This article attempts to make an in-depth analysis of the statement made by Jesus Christ in Mathew 12, 8, “8For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
In the contemporary Christian world, there are a lot of misunderstanding among Born-Again believers, especially among the ones who belong to denominations that originated in North America (including their off-shoots in Asia and Africa) about the true nature and purpose of the Fourth Commandment. And because of this misunderstanding, majority of them are unable to observe the LORD’s Holy day in its true spirit.
In Mathew 12, 1-8, Jesus Christ, very categorically declares that “He is the LORD of the Sabbath.” So, my question is – why it is so difficult for the mainstream American Christianity to accept Jesus Christ as the LORD of the Sabbath?”
I believe the root cause lies in the mis-understanding prevailing among the pastors and preachers of the mainstream American Protestant Christianity. Though, there are innumerable reasons for this incomprehension, in this article, I intend to examine only a couple of them that are more ubiquitous than the rest.
And also, I would like to encourage the shepherds in the Kingdom of God to examine the scriptures impartially, without any preconceived notions, so that, this misunderstanding can be eliminated from the minds of the believers.
The Word – SABBATH
The word “Sabbath” (originated from the Hebrew word “Chabad”) is a Hebrew word and in simple English it means “rest” and the Phrase “Holy Sabbath” means a Holy Rest.
If we examine this word candidly, we could find that there is no legalism attached to it. It’s just a simple word in Hebrew which is same as “rest” in English. This word, we find first being used in Genesis Chapter two. However, for contemporary Christians, this word represents all the legalism and ceremonies of the Jewish Faith.
So, if someone tries to mention this word to a born-again Christian, he would close his ears straight away. He does not want to hear this word or anything associated with this word. He thinks that, it exclusively belongs to Jews; and Christians have nothing to do with it.
So why Christians dislike the word “Sabbath” and being so intolerable towards it?
It’s because, they have been taught that, the Holy Sabbath is part of Jewish laws and having anything to do with it will carry them away from the salvation that comes through faith and grace. But in reality, this word has nothing to do with the Jewish, man-made legalism and traditions.
This word is mainly associated with the Fourth Commandment and most of the time it is mentioned only in contexts related to this Commandment. Nevertheless, this fact is not brought before the sheep, so, it causes a lot of misunderstanding among majority of the believers who don’t personally study the scripture.
A layman does not understand what this word represents and whom it represents, and what is worse – this ignorance has led to a great deal of intolerance and hostility towards those who teach the importance of keeping the Fourth Commandment.
Believers have become so intolerant that, as soon as they hear the word “Sabbath” accuse those teachers as being legalistic and trying to take Christians back to the yoke of Old Testament Laws.
Well, who is responsible for this hostility? The sheep or the shepherds? To tell you the truth, the contemporary Preachers and Teachers are solely responsible for this mentality among Christians. These preachers and Teachers have already done a great deal of damage to God’s Commandments and it seems like they are still very determined to make sure that this damage is not undone. Anyway, their success is temporary, because, JESUS NEVER FAILS.
Since, the word “Sabbath” has been used in the Bible many times, I too love to use it here as often as necessary and I hope you won’t get annoyed when you come across this word frequently.
1At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”3He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests.
5Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? 6I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ a you would not have condemned the innocent. 8For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Mathew 12, 1-8)
These verses depict a scene in which JESUS is having a very heated argument with the Pharisees regarding the things that are lawful and unlawful to do on the Sabbath. But I do not wish to focus on those issues for now.
What I want to discuss here is – JESUS’ authoritative statement that ” Son of Man is the LORD of the Sabbath”. Before I start the discussion let me take you through a few of the similar statements that JESUS had made through the Old Testament Prophets which are given below:
12 And Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying, 13 Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily ye shall keep my sabbaths: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am Jehovah who sanctifieth you. (Exodus 31, 12-13)
13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: ( Isiah 58, 13)
Well, as you have seen, In Matthew 12, JESUS declares that ” He is the LORD of the Sabbath”. If someone is the LORD of something it means, that particular thing belongs to him, he is in control of it or he is the most authoritative person over that. In that sense, we can infer that JESUS’ statement means:
The Sabbath belongs to HIM exclusively and He is the final authority; in a layman’s language – He owns it or He is the one who established it in Genesis 2:
1Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. 2By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so, on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2, 1-3)
And the statement in Matthew 12 is similar to the statements that we have seen above in the Old Testament Scriptures. For the convenience of comparing, I have given below those key statements again:
Verily ye shall keep my sabbaths (Exodus 31)
from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; (Isiah 58)
and profaned my sabbaths (Ezekiel 20)
These statements tell us that The LORD unequivocally treats the Sabbath as HIS own; that is why He is calling it “My Sabbaths”. We see the same expression being used by JESUS even in Mathew 12.
For the Son of man is lord of the sabbath (Matthew 12, 8) which means – The Sabbath is Mine.
So, the Sabbath in HIS eyes has a very distinct status that is eternal in nature. That status does not change with the change in time or covenant. He speaks about it with the same importance both in the Old Testament and New Testament.
Besides, from the above comparison, it’s clear that, the statement we see in Matthew 12 is just the repetition of what He had been declaring to the Israelites through His prophets. From this we can very well conclude that, at the time of creation HE established the Seventh Day of the week as a day HOLY to HIM. And later, on Mount Sinai He writes it on the stone tablets, with His own fingers, as a Commandment that is to be kept by HIS children forever and He confirms that in person with His own mouth in Mathew 12.
Another point is: If this commandment was only for the Israelites and only for the Old Covenant period; Jesus would not have declared that “He is the LORD of the Sabbath”.
My question is – Why should He declare Himself as the LORD of something that He is planning to abolish in a couple of months or a year?
See, HE is in the world to establish a new covenant with HIS own BLOOD, which will supersede the old covenant. Hence, He could very well tell the Pharisees:
” Hey look! This sabbath is irrelevant, I am going to abolish it and there is no need to keep it anymore; it was given only for the Old covenant Period”.
But, instead, JESUS tells them very plainly that ” He is the LORD of the Sabbath and teaches them the true nature of HIS Sabbath.
In fact, Jesus is already in the process of establishing the new covenant; it’s only several months or an year away (If my guess about the time is correct) but still HE is repeating what HE had been telling through HIS prophets that “The Sabbath is My Holy Day”
This is a very clear evidence that The LORD did not have any plan to abolish it. While He walked up on this planet Earth; HE kept the Sabbath faithfully without breaking it and HE declares to the world that ” IT BELONGS TO HIM”. What a great revelation.
Saints, one thing that we should always keep in mind is: God Never Changes and HIS word Never Changes.
Heaven and Earth will pass away but HIS WORD will not pass away. These following verses confirm this.
17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail (Luke 16, 17)
8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. (Isiah 40, 8)
25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you. (1 Peter, 1, 25)
Again, I would like to discuss a little bit about the reasons for the legalism behind the Sabbath and the rigidity of Pharisees regarding its observance.
The Ten commandments were given to Israelites around 1600 years prior to the birth of Christ. Though the fourth commandment was just straightforward, easy to understand and easy to observe, the Jews gradually added a lot of their own rules and regulations to it.
The reason for this was: The Israelites in many occasions, as a nation abandoned the Sabbath observance and this brought very severe punishment up on them in different times throughout the history. The details of this can be found in the books of prophets like Nehemiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
So, this experience of disobedience and punishment made the Israelites very fearful of breaking the Sabbath and in order to avoid even a slight chance of its desecration, they added rigid rules and regulations as a hedge around the original Sabbath Commandment.
Eventually, those man-made rules and regulations made the 4th Commandment a real burden for the people. Instead of being the source God’s of blessings, it became an obstacle to enjoying God’s blessings. And Jesus lived under this rigid environment and experienced it.
Therefore, He decided to cleanse the 4th Commandment of all man-made laws and regulations and taught the people to observe it in its true spirit. Besides, He also showed the people through His own deeds, the true nature, purpose and spirit of the real Sabbath. Thus, The LORD liberated the Sabbath from the clutches of those Task Masters of Israel.
Therefore, please understand – Jesus did not abolish the Sabbath, instead He kept it faithfully in it’s true, intended spirit and He declared to the world that it belongs to HIM.
If you think JESUS is your LORD and MASTER and you are HIS disciple – you have the obligation to keep the Sabbath Holy as He instructed in the Scriptures. Of course, this is going to be a challenge for you within the framework of your own denomination. But the Word of God says to obey is better than sacrifice.
22But Samuel replied:
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.23For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” (1 Samuel,15, 22-23)
21“ ‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! 22For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, 23but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. (Jeremiah 7, 21-23)