Editor’s note: the following was edited with permission to fit the format of Land and was originally published on the author’s Facebook page. Visit her website to find out more about how Amanda is sharing the Good News.
It’s no coincidence that Jesus performed miracles many times on the Sabbath day (Jn 5:16).
The day of rest, or the Sabbath, was instituted even prior to the Law (Ex 23:12), during which all God’s people (also animals!) ceased from their daily labor and weren’t permitted to work.
The Jewish leaders (usually the Pharisees), who zealously attempted to follow the Law at the expense of the people, were furious when Jesus healed on the Sabbath.
Do you remember the woman who had been bent over for eighteen years (Lk 13:11-14)?
To those leaders, healing a person on the Sabbath was considered work and working on the Sabbath broke the Law.
Boy, were they confused (because being law-focused will cause you to be spiritually blind – Mt 15:14). Jesus corrected them, saying that the Sabbath was never meant for man to serve, but instead the Sabbath serves man (Mk 2:27).
In New Testament language, the Sabbath exists so that man can rest from all his effort to please God and earn miracles by his good behavior.
For example, if a cook has a top-of-the-line kitchen, but never uses it to serve food that satisfies people’s hunger, then what good is it to have a kitchen?
The Sabbath under the Law was in a sense the “kitchen,” but the Jewish leaders (“cooks”) weren’t using it to serve rest and restoration (“food”) to the people. They were willing to let people like the woman in Mathew 12 remain sick just because it was a certain day of the week. They were being servants to the Sabbath, rather than letting the Sabbath serve them.
The leaders of that day were totally missing the main purpose of the Sabbath. Its intent is to provide rest, healing, and restoration (actually, everything) to all people.
In context to the Sabbath, Jesus told the leaders (quite “crooked” themselves, spiritually speaking) that God never desired the Old Testament sacrifices, nor strict obedience to the Sabbath and other laws at the expense of not being merciful to the people (Mt 12:7-8).
God’s primary desire is to show people mercy and love—which are the highest laws above all (as Jesus essentially said in Mt 22:37-40).
The Jews were attempting to follow all kinds of laws. But, what they didn’t realize was that without a core love for the people, obedience was worth nothing to God (1 Cor 13:2).
Jesus pointed out that even on the Sabbath the Jews would rescue their sheep, if it fell into a pit—which qualified as work (Mt 12:11-12). He revealed their hypocrisy: they wouldn’t work on the Sabbath unless it was convenient for them and didn’t care for others except for their own animals (!).
Jesus, mankind’s true Sabbath [all laws including the Sabbath are shadows of the substance that is in Christ – Col 2:16-17], was also alluding to what He did for all people.
He has rescued us all, who were as “lost lambs in the pit of death,” and has lovingly carried us all the way home to Himself on His shoulders (Isa 40:11)!
This is the essence of the Sabbath: that we enjoy every day in Christ, our Sabbath, and that we are freely restored in every way through what He has accomplished for us (which isn’t dependent upon anything that we have or haven’t done for Him).