But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen.
2 Peter 3:18
THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT AND MESSIAH
“For the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day. And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue: And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered.
And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath days? that they might accuse him. And he said unto them, 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. Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.” (Matthew 12:8-13)
Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah) was NOT anti-Sabbath. It was His custom to attend Synagogue on the Sabbath (Luke 4:16). He did many of His Miracles and much of His Teaching on Sabbath. Yet the rabbis often accused Him of breaking the Sabbath. Why?
39 SABBATH PROHIBITIONS
His Miracles of Healing broke the commonly accepted rabbinical interpretation of Sabbath Law. The ancient rabbis had formulated a list of 39 general categories of work that were forbidden on the Sabbath. These 39 prohibited activities are part of the Oral Law of Judaism.
Jewish leaders believe that the Oral Law was given to Moses in addition to the Written Law. The rabbis believe it holds equal weight with the Law of Moses (Torah).
The 39 prohibited activities “erected a fence” around the Sabbath Law found in the Bible. Yet Jewish Tradition also teaches that in the days of Messiah, a new Torah would be given to Israel.
“The Son of man (a Messianic Title from Daniel 7:13) is Lord even of the Sabbath Day.” Therefore, the Messiah had the right to correct traditions concerning the Sabbath.
For example, the rabbis allowed the care of livestock and animals to supplant the Sabbath Laws (Talmud, Shabbath, 117b). If a sheep may be pulled out of a pit on the Sabbath Day, then a man can be healed on the Sabbath.
“How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days.” The ancient rabbis may have had good intentions. But they had turned the Sabbath into a legalistic burden -- not a day of rest. This is why our Lord Jesus said:
“The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27)
Human needs were to be put before rituals and animals. Here's another example of the same principle.
UNTYING A KNOT ON SABBATH
The Oral Law forbade the untying of a knot with two hands on the Sabbath Day. Our Lord knowingly broke this tradition when he healed a woman on the Sabbath.
“And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself.
And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.
The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?
And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day? (Luke 13:10-16)
The word “loosed” used by our Lord Jesus means literally “released” or “untied”. He had made His point. Just minutes before Messiah had healed this poor woman; the entire Synagogue congregation had probably uttered a benediction still used by Jews today:
“The Lord slumbereth not, nor sleepeth; He arouseth the sleepers and awakeneth the slumberers; He maketh the dumb to speak, setteth free the prisoners, supporteth the falling, and RAISETH UP THOSE WHO ARE BOWED DOWN.”
MACCABEES AND SABBATH
Several generations before Christ, the Maccabees (Jewish Patriots) had bravely defended their land and religion. They reasoned that they could resist attacks by the enemy on Sabbath (1 Maccabees 2:41). If this meant taking life on the Sabbath, then so be it.
“And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? 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 3:4-5)
Jewish tradition allowed killing on the Sabbath. Why not allow the saving of life? Our Lord Jesus was cutting through the traditions of men to get back to the real meaning of Sabbath.
SUMMARY OF MESSIAH AND SABBATH
Messiah taught that life could be saved on the Sabbath (Mark 3:4). Redemption is a reason for keeping Sabbath. This can mean healing the sick (Matthew 12:10-13; Luke 13:14-16 and John 7:23). It can also mean rescuing an animal (Matthew 12:11).
It can mean alleviating hunger by plucking grain on Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-8). It can also mean alleviating thirst on Sabbath, even for an animal (Luke 13:15). It can mean carrying a bed on Sabbath (John 5:8-10).
It can mean preparing mixtures for medicinal purposes. When Jesus mixed his spittle with dirt to heal the blind man's eyes on the Sabbath, He was making this very point (John 9:6-16).
Some of these teachings violated the Oral Law. But not one of them violated the Torah.
The reaction of the Jewish people to Messiah's correction of the 39 Sabbath Prohibitions was varied. All were amazed (Mark 1:27). Many were intrigued (Luke 4:36). Some rejected Him (Luke 4:16-30). A few wanted to kill Him (John 5:18).
Still, “the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day” (Matthew 12:8). “It is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days” (Matthew 12:12) “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).
 Bruce Scott, THE FEASTS OF ISRAEL: Seasons of the Messiah (The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc: Bellmawr, NJ, 1997) p. 22.
 Ibid. p. 31.
 Rousas John Rushdoony, THE INSTITUTES OF BIBLICAL LAW (Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co., 1973) p. 131.
George Theiss is a combat veteran of Vietnam who now follows Lamb of God. He and his wife, Christy, have been married 42 years (in 2019). They have 8 grown children. You can contact George at email@example.com
Copyright © 2002 through 2019 by George Theiss