Sabbath Rest #5 - Jesus' Take on the Sabbath

We now arrive at Christ’s life, death, and resurrection on earth, which of course is a game-changer for Christians with a New Covenant of Salvation through faith in His atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Looking at Jesus’ perspective on the Sabbath and how he observed it is therefore important to see if it was changed from then onwards.

The key issue will be whether the original Saturday Sabbath is still applicable afterwards, whether it changed to a Sunday, or whether it was fulfilled and no longer relevant.

Did Jesus Break the Sabbath

There are many recorded incidents of Jesus doing things like healing and teaching on the Sabbath and, therefore, allegedly breaking the Sabbath law (He did most of His seven documented healings in the Gospels on the Sabbath):

“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.” - Luke 4:16

“And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught... And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.” – Mark 1: 21 & 29-31

“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.” - John 5:18

Jesus was also accused of letting His disciples break the Sabbath by picking and eating wheat, which Jesus could have stopped.

"And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn." - Mark 3:23 

In addition, Jesus began His official ministry on the Sabbath in the synagogue, declaring the Spirit of the Lord upon Him to preach the gospel and the good year (and therefore, some interpret this as fulfilling and removing the Sabbath):

“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. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” – Luke 4:14-19

However, these Sabbath-breaking issues concerned human-made laws that groups like the Pharisees and Sadducees introduced towards the end of the Old Testament.

They added more detailed restrictions to God's original meaning in both the Moral Law with the Ten Commandments and temporary Ceremonial laws for the Jews until Christ’s death.

Therefore, he identified how the Sabbath was being incorrectly kept; not that it shouldn’t be observed in its prescribed way by God.

He comes out with controversial statements that at first appear to reject the Sabbath, when in fact, he’s emphasising how these additional Jewish laws had now stifled it (there is a good video here that explains this difference):

“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.” – Matthew 12:5-6

The alternative position against the Sabbath being applicable today refers to these instances of Jesus breaking the Sabbath, and by the fact that He is the Lord of the Sabbath, he can decide to do this if He wants to.

“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.” – John 5:18 

However, Sabbath-keeping was still an applicable law under the Old Covenant until His death, which meant he would have sinned by breaking this, even though He is the Lord of it, and therefore, not be the perfect sacrifice.

Jesus also permitted things like circumcision if it fell on the Sabbath day (due every eight days), which He clearly states as not breaking the Sabbath:

“ 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?” - John 7:23.

To show this on the Sabbath Camper display, there's a 'Jewish Restrictions' sign towards the end of the top Old Testament road. 

This identifies how the additional man-made rules in the Jewish culture restricted the original meaning, which Christ challenged.

jewish retsrictions sabbath rest sharedfish 

Christ’s Death & Resurrection

What happened at Christ’s death and resurrection at that first Easter is fundamental to seeing if the Sabbath rest is still applicable for Christian believers afterwards.

I've identified this on the Sabbath Camper display by a 'U-turn in the road at the end of the top stretch of road symbols for His death, resurrection, and time in the tomb.

Let’s look at each of the three days:

1. Good Friday

He died on the sixth day of the week, just before the original Sabbath began on that Good Friday evening.

As part of the Jewish culture, everyone made sure He was dead and buried before the start of the Sabbath day later that Good Friday when no such 'works' were to be completed.

“And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid” - Luke 23:54

The following verse is particularly interesting:

“And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment." - Luke 23:56

This is written by Luke, a non-Jewish gentile, who points out that Sabbath observance was due to the ‘commandment’, not just culture or tradition.

Yet if the commandment was to change under a New Covenant, Christ could have risen straight away after His atoning death just before or on the actual Sabbath day if there was no more such Old Covenant commandment to follow.

However, Christ had not raised this subject in the previous three years of ministry with the disciples or at the last supper a week earlier, claiming that things would change afterwards.

On the Sabbath Camper display, I've used an obvious cross to symbolise Christ's death on this Good Friday.

christ cross sabbath rest sharedfish 

2. Easter Saturday

Secondly, he remained dead in the grave for the whole seventh-day Sabbath rest until the early hours of Sunday morning.

"Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them." - Luke 24:1

That appears pretty plain to see that even Jesus Himself complied with the Sabbath rest AFTER His death. Because the power is in His death on the Good Friday, He surely could have come back to life earlier on the Sabbath day to show everyone that it was no longer applicable if that was the case.

On the Sabbath Camper display, I've added a grey-coloured tunnel and a symbol of the tomb where His body was laid, enabling the camper to travel through and 'park' on this particular Sabbath day,

grave back sabbath rest sharedfish

3. Easter Sunday

Thirdly, he rose back to life on Sunday, the first day of the following week.

Therefore, any celebration of this day is that – a celebration of His resurrection, with no scriptural reference to this becoming a new Sabbath, or 'Lord’s day', or even an 'eighth-day' of some new everlasting Sabbath-rest period.

“The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.”- John 20:1

On the Sabbath camper display, this is where the camper reappears from the tomb on Easter Saturday and a fork in the road.

It can continue travelling along the grey Saturday Sabbath road or a new brown Sunday track at the very bottom - both then heading to the end of time and new heaven and earth,

grave front sabbath rest sharedfish

Jesus’ Commandments

If we look at what Christ specifically commanded His disciples and followers, this boils down to loving God first and then others, which He describes as the greatest ones:

“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” – Matthew 22:36-39

These do refer back to two Old Covenant commandments:

“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” – Deuteronomy 6:5

“Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.” – Leviticus 10:18

Also, He states afterwards that these summarise the broader law and commandments which they ‘hang’ off:

“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” – Matthew 22:36-39

Christ also clearly says in Scripture that both His disciples and future believers need to follow His commandments out of love and right-standing in Him:

“If ye love me, keep my commandments.” – John 14:15

Christianity over the centuries has always understood that these greatest commandments of Christ are essentially God’s core Moral law contained in the Ten Commandments. This includes old Reformers like Luther, Calvin, and Wesley and is confirmed in statements like the Westminster Confession of Faith.

There is a post here called the Salvation Sandwich, which goes into more detail about applying God’s commandments and laws for Christians under the New Covenant.

I've noted this on the Sabbath Camper display and Christ's reference on earth to follow His commandments based on the core Moral law in the Ten Commandments. This is from another tablet of commandments during Christ's earthly life, just before the cross.

christ commandments sabbath rest sharedfish

Modern doctrines such as Covenant and New Covenant TheologyDispensationalism, and Antinomianism assume a new ‘Law of Christ’ that takes over from the old Mosaic Law. Within these, only specific elements of the Moral Law and Ten Commandments recorded in Scripture as being re-iterated by Christ are assumed to continue under Christ’s law.

Therefore, the alternative stance on the Sabbath nowadays accepts this modern 'Law of Christ' and interpretation of God’s laws and commandments, and assumes that the fourth of the Ten Commandments is no longer applicable.

This is based on this not being explicitly mentioned again by Christ in the New Testament like the other nine. Plus, the assumption that it was only a sign for the Israelites under the Mosaic Law, just like a rainbow was for Noah and circumcision for Abraham.

However, I understand this Sabbath commandment on the seventh day of the week as still continuing through Christ on the following basis:

1. Inclusion in the Top Ten

In addition to being a seal under the Mosaic Law, it still makes God’s top ten Moral Laws that Christians over the centuries have accepted as applying to us now, as mentioned above.

2. Special Emphasis

The Sabbath commandment is ironically the only one of the Ten Commandments with 'remember' in it, yet the one people say is no longer applicable.

3. Which Ones Repeated

Whilst the alternative position claims that Jesus reiterates the other nine commandments in the New Testament, this is not necessarily true.

Jesus did most of His recorded healings on the Sabbath and observed it Himself (although still under the Old Covenant before His death).

4. Silence Isn’t Riddance

Although there is no specific ‘new’ or repeated commandment to keep the Sabbath by Christ, this does not mean that it has disappeared or been removed from God’s top ten.

Also, as mentioned earlier, Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath.

5. Fulfilling the Law

Christ specifically says He came to fulfil this law, not destroy or do away with it like the ordinances.

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” – Matthew 5:17-18

6. Warning Against Breaking

Christ goes even further and says that no one should break such commandments or teach others to do so:

“Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:19

7. All Ten Protected

What confirmed to me the applicability of the Sabbath commandment and the other nine was that all Ten Commandments were written by God’s finger and then placed inside the Ark of the Covenant; the scrolls of ordinances were only placed outside.

"And I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables which thou brakest, and thou shalt put them in the ark." - Deuteronomy 10:2

"Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee." - Deuteronomy 31:26

These are a copy of the real ones in heaven with His testaments:

“And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.” – Revelation 11:19

8. Basis of Judgement

These core commandments and characteristics of God are actually what we’ll be judged upon.

Grace saves us, but the fruit and works of the Spirit will then evidence this salvation through good works:

“For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;” – Romans 2:12

9. All are Instinctive

The other nine commandments are instinctive moral ones that all humans will discern by conscience, regardless of religion or belief. They affect decent behaviour between other humans and are not questioned.

Although the fourth one on the Sabbath does need an initial instruction from God, such a rest is required instinctively by humans as a time of reflective focus on our creator.

All non-human animals without that spiritual connection with God are happy to continue in a never-ending cycle of eating and sleeping every day of the week. However, as humans made in God’s image, we were made for more than a carnal daily routine, which has been reflected in a weekend rest nowadays.

The Sabbath makes these unique and applicable to the Christian God;  otherwise, they would be the same as any other religion or belief.

10. Future Sabbaths

Jesus did specifically refer to the Sabbath in the future after His Resurrection when telling believers to flee Jerusalem when it was destroyed around thirty-five years later in 70 AD:

“But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:” - Matthew 24:20

Although some say this was meant to highlight that a Sabbath day observance will inconvenience such travel in the Jewish culture, Christ acknowledges life around a Sabbath day in the future.

11. Specific Removal

There are certain ‘new’ practices that Christ commands New Covenant believers, including communion with bread and wine to remember His death.

“And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.” - 1 Corinthians 11:24-16

Also, baptism which symbolizes the death of our old selves with Christ and the start of a new life with Him when we become Christians:

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so, we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” - Romans 6:1-6

However, if the Sabbath was no longer part of Christ’s commandments, and there was a new Sunday observance to follow, then surely Christ would have made this clearer with a similar instruction.

12. Personal Discernment

On a personal note, my conscience does not sit right with the idea of assuming that this is no longer applicable.

For example, when I've been involved with kids groups at church on a Sunday, children have sometimes asked why Christians don’t observe Saturday instead of Sunday, for example, when looking at the story of Moses on Mount Sinai and the Ten Commandments. I simply can’t say, hands on my heart, that this change is okay and assume that one of God's Ten Commandments is no longer applicable.

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