whatever He wants to do.
The Lord Jesus’ working on the Sabbath was to have people know that He brought new work, and to lead them out of the bonds and constraints of the law. Then they would no longer abide by the decrees and rules, nor would they go to the temple to worship God. Instead, they could worship Him in spirit and truthfulness at any time and place and enjoy the abundance of grace the Lord Jesus bestowed. From His words and work, we know that God’s way is not dead but alive; His way does not remain unchanging. God is an ever-new and never-old God, so He always does new work. The Lord Jesus is filled with power and authority. His work is unconstrained by any person, matter, or thing, and cannot be obstructed by any hostile force. Regardless of how the Roman government and the whole Judaism persecuted, condemned and disturbed His work, His redeeming gospel is still spread to all the countries in the world. Now how do you interpret this verse, “For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” (Matthew 12:8)?
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