Jesus: Lord of the Sabbath


image Jesus never proposed breaking divine commandments or disobeying the Bible. The rules and regulations of the Pharisees were human interpretations and applications of biblical laws.

What Jesus really does for them and us was teach how to interpret the Bible, live life and set priorities.

Jesus shows us what we may do Luke 6:1-5

1. "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." He is the Lord and he can give permission for someone to eat his bread whenever he wants. Jesus shows us what we may do when our needs are so great that traditions must be overruled. 

Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath is the actual embodiment of the Sabbath. He moved in mercy and lived out the spirit of the Sabbath’s true intention. For it is the person of Jesus who provides everything the Sabbath was supposed to supply God’s people namely, peace, rest, restoration, communion. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus calls out to those who are yoked to an enslaving system saying, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

There are no grounds for imposing the Hebrew Sabbath on the Christian. The Christian is free from the burden of the law. The Spirit of Christ enables him to fulfil God’s will without from external observance of the law’s demands. The author of Hebrews likewise speaks of the Hebrew Sabbath as a type of “God’s rest,” which is the inheritance of all the people of God (Heb 4:1-10 ). He does not tell his readers to keep the Sabbath, but rather urges them to “strive to enter that rest” (4:11).

The "Christian Sabbath" view.
This view states that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath, the observance of which required by the fourth commandment. It is sometimes called the “Anglo-American view” because it has been so widely held in UK and US since the time of the Puritans in the 16th century.  The Reformers, although they advocated the Christian observance of Sunday, had not based its observance on the Sabbath command.

This view emphasises that God’s blessing and sanctification of the seventh day means that it intended that one day in seven is to be observed by all men in all ages as a sacred day of rest and worship. It is argued that the day of the week on which the Sabbath is to be kept was not of the essence of the law, but rather the observance of one day in every seven. Jesus affirmed that He was “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28 ) and therefore had the authority to change the day of its observance. It usually is held that this change took place during the forty days between Christ’s resurrection and ascension, when He spoke to them concerning the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3 ).

This view has appealed to many Christians because it seeks to establish a firm Scriptural basis for the observance of Sunday by grounding its observance on creation and the fourth commandment. There are, however, ceremonial elements in the commandment which applied only to the Israelites. While this command is included among the moral laws of the Decalogue, it is also included among those civil and religious observances which were obviously temporal and provisional. Jesus Himself treated the Sabbath law as ceremonial when He defended His disciples for plucking grain on the Sabbath. A moral law could never be suspended by circumstances of hunger or by the requirements of a merely ceremonial regulation. Paul made no distinction between ceremonial and moral laws when he declared that all external law is abrogated for the Christian.

The basic weakness of this theory is the teaching that a change was made in the day of the week to be observed as the Sabbath. There is not the slightest hint in the NT that Jesus transferred the Sabbath to another day of the week, nor that anyone else did so. Furthermore, if one insists on the perpetual and universal obligation of the fourth commandment, and at the same time recognizes that there is no NT ground for a change in the day of its observance, the only logical position to which he is forced is to maintain that the seventh day of the week, and not the first day, should be observed as the Sabbath, as the fourth commandment stipulates. This is precisely the position which is taken by the Seventh-day sabbatarians.

The seventh-day sabbath view
This view, held by the Seventh-day Baptists who originated in England in the 17th century, and by the Seventh-day Adventists who originated in America in the 19th century, insists that Christians are require to keep Saturday as the Sabbath. In support of this position, they appeal largely to the same passages we have considered already.

They also point to the practice of Jesus and the apostles of attending the synagogue on the Sabbath (Luke 4:16; Acts 13:14, 42; 16:13; 17:1-2; 18:4), to Jesus’ prophecy regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and His exhortation that His disciples pray that their flight should not be on the Sabbath (Matt 24:20), and that the reference in Revelation 1:10 to “the Lord’s day” is a reference to the Sabbath.

Seventh-day Adventists say the change to first day observance was made by the Roman Catholic Church. They teach that, during the early centuries of the Church, a great apostasy set in, in which the pagan festival of Sunday was gradually substituted for the ancient Sabbath by “unconsecrated leaders of the Church” and by the half-pagan emperor Constantine

However, their distinction between “the law of God” and “the law of Moses” is not supported by Scripture. The word “law” as used by Jesus and Paul refers to more than just the Ten Commandments. Seventh-day sabbatarians do not insist that all the laws of the Mosaic legislation are meant to be observed by Christians, but, they fail to see that Paul definitely included the Sabbath command among those rules which were done away in Christ. In addition, evidence from the Early Church Fathers is conclusive that these early church leaders did not regard Sunday as a continuation of the Hebrew Sabbath.

2.  We do not live by rules but by Jesus’ Lordship. We live more by relationship than by rules, more by grace than by law. However, there is a danger of terrible misapplication. When we start making up our own rules or interpreting them independently, we have become Pharisees and disobedient to God. God gives the rules and Jesus interprets them.

Jesus shows us what we should do Luke 6:6-11

1.  There is also powerful contrast between those whose lives are lived by rules and those whose lives are lived by grace. The men who lived by rules without grace were furious and were filled with hate.

2. Many of us frequently face similar choices. We must choose between rules and people. We have to decide the higher priorities. Often these are extremely difficult decisions.

The Bible is full of God’s commandments that are our best interest. The best summary is the Ten Commandments. But the Ruler is more important than the rules. The greatest lesson is to put God first. Never fall in love with the rules. Fall in love with and follow the Lord!

Cell Outline

Note: As background to the studying the Sabbath, read these additional texts: Matthew 12:1-13, Mark 2:23-27, Exodus 20:8-11.

1. What does the word ?
??Sabbath” make you think about?

2. What did the Pharisees accuse the disciples of when they picked the grain?

3. How did Jesus respond to the Pharisees accusation?

5. What claim did Jesus make about himself? What did Jesus’ identity as Lord of the Sabbath have to do with the disciples eating grain on the Sabbath? (Mark 2:27-28)

6. Why were the teachers of the law watching Jesus so closely? What law did they think he would break? (Exodus 20:8-11)

7. How did Jesus heal the man’s hand?

8. What did Jesus ask the people? (6:9) Why?

9. What harmful “religious” tendencies was Jesus resisting by His actions and words during these incidents?

10. In these incidents, whose actions were really Sabbath-keeping? Why?

Going deeper

Is Sunday our “Sabbath”? If it is not, how might be shape a day of rest? Should we (or could we even) keep a “Sabbath” (The Sabbath was a cessation of work from Friday evening to Saturday evening. The whole Israel social structure was set up around it.)


How could you talk to people you know about “the Sabbath” in a way which avoids sounding legalistic.

What can we say to a culture which has lost its sense of a collective day of rest?