01 June 2002............
A Prayer of Jesus
I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.

Jesus and the Sabbath

By Edgar Jones


Here I share with you what I have learned from Jesus concerning the sabbath.

The Christian observance of the first day of the week, Sunday, as a day of rest was not established by Jesus.  It is not the sabbath day, which from the time of Moses has been observed by the Jews on what they determined to be the seventh day of the week, which is Saturday.  Jesus said nothing specific about Sunday observance, therefore it is of of no interest to us and we will not discuss it here.  He did speak of the sabbath and we can learn much from listening to him. The gospels also relate his personal example of sabbath keeping and we can learn from that as well as from his utterances.

Briefly, what he has taught me is that sabbath keeping has a low priority, is fraught with excesses and makes no contribution whatever to qualifying for eternal life, which was one of Jesus' major concerns.

I. Background

The fourth of the Ten Commandments of the Decalogue reads as follows:

Deuteronomy 5:12-15
Observe the sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor, and do all your 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 your daughter, or your manservant, or your maidservant, or your ox, or your ass, or any of your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your manservant and your maidservant may rest as well as you.  You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out thence with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.
Please observe that this commandment was made specifically and only to the Israelites who had been slaves in the "land of Egypt."  It was because of this involuntary servitude that the Lord issued this commandment establishing a day of rest and remembrance for a people who had been enslaved.  "You shall remember that you were a servant (slave) in the land of Egypt . . .." From this it is clear that the sabbath is intended to remind Israelites of their servitude in Egypt and the deliverance that the Lord wrought for them.  The Lord has never addressed this commandment to Gentiles, Christian or otherwise, except for Gentile converts to Judaism.

But the Jews of Palestine, the surviving remnant of Israel in the days of Jesus of Nazareth,
took this commandment very seriously as well they should.  It was so important to their particular nation that Moses established the penalty for individuals who failed to keep the sabbath as follows:

Exodus 31:14
You shall keep the sabbath, because it is holy for you; every one who profanes it shall be put to death; whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
Israel experienced many ups and downs through the centuries, and it was customary for the prophets to assign the cause to their devotion to the law of the sabbath, or lack thereof.  We find this:
Nehemiah 13:17-19
Then I remonstrated with the nobles of Judah and said to them, "What is this evil thing which you are doing, profaning the sabbath day?  Did not your fathers act in this way, and did not our God bring all this evil on us and on this city? Yet you bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath."  When it began to be dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the sabbath. And I set some of my servants over the gates, that no burden might be brought in on the sabbath day.
The First Century of the Christian Era found the Jews in a very down point in their history, and it was inevitable that their elders and rabbis would assign causes and remedies in the light of the prophetic pronouncements.  If God were ever to bless them with the messiah, they must surely keep the sabbath and maintain it most holy.  To this end the rabbis issued  extreme ordinances to insure the observance of the sabbath day. There is a brief description of these at this link:http://www.rrz.uni-hamburg.de/rz3a035/shabbath.html.
Although well intentioned, these sabbath regulations were so tedious as to be very burdensome to the people in general, and for those few who felt they truly kept them, a cause of the sins of religious pride and exhaltation of self.

It was into this religious environment that Jesus stepped with his new revelation concerning the will of the Father.  There are these things to consider: the Law of Moses, Jesus' purpose in coming to the world, his specifically sabbath related doctrines, his personal example and, as the last point, the one utterance that is the "final blow" to the sabbath traditions of the Jews, Muslims, and Christians.

II. The Law of Moses

The Mosaic Code includes the sabbath law, which is the fourth commandment of the Decalogue. Therefore, anything Jesus said or did concerning the law in general was relevant to the sabbath as established by the law.  We enter his most significant statements here, with comments:

    1. The Law will never pass away or become void.

Matthew 5:17,18
Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.

Luke 16:16,17
The law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and every one enters it violently. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one dot of the law to become void.

Luke 24:44
Then he said to them, "These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled."

The Law and the Prophets are permanent fixtures in the world.  Jesus has not and will not abolish them until "all is accomplished."  By fulfilling them, Jesus meant at least two things.  He meant that he came to perfect the law, as he did in the Sermon on the Mount when he repeatedly selected certain of the laws and said, "You have heard that it has been said . . . but I say unto you . . .!  In each case he stiffened the law, making it much more rigid than it had been while uttering words of condemnation on those who would relax it.

Second, he also meant that all things prophesied concerning him in the Law and the Prophets must be fulfilled before they pass away.  Therefore a sabbath law remains.  Consequently, modern observant Jews continue to maintain the Law and the sabbath as always.  Neither dot nor iota has passed from it, precisely as Jesus prophesied.

Clearly, John the Baptist was a transition figure, the last to serve under an old regime.  The old regime (of the Law and the Prophets) has remained intact -- nevertheless it has been superseded by a new regime that Jesus designated the Kingdom of God.  This new thing introduced by Jesus was immediately effective for all nations, including those Jews who could hear it. Most significantly, this good news of the kingdom does not include a sabbath regulation.  That remains regulative solely for the Jews who choose to submit themselves to it.

2. Jesus greatly simplified the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 7:12
So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.

Matthew 22:34-40
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sad'ducees, they came together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him. "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"  And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets."

Matthew 23:23
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

Parts of the law are more weighty than others.  The minutiae of the sabbath law, like those of the tithing law, have their place but not when the weightier matters are neglected, and Jesus clearly specified these weightier matters.  Remember in particular the one item, mercy, for we will return to it below.  It is a key!

The summing up of the Law and the Prophets in the first and second commandments is the most wonderful simplification that, while it leaves intact every iota and dot, nevertheless casts the Law in a new and completely different perspective that is authoritative for all time.

This simplification does not relax the law or make it easier to abide by it.  To the contrary, when one examines the first and second commandments of Jesus carefully, one sees that it requires far more than the Mosaic Code to produce obedience..

Do you note that in this expression of  "all the law and the prophets" there is no mention of the sabbath?

III. His Purpose in Coming

Jesus stated his purpose for coming into the world in different ways, but all are subsumed in this one:

John 10
10   The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
This utterance refers to eternal life with the Father in Glory, not to life in this world as the preachers often falsely proclaim.  Do the sabbath or sabbath keeping contribute to this purpose?  Listen:
Matthew 19

16   And behold, one came up to him, saying, 

"Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?"
17   And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments."
18   He said to him, "Which?" And Jesus said, "You shall not kill(#6), You shall not commit adultery(#7), You shall not steal(#8), You shall not bear false witness(#9),
19   Honor your father and mother(#5), and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
20   The young man said to him, "All these I have observed; what do I still lack?"
21   Jesus said to him, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have
treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
22   When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.

23   And Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Mark 10

17   And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
18   And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.
19   You know the commandments:

'Do not kill(#6), Do not commit adultery(#7), Do not steal(#8), Do not bear false witness(#9), Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother(#5).'"

20   And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth."
21   And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
22   At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.
23   And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!"

Luke 18

18   And a ruler asked him, 

"Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
19   And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.
20   You know the commandments:

'Do not commit adultery(#7), Do not kill(#6), Do not steal(#8), Do not bear false witness(#9), Honor your father and mother(#5).'"

21   And he said, "All these I have observed from my youth."
22   And when Jesus heard it, he said to him, "One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
23   But when he heard this he became sad, for he was very rich.

24   Jesus looking at him said, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!

I have shown these texts in parallel columns to certify that, in every gospel,  Jesus answered the question, "What shall I do to have eternal life" by listing commandments #5-#9 of the Decalogue.  The sabbath commandment is #4, therefore in every version of this encounter, Jesus began the listing with #5, the commandment immediately following #4, and making no mention of #4 or of sabbath keeping.  Nor did he relate sabbath keeping to the qualifications for eternal life anywhere in the gospels.  The only reasonable conclusion we can make is that sabbath keeping has no relevance to eternal life.

But he failed to mention the other four also:

#1.   You shall have no other gods before me. (Deuteronomy 5:7)
#2.   You shall not make for yourself a graven image. (Deuteronomy 5:8)
#3.   You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. (Deut. 5:11)
#10. You shall not covet. (Deuteronomy 5:21)
Are we likewise to conclude that these have no relevance to eternal life?

No, because Jesus tailored this answer to the rich man's circumstances.  He knew that he had omitted something very important in the above, and he expected the man to respond as he did with the question:

What lack I yet?
Jesus' response,
Sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me.
The man could have done this only if he had truly loved God and hated his life in this world.  But, had he truly loved God, he would have been keeping #1, #2, and #3.  So these were not really omitted from Jesus response.

That leaves only #10, "You shall not covet."  Neither was this one omitted, because you have doubtless noticed that Jesus not only pointed this man to the Decalogue, he also pointed him to the second great commandment,

You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Leviticus 19:18)
Had he truly loved his neighbor as he claimed, he would not have been coveting his neighbor's possessions and so would have been obedient to the tenth commandment.  No, Jesus omitted nothing from the Decalogue as essential to eternal life except commandment #4.

Another man once asked essentially the same question of Jesus concerning eternal life, and he got essentially the same answer:

Luke 10:25-28
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read?"

And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."

And he said to him, "You have answered right; do this, and you will live."

This is the wonderful simplification of all the Law and the Prophets that I described above.  We would have to conclude that this does include the law of the sabbath, except that Jesus has carefully excluded it in the foregoing encounter with the rich man.  A careful study of the gospels reveals that Jesus excluded much from his condensation of the Law and the Prophets, including the laws of sacrifice, the ceremonial laws and the dietary laws.  Jesus homed in on the "weightier matters of the law" in the above discussion, that include only matters pertaining to "justice, mercy, and faith."  It is only these weightier matters of the law that pertain to eternal life, and we can see easily how all the Ten Commandments except the fourth are subsumed under them.

I conclude confidently that Jesus came into the world in order that we might have eternal life, and that sabbath keeping is irrelevant to his purpose.

IV. His Doctrines

Here we list three specific utterances that constitute fundamental doctrines concerning the sabbath and sabbath keeping.

1. The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.

Mark 2:23-28
One sabbath he was going through the grain fields; 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 Abi'athar was high 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."

The sabbath belongs to Jesus to do with as he will, because he is the Lord of it.  Clearly it is possible to profane the sabbath, as did the priests in the temple, and remain guiltless.

Now we begin to see the relevance of mercy to sabbath keeping.  Jesus' disciples were very hungry and mercy would have them fed.  Mercy always takes precedence over sabbath keeping because mercy is what the Father desires.  The Pharisees, confronted with this disobedience to their sabbath law and traditions, showed no mercy because they were completely unconcerned with the hunger of other men when the sabbath was at risk.

The manifestation of mercy, consistent with the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself, is essential to eternal life.  Sabbath keeping is not!

Jesus is lord of the sabbath, and we are beginning to see what he has done with it.

2. The sabbath was made for man.

This refers again to the statement of Mark 2:27:

The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath;
The lord of the sabbath has so decreed.  The sabbath was made in the interests of mercy, to provide a periodic day of rest for the Israelites who had labored without rest as slaves in Egypt.  Moses thought that the sabbath was for God, because he understood that God's sabbath command to Israel was to keep this day holy -- that is, wholly consecrated to God.   But Jesus, the Son who knows what the Father is doing, takes precedence over Moses, the servant who knows not what his master is doing.  God did not make this day for himself; he made it for man!

And man was not made to keep the sabbath!  Any time the need for mercy arises, the sabbath becomes immediately irrelevant.

3. It is lawful to do good on the sabbath.

Hear the words of the Lord of the Sabbath:

Matthew 12:9-14
And he went on from there, and entered their synagogue. And behold, there was a man with a withered hand. And they asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath?" so that they might accuse him.

He said to them, "What man of you, if he has one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath."

Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, whole like the other.

But the Pharisees went out and took counsel against him, how to destroy him.

Rescuing a sheep from a pit on the sabbath was perfectly acceptable to Jesus -- he was not rebuking them for that, but for the fact that they were more inclined to keep the sabbath than to show mercy to a fellow human being, who had no reluctance to show mercy to a sheep on the sabbath!

For Jesus, to have failed to show mercy to this man with the withered hand on the sabbath, because it was the sabbath, would have meant that the sabbath was more important than mercy -- that man was made for the sabbath!  In such cases, whether it be a man or a sheep, God always requires mercy, not sabbath keeping.  Therefore, it is always acceptable to do good on the sabbath, without regard for sabbath keeping.

How easily well meaning churchmen, like the Pharisees, go far astray on the sabbath issue.  This was such a terrible sin to the Pharisees that they sought immediately to apply the penalty of the Mosaic Code to Jesus by seeking to destroy him.

V. His Personal Example

A careful scrutiny of the gospels reveals two sorts of examples, one in which he appears to be keeping the sabbath, the other when he is accused of not keeping the sabbath.  Here we discuss them under the two headings of "Sabbath Observance" and "Sabbath Non observance."

1. Sabbath Observance

Mark 1:21 (Par. Luke 4:31)
And they went into Caper'na-um; and immediately on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught.

Mark 6:2 (Par. Matthew 13:54)
And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying, "Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands!

Luke 4:16
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day.

These are typical of events in which Jesus might appear to be observant of the sabbath.  In Luke 4:16 in particular, where we read "as his custom was," we might come to the conclusion that Jesus observed the sabbath to the extent, at least, of attending the synagogue regularly.

I would not challenge this conclusion.  It seems obvious.  Jesus was a Jew reared in the Jewish culture and it is clear that he accepted and participated in the usual Jewish observances, including the sabbath.  Furthermore, when he asserted that not a dot or iota was to pass from the law until all was fulfilled, he clearly understood that sabbath observance was to continue among the Jews.  He accepted this and had no intention whatsoever of doing anything to change it.  That is why observant Jews are continuing to keep the sabbath to this day.

Standing by itself, however, this single statement, "as his custom was" does not indicate that he was devoted to sabbath keeping by making it a point to attend synagogue every sabbath.  There was another motive that took him there, and it is evident in the gospels.  Where, other than the synagogue on the sabbath, could Jesus routinely find a large group of people with whom to share his gospel?  And in every case, we find him going there to teach!  There is no recorded incident in which he merely attended the synagogue on the sabbath, without teaching.  Given the complete absence of any emphasis on sabbath keeping in his teachings from the gospels, we would be justified in concluding that "as his custom was" applies to the teaching rather than to synagogue attendance and sabbath keeping.  Any case we might make here for Jesus having been a dedicated sabbath keeper is very weak.

2. Sabbath Non Observance

We should qualify this topic by recognizing that the non observance in the following incidents was recognized as such by the Jewish elders, rabbi's, scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees who, admittedly, were extreme in their views.  But we should recognize also that these men, clearly enemies of Jesus, were the acknowledged religious leaders and certified teachers of the faith.  They occupied the same positions in Israel as do the pastors, bishops, and seminary professors in modern Christendom, with whom Jesus has an even bigger "beef" than he had with the Jewish elders.

They were hypocrites, and Jesus branded them as such.  In the following incidents, he seems to be deliberately violating their religious sentiments regarding the sabbath.  Indeed, that is exactly what he did.  He chose his enemies carefully, then took care to incite their hostility.  He would do, and does do, the same in modern Christendom.

Matthew 12:1-8 (See also Mark 2:23-28, Luke 6:1-5)
At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.  But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, "Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath."

He said to them, "Have you not read what David did, when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?

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 than the temple is here.  And if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is lord of the sabbath."

Matthew 12:9-14 (also Mark 3:1-6, Luke 6:6-11)
And he went on from there, and entered their synagogue. And behold, there was a man with a withered hand. And they asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath?" so that they might accuse him.

He said to them, "What man of you, if he has one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath."

Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, whole like the other. But the Pharisees went out and took counsel against him, how to destroy him.

Luke 13:10-17
Now he 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 your 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 14:1-6
One sabbath when he went to dine at the house of a ruler who belonged to the Pharisees, they were watching him. And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. And Jesus spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath, or not?" But they were silent. Then he took him and healed him, and let him go.

And he said to them, "Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well, will not immediately pull him out on a sabbath day?" And they could not reply to this.

John 5:1-23
After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Hebrew called Beth-za'tha, which has five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed. One man was there, who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be healed?"

The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me."

Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your pallet, and walk." And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked. Now that day was the sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who was cured, "It is the sabbath, it is not lawful for you to carry your pallet."

But he answered them, "The man who healed me said to me, 'Take up your pallet, and walk.'"

They asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, 'Take up your pallet, and walk'?" Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place.

Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, "See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you."

The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews persecuted Jesus, because he did this on the sabbath.

But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working still, and I am working."
This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God.

Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all that he himself is doing; and greater works than these will he show him, that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.

John 7:22, 23
Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man upon the sabbath. If on the sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the sabbath I made a man's whole body well?

John 9:1-41
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man's eyes with the clay,
saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Silo'am" (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, "Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?" Some said, "It is he"; others said, "No, but he is like him." He said, "I am the man."

They said to him, "Then how were your eyes opened?"

He answered, "The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, 'Go to Silo'am and wash'; so I went and washed and received my sight."

They said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I do not know."

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, "He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see."

Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" There was a division among them. So they again said to the blind man, "What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?"

He said, "He is a prophet."

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, and asked them, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?"

His parents answered, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself." His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, "He is of age, ask him."

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, "Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner."

He answered, "Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see."

They said to him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?"

He answered them, "I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you too want to become his disciples?"

And they reviled him, saying, "You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from."

The man answered, "Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind.  If this man were not from God, he could do nothing."

They answered him, "You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?" And they cast him out.

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, "Do you believe in the Son of man?"

He answered, "And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?"

Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you."

He said, "Lord, I believe"; and he worshiped him.

Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind."

Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, "Are we also blind?"

Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains.

I have listed so many incidents from the gospels to enforce the impression that Jesus seems to have deliberately gone out of his way to offend the sabbath keeping sensibilities of the Jews.  When he healed the man at the Pool of Bethzatha, the healing itself was a violation of the Sabbath according to the strict traditions of the elders.  He did not need to then command the man to proceed to break the sabbath by taking up his pallet and walking with it (John 5:8).  He commanded this man to perform work on the sabbath, in a direct contradiction of Moses who commanded saying,
Deuteronomy 5:14
. . . 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 your daughter, or your manservant, or your maidservant, or your ox, or your ass, or any of your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your manservant and your maidservant may rest as well as you.
It was one thing to show mercy to this man on the sabbath.  It was a further thing, completely unnecessary and unrelated to mercy, for him to command the man to perform work on the sabbath.  But by this instruction Jesus demonstrated that he, and not Moses, is Lord of the sabbath!  Further yet, it is evident that Jesus saw no reason not to perform work on the sabbath.  If Jesus were a sabbath keeper the thing for him to have done, after healing the man, was tell him to remain by his pallet until the sabbath was past, then to pick up the pallet and take it away.  But no, instead he deliberately used this incident to contradict the commandment handed down from Moses by issuing a new commandment that required him to work,
. . . take up your pallet and walk!
VI. The Final Blow

Having healed the man (performed work on him), and having commanded him to "take up your pallet and walk" Jesus is seen to have doubly violated the sabbath law, for he first performed work himself, then commanded another to perform work, all on the sabbath.  Then when the Jews objected, he explained to them,

John 5:17
My Father is working still, and I am working.
This is a direct contradiction of Moses and it denies the very basis of the sabbath commandment, which was explained by Moses:
Exodus 31:17
It is a sign for ever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.
Moses states clearly that "on the seventh day he rested" but Jesus denied that he rested; indeed, he proclaimed that the Father was still working, having never rested from his labors.  Furthermore, this contradicts the Epistle to the Hebrews, were we read:
Hebrews 4:10
for whoever enters God's rest also ceases from his labors as God did from his.
Yet Jesus emphatically states:
My Father is working still, and I am working.
Astonishing, isn't it?  Jesus emphatically contradicted the Hebrew/Christian tradition that God created the world and all that is in it in six days and rested on the seventh by this simple pronouncement,
My Father is working still . . .
You are thinking that we surely have misunderstood this utterance?  Very well, let us dissect it just to be sure we are not being misled by a faulty translation.  The Greek New Testament has, where the translators have recorded "still," the Greek words, heos arti.  My Thayers Greek Lexicon of the New Testament1 gives this definition for heos arti:
Hitherto; until now, up to this time.
Then Thayer references the following additional verses where this expression is used for comparison in the gospels:
Matthew 11:12
From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force.

John 2:10
. . .and said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now."

John 16:24
Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

We are reading of an event (God working) that has been continuously in progress "until now".  The Amplified Bible translation inserts this expression:
John 5
17But Jesus answered them, My Father has worked [even] until now, [He has never ceased working; He is still working] and I, too, must be at [divine] work.
There is no other reasonable conclusion.  Contrary to Moses and every other Biblical reference that presents God as having rested on the seventh day after having created the world in six days, Jesus emphatically asserts that God (My Father) has never rested, but is working continuously until now.  This is the explanation that Jesus gives of the fact that he is also continuing to work on the sabbath, and to command others to work.

This utterance is furthermore a key witness to the knowledge Jesus possesses of the things we consider scientific.  I have always questioned the Genesis creation story because it presents the creation as a completed work, whereas natural science sees the whole universe, together with life and all things on earth, as continuing to evolve from its primal beginnings in anything but a static fashion.  This is in perfect harmony with Jesus who teaches that the Father has never ceased working.  He is therefore continuously working at the task of creation even until now!  Therefore Jesus of Nazareth also worked, as does the Father . . . on the sabbath!

We have to conclude that, while Moses thought God was resting, he wasn't.  After all, Moses was only a servant, a fact that deserve frequent reminder, and he did not know what his Master was doing!

John 15:15
 . . . for the servant does not know what his master is doing;
But Jesus, the Son, knows that God was not resting, but has been working without interruption, wherefore Jesus was also working without a sabbath rest.   That is the final blow to the sabbath doctrines of Christendom.

The Bible commentaries will most likely inform you that when Moses said that God rested from all his work, he meant that he rested only from the work of creation, but then continued with the work of administering that creation.  How then does he rest?  The believers in biblical inerrancy have to come up with some explanation, and this is as good as they can do.  It is, of course, completely ruled out by both the context and the wording of John 5:17.


Anyone who follows the practice of Jesus will be found witnessing, worshipping, and working on the sabbath -- all three, for Jesus did all three.  He did not rest.

Anyone who follows the teaching of Jesus will understand that we who are of Gentile origin are not commanded to keep the sabbath, that it is for the benefit of man, that we will profit if we rest periodically, that The Father has never yet rested, sabbath or no, and that sabbath keeping in itself is of no advantage in the quest for eternal life.

And yes, it is acceptable to rest on the sabbath if you wish.  There is no harm in it provided you understand that you are not securing eternal life thereby, and that others who do not rest are not losing eternal life thereby.  They may be truly following the Lord and may be more enlightened than you!

Yet our Lord does promise rest:

Matthew 11:29
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
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