Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath:
Clearing Away the Rubbish
The Sabbath was hallowed at the creation. As ordained
for man, it had its origin when "the morning stars sang
together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." Job 38:7.
Peace brooded over the world; for earth was in harmony with heaven.
"God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very
good;" and He rested in the joy of His completed work. Gen.
Because He had rested upon the Sabbath, "God
blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it,"--set it apart to a
holy use. He gave it to Adam as a day of rest. It was a memorial of the
work of creation, and thus a sign of God's power and His love. The
Scripture says, "He hath made His wonderful works to be remembered."
"The things that are made," declare "the invisible
things of Him since the creation of the world," "even His
everlasting power and divinity." Gen. 2:3; Ps. 111:4; Rom.
1:20, R. V.
All things were created by the Son of God. "In
the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. . . . All things
were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was
made." John 1: 1-3. And since the Sabbath is a memorial of the
work of creation, it is a token of the love and power of Christ.
The Sabbath calls our thoughts to nature, and brings
us into communion with the Creator. In the song of the bird, the sighing
of the trees, and the music of the sea, we still may hear His voice who
talked with Adam in Eden in the cool of the day. And as we behold His
power in nature we find comfort, for the Word that created all things is
that which speaks life to the soul. He "who commanded the light
to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light
of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
2 Cor. 4:6.
It was this thought that awoke the song,--
"Thou, Lord, hast made me glad through Thy work;
I will triumph in the works of Thy hands.
O Lord, how great are Thy works!
And Thy thoughts are very deep."
And the Holy Spirit through the prophet Isaiah
declares: "To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will
ye compare unto Him? . . . Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it
not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the
foundations of the earth? It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the
earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth
out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell
in. . . . To whom then will ye liken Me, or shall I be equal? saith the
Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these
things, that bringeth out their host by number: He calleth them all by
names by the greatness of His might, for that He is strong in power; not
one faileth. Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is
hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Hast thou
not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the
Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? . . .
He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He
increaseth strength." "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be
not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help
thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My
righteousness." "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends
of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." This is
the message written in nature, which the Sabbath is appointed to keep in
memory. When the Lord bade Israel hallow His Sabbaths, He said,
"They shall be a sign between Me and you, that ye may know that I
am Jehovah your God." Isa. 40:18-29; 41:10; 45:22; Ezek. 20:20,
The Sabbath was embodied in the law given from Sinai;
but it was not then first made known as a day of rest. The people of
Israel had a knowledge of it before they came to Sinai. On the way to
the mount the Sabbath was kept. When some profaned it, the Lord reproved
them, saying, "How long refuse ye to keep My commandments and My
laws?" Ex. 16:28.
The Sabbath was not for Israel merely, but for the
world. It had been made known to man in Eden, and, like the other
precepts of the Decalogue, it is of imperishable obligation. Of that law
of which the fourth commandment forms a part, Christ declares, "Till
heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in nowise pass from
the law." So long as the heavens and the earth endure, the
Sabbath will continue as a sign of the Creator's power. And when Eden
shall bloom on earth again, God's holy rest day will be honored by all
beneath the sun. "From one Sabbath to another" the
inhabitants of the glorified new earth shall go up "to worship
before Me, saith the Lord." Matt. 5:18; Isa. 66:23.
No other institution which was committed to the Jews
tended so fully to distinguish them from surrounding nations as did the
Sabbath. God designed that its observance should designate them as His
worshipers. It was to be a token of their separation from idolatry, and
their connection with the true God. But in order to keep the Sabbath
holy, men must themselves be holy. Through faith they must become
partakers of the righteousness of Christ. When the command was given
to Israel, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy," the
Lord said also to them, "Ye shall be holy men unto Me."
Ex. 20:8; 22:31. Only thus could the Sabbath distinguish Israel as the
worshipers of God.
As the Jews departed from God, and failed to make the
righteousness of Christ their own by faith, the Sabbath lost its
significance to them. Satan was seeking to exalt himself and to draw men
away from Christ, and he worked to pervert the Sabbath, because it is
the sign of the power of Christ. The Jewish leaders accomplished the
will of Satan by surrounding God's rest day with burdensome
requirements. In the days of Christ the Sabbath had become so perverted
that its observance reflected the character of selfish and arbitrary men
rather than the character of the loving heavenly Father. The rabbis
virtually represented God as giving laws which it was impossible for men
to obey. They led the people to look upon God as a tyrant, and to think
that the observance of the Sabbath, as He required it, made men hard-hearted and cruel. It was the work of Christ to clear away these
misconceptions. Although the rabbis followed Him with merciless
hostility, He did not even appear to conform to their requirements, but
went straight forward, keeping the Sabbath according to the law of God.
Upon one Sabbath day, as the Saviour and His
disciples returned from the place of worship, they passed through a
field of ripening grain. Jesus had continued His work to a late hour,
and while passing through the fields, the disciples began to gather the
heads of grain, and to eat the kernels after rubbing them in their
hands. On any other day this act would have excited no comment, for one
passing through a field of grain, an orchard, or a vineyard, was at
liberty to gather what he desired to eat. See Deut. 23:24, 25. But to do
this on the Sabbath was held to be an act of desecration. Not only was
the gathering of the grain a kind of reaping, but the rubbing of it in
the hands was a kind of threshing. Thus, in the opinion of the rabbis,
there was a double offense.
The spies at once complained to Jesus, saying,
"Behold, Thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the
When accused of Sabbath breaking at Bethesda, Jesus
defended Himself by affirming His Sonship to God, and declaring that He
worked in harmony with the Father. Now that the disciples are attacked,
He cites His accusers to examples from the Old Testament, acts performed
on the Sabbath by those who were in the service of God.
The Jewish teachers prided themselves on their
knowledge of the Scriptures, and in the Saviour's answer there was an
implied rebuke for their ignorance of the Sacred Writings. "Have
ye not read so much as this," He said, "what David did,
when himself was an hungered, and they which were with him; how he went
into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, . . . which
it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone?" "And He
said unto them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the
Sabbath." "Have ye not read in the law, how that on the
Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are
blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than
the temple." "The Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath."
Luke 6:3, 4; Mark 2:27, 28; Matt. 12:5, 6.
If it was right for David to satisfy his hunger by
eating of the bread that had been set apart to a holy use, then it was
right for the disciples to supply their need by plucking the grain upon
the sacred hours of the Sabbath. Again, the priests in the temple
performed greater labor on the Sabbath than upon other days. The same
labor in secular business would be sinful; but the work of the priests
was in the service of God. They were performing those rites that pointed
to the redeeming power of Christ, and their labor was in harmony with
the object of the Sabbath. But now Christ Himself had come. The
disciples, in doing the work of Christ, were engaged in God's service,
and that which was necessary for the accomplishment of this work it was
right to do on the Sabbath day.
Christ would teach His disciples and His enemies that
the service of God is first of all. The object of God's work in this
world is the redemption of man; therefore that which is necessary to be
done on the Sabbath in the accomplishment of this work is in accord with
the Sabbath law. Jesus then crowned His argument by declaring Himself
the "Lord of the Sabbath,"--One above all question and
above all law. This infinite Judge acquits the disciples of blame,
appealing to the very statutes they are accused of violating.
Jesus did not let the matter pass with administering
a rebuke to His enemies. He declared that in their blindness they had
mistaken the object of the Sabbath. He said, "If ye had known
what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not
have condemned the guiltless." Matt. 12:7. Their many heartless
rites could not supply the lack of that truthful integrity and tender
love which will ever characterize the true worshiper of God.
Again Christ reiterated the truth that the sacrifices
were in themselves of no value. They were a means, and not an end. Their
object was to direct men to the Saviour, and thus to bring them into
harmony with God. It is the service of love that God values. When this
is lacking, the mere round of ceremony is an offense to Him. So with the
Sabbath. It was designed to bring men into communion with God; but when
the mind was absorbed with wearisome rites, the object of the Sabbath
was thwarted. Its mere outward observance was a mockery.
Upon another Sabbath, as Jesus entered a synagogue.
He saw there a man who had a withered hand. The Pharisees watched Him,
eager to see what He would do. The Saviour well knew that in healing on
the Sabbath He would be regarded as a transgressor, but He did not
hesitate to break down the wall of traditional requirements that
barricaded the Sabbath. Jesus bade the afflicted man stand forth, and
then asked, "It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to
do evil? to save life, or to kill?" It was a maxim among the
Jews that a failure to do good, when one had opportunity, was to do
evil; to neglect to save life was to kill. Thus Jesus met the rabbis on
their own ground. "But they held their peace. And when He had
looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of
their hearts, He saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he
stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other." Mark
When questioned, "Is it lawful to heal on the
Sabbath days?" Jesus answered, "What man shall there be
among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the
Sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then
is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the
Sabbath days." Matt. 12:10-12.
The spies dared not answer Christ in the presence of
the multitude, for fear of involving themselves in difficulty. They knew
that He had spoken the truth. Rather than violate their traditions, they
would leave a man to suffer, while they would relieve a brute because of
the loss to the owner if it were neglected. Thus greater care was shown
for a dumb animal than for man, who is made in the image of God. This
illustrates the working of all false religions. They originate in man's
desire to exalt himself above God, but they result in degrading man
below the brute. Every religion that wars against the sovereignty of God
defrauds man of the glory which was his at the creation, and which is to
be restored to him in Christ. Every false religion teaches its adherents
to be careless of human needs, sufferings, and rights. The gospel places
a high value upon humanity as the purchase of the blood of Christ, and
it teaches a tender regard for the wants and woes of man. The Lord says,
"I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than
the golden wedge of Ophir." Isa. 13:12.
When Jesus turned upon the Pharisees with the
question whether it was lawful on the Sabbath day to do good or to do
evil, to save life or to kill, He confronted them with their own wicked
purposes. They were hunting His life with bitter hatred, while He was
saving life and bringing happiness to multitudes. Was it better to slay
upon the Sabbath, as they were planning to do, than to heal the
afflicted, as He had done? Was it more righteous to have murder in the
heart upon God's holy day than love to all men, which finds expression
in deeds of mercy?
In the healing of the withered hand, Jesus condemned
the custom of the Jews, and left the fourth commandment standing as God
had given it. "It is lawful to do well on the Sabbath
days," He declared. By sweeping away the senseless restrictions
of the Jews, Christ honored the Sabbath, while those who complained of
Him were dishonoring God's holy day.
Those who hold that Christ abolished the law teach
that He broke the Sabbath and justified His disciples in doing the same.
Thus they are really taking the same ground as did the caviling Jews. In
this they contradict the testimony of Christ Himself, who declared,
"I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love."
John 15:10. Neither the Saviour nor His followers broke the law of the
Sabbath. Christ was a living representative of the law. No violation of
its holy precepts was found in His life. Looking upon a nation of
witnesses who were seeking occasion to condemn Him, He could say
unchallenged, "Which of you convicteth Me of sin?" John
8:46, R. V.
The Saviour had not come to set aside what patriarchs
and prophets had spoken; for He Himself had spoken through these
representative men. All the truths of God's word came from Him. But
these priceless gems had been placed in false settings. Their precious
light had been made to minister to error. God desired them to be removed
from their settings of error and replaced in the framework of truth.
This work only a divine hand could accomplish. By its connection with
error, the truth had been serving the cause of the enemy of God and man.
Christ had come to place it where it would glorify God, and work the
salvation of humanity.
"The Sabbath was made for man, and not man
for the Sabbath," Jesus said. The institutions that God has
established are for the benefit of mankind. "All things are for
your sakes." "Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the
world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are
yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's." 2 Cor. 4:15;
1 Cor. 3:22, 23. The law of Ten Commandments, of which the Sabbath forms
a part, God gave to His people as a blessing. "The Lord
commanded us," said Moses, "to do all these statutes,
to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us
alive." Deut. 6:24. And through the psalmist the message was
given to Israel, "Serve the Lord with gladness: come before His
presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord He is God: it is He that
hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people, and the sheep of
His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts
with praise." Ps. 100:2-4. And of all who keep "the
Sabbath from polluting it," the Lord declares, "Even
them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house
of prayer." Isa. 56:6, 7.
"Wherefore the Son of man is Lord also of
the Sabbath." These words are full of instruction and
comfort. Because the Sabbath was made for man, it is the Lord's day. It
belongs to Christ. For "all things were made by Him; and without
Him was not anything made that was made." John 1:3. Since He
made all things, He made the Sabbath. By Him it was set apart as a
memorial of the work of creation. It points to Him as both the Creator
and the Sanctifier. It declares that He who created all things in heaven
and in earth, and by whom all things hold together, is the head of the
church, and that by His power we are reconciled to God. For, speaking of
Israel, He said, "I gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between
Me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify
them,"--make them holy. Ezek. 20:12. Then the Sabbath is a sign
of Christ's power to make us holy. And it is given to all whom Christ
makes holy. As a sign of His sanctifying power, the Sabbath is given to
all who through Christ become a part of the Israel of God.
And the Lord says, "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, honorable; . . . then shalt
thou delight thyself in the Lord." Isa. 58:13, 14. To all who
receive the Sabbath as a sign of Christ's creative and redeeming power,
it will be a delight. Seeing Christ in it, they delight themselves in
Him. The Sabbath points them to the works of creation as an evidence of
His mighty power in redemption. While it calls to mind the lost peace of
Eden, it tells of peace restored through the Saviour. And every object
in nature repeats His invitation, "Come unto Me, all ye that
labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."
Matt 11:28. [Desire of Ages, "The Sabbath", E.G. White;
all emphasis supplied]
In these last days there is that last solemn appeal
to the world given by the three angels to come back to worshiping the
one and only true God, who made all things. See Ex. 20:11 and Rev.
14:6,7. Oh dear reader, won’t you accept that call and choose the one
and only living God, the Creator of all things, as your Saviour? You won’t
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