The Commandment to cease all labor on the Sabbath was not a commandment to heal, to starve, or even to fast. I lived among people to whom the Sabbath (Sunday) was very important; and therefore, no work, or any kind of pleasure was allowed. I was twelve when I joined some friends at pond for a swim on a Sunday. I fell into a hole and could not get out. I panicked and heard a voice yelling at me that I was lost for committing a mortal sin. I was saved by a hostile stranger. I had a similar experience at the age of twenty-one, when I survived a fatal fire. I was haunted by the same guilt; however, studying Jesus’ teachings, I was able to put away that guilt feeling. Now, that was the kind of life for every Jew, who was under such jurisdiction. Therefore, all the Jews were forced to keep the Sabbath, even when they were in a life-threatening situation. Just to pick a handful of grain, induced by severe hunger, resulted in fierce punishment. Jesus came to change that senseless guilt imposed on man by the Jewish elders. To teach a lesson on being hungry on a Sabbath, Jesus took his disciples to a grainfield, and they deliberately violated the Jewish merit system.
The Sabbath Was To Serve Man, And Not That Man Serve The Sabbath
One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was hight priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” And he said to them, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath; so the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath” (Mark 2:15-28).
Luke in his Gospel followed Mark, but he omitted, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath” (Luke 6:1-5). The evangelist Matthew also followed Mark, and like Luke, he left out the statement: “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” However, Matthew added some more pertinent details. Hunger made the disciples eat, very much like David did. Then, Matthew added some things about the priests, who abused the Sabbath, and how important Jesus’ work was in restoring the proper use of the Sabbath Law:
Or have you not read in the law how on the sabbath the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater that the temple is here. And if you had known what it means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is the lord of the sabbath’ (Matthew 12:5-8).
The Instituting Of The Sabbath Was To Avoid Human Bondage
Israel was in bondage in Egypt, and Moses was chosen to lead the Hebrews to freedom. To avoid the Israelites from becoming like the Egyptian taskmasters, God gave Moses this specific Commandment so that the Israelites could celebrate their freedom. The Sabbath was a day to remember what God had done for them. It was a day of rejoicing and not of fasting and mourning. However, during Israel’s stay in the wilderness, the people were not allowed to gather quails on the seventh day; and those who did, could not eat the quails because they spoiled, rapidly (Exodus 16). Hence, it was regarded as sinful, and therefore it was a violation of the Sabbath to gather or even to pluck ears of grain and eat without washing hands and utensils (Mark 7:3-4). The washing of the hands, before meals, was a later addition by the elders. Hunger drove David to the priest. And David lied when he begged for bread. This was before David had enlisted an army of six hundred men and before he could take anything by force he needed or wanted. Nabal refused to help David and his wife Abigail averted David’s anger to avenge (I Samuel 25).
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all the work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or our daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15).
Then came David to Nob to Ahimelech the priest; and Ahimelech came to meet David trembling, and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one with you?” And David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has charged me with a matter, and said to me, ‘Let no one know anything of the matter about which I send you, and with which I have charged you.’ I have made an appointment with the young men for such and such a place. Now then, what have you a hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here.” And the priest answered David, “I have no common bread at hand, but there is holy bread; if only the young men have kept themselves from women.” And David answered the priest, “Of a truth women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition; the vessels of the young men are holy, even when it is a common journey; how much more today will their vessels be holy?” So the priest gave him the holy bread; for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the LORD, to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away (I Samuel 21:1-6).
And David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! Blessed be you discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from avenging myself wit my own hand! For as surely as the LORD the God of Israel lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had made haste and come to meet me, truly by morning there had not been left to Nabl so much as one male.” Then David received from her hand what she had brought him; and he said to her, “Go up in peace to your house; see, I have hearkened to your voice, and I have granted your petition” (I Samuel 25:32-35).
The Sabbath Set Aside One Day Of The Week For The Laborer To Attend To His/Her Own Needs, Without Anyone Looking Over His/Her Shoulder
The Sabbath is not a merit system, but a Law, which protects the weak and the disadvantaged from those, who force their will on others for their convenience and their profits. In fact, what Jesus said regarding the use of the Sabbath, applies to all of God’s Laws and God’s Commandments. Using God to favor some one over others was not intended by the Creator; and neither were costly and the heavy sacrifices intended to earn merits with God. All of God’s Laws and Commandments keeps man from doing harm and from becoming evil. The Holy Spirit helped Matthew remember that Jesus also said: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” God was and God is not in charge over the Sabbath, man is! Jesus the Christ and the Son of man was not the LORD over the Sabbath! But, like any other man, lording and managing the Sabbath for doing good to himself and to others. Jesus was the Son of God! But in the world and among man, Jesus laid aside “His divine attributes” and He became “the Son of man.” Jesus demonstrated, as a human being, that He could fulfill the Law to the letter (Matthew 5:17-20). Jesus, too, was filled with the Holy Spirit to do good and to heal on the Sabbath (Luke 4:1, 18-19). Jesus insisted that a human being had at least as much right as an ox, and to deny help to a sick person on the Sabbath was Satanic (Luke 13:15-16). The Holy Spirit impressed Paul with this disclosure regarding Jesus:
“Have this mind among yourselves which you have in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on the cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).
Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And there was a woman who had had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years; she was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. And when Jesus saw her, he called her and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from you infirmity.” And he laid his hands upon her, and immediately she was made straight, and she praised God. But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days on which work ought to be done come on those days and be healed, and not on the sabbath day.” Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger, and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?” As he said this, all his adversaries were put to shame; and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him (Luke 13:10-17).
Again Jesus entered the synagogue, and a man was these who had a withered hand. And they watched him, to see whether he would heal him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had he withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out, and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him (Mark 3:1-6).
HOW DID JESUS IMPACT THE HEARTLESS JEWISH LEADERS?
Jesus did not make the slightest dent. One of the Jewish leader’s income sources was to penalize the Sabbath incidents. It was God’s gift to them! And for Jesus to claim that He could use the Sabbath as He pleased was a direct claim to be like God. As their Jewish experts understood it, Jesus was breaking the Laws of God. There was no one in Galilee, who understood and applied the Law as the Pharisees and as the Sadducees did (John 7:52). Unfortunately, the Jewish leaders, no longer, had any political authority; and therefore, they could not kill any people who were born while Rome ruled Palestine. Jesus, too, was under the Roman protection, and He had to be turned into an “agitator of Rome” and a “rival to Caesar.” So, the Pharisees joined forces with the Herodians and they tried to indict Jesus by not paying taxes to Caesar (Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26). But, it was Jesus, who indicted the leaders with “The Parable of the Vineyard and the Tenants” ( Mark 12:1-9; Luke 20:9-16; Matthew 21:33-40). We follow Mark’s version. Judea was the vineyard God had planted and it shall be handed over to the Romans. Israel had lost her partnership with God.
And Jesus began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a pit for the wine press, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed; and so with many others, some they beat and some they killed. He had sill one other, a beloved son; finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants, and give the vineyard to others (Mark 12:1-9).