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Jesus Heals on the Sabbath

In John chapter 5 we find a confrontation between Jesus and the Sanhedrin.  The issue was that Jesus had healed a lame man who was sitting by the Pool of Bethesda.  Jesus then directed the man to pick up his pallet and walk. This all occurred on a Sabbath day.  John made a point of communicating that to the readers (us).


The issue for the Sanhedrin was that it is against the Mishnaic law to carry one’s possession on the Sabbath.  Therefore, the Sanhedrin took exception to Jesus Who was proclaiming to be the Messiah and yet breaking the Mishnaic law.  Just to be clear, neither Jesus nor the former lame man broke the Law of Moses.  The Sanhedrin will be following Jesus more closely now so these types of confrontations will be more consistent in the life and ministry of Jesus.


The next event in the life of Jesus is also a Sabbath confrontation. The issue will be the disciples of Jesus harvesting grain on the Sabbath. Please read this event in Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28 and Luke 6:1-5.  Jesus and His disciples were walking through a grain field. The disciples were hungry.  They reached out and picked some heads of grain from the stalks near them.  In order to eat the grain, they needed to rub the grain in their hands. This would separate the grain from the chaff.  They then would have to blow the chaff off their hands to eat what was left.  The Sanhedrin saw this act as harvesting, threshing and winnowing on a Sabbath day.  Take note that the Sanhedrin (or their representatives) are right there beside Jesus and His disciples as they are walking. The Sanhedrin is investigating Jesus very closely.


In Exodus chapter 20, God told the children of Israel to cease from their labor and to keep the Sabbath day Holy.  There is no doubt that the Sabbath is a most special day.  In fact, in Leviticus 23 the Sabbath is called a weekly Holy convocation set apart for God.  In Exodus 31/17, God tells the Israelites that the Sabbath is the sign of the Mosaic Covenant.  God addressed the Sabbath many, many times throughout the Old Testament.  Clearly, the Sabbath is a Holy and important day to God and Israel.  God had given a very simple instruction for the Sabbath. He said cease from your labor and keep the day holy.


By the time that Jesus was walking on Earth, the rabbis had written into the Mishnah approximately 1,500 laws to assure that the people would not break the Sabbath.  By the time Jesus was walking on Earth, the Sabbath was considered the queen.  The Mishnaic laws protecting the Sabbath were subjecting, almost imprisoning, the people to the strict and manmade rabbinic laws, every week. Really, every day in many ways.


Let’s look at a few points from these passages. Note Jesus’ statement regarding King David. 

The Law of Moses did not prohibit the priest from giving the showbread to someone else. 

The Mishnah actually did prohibit that.  David was not condemned for eating that bread because he did not break Moses’ law.


Jesus went on to explain that the Sabbath law of rest did not apply to the priests when they needed to perform their priestly service. In fact, there were more sacrifices on the Sabbath than on the other 6 days.  In other words, certain works were permitted on Sabbath days.


Then Jesus pointed out that He is greater than the Temple.  If Temple worship permitted certain work on the Sabbath, then so could He since He was greater than the Temple.  Jesus quoted Hosea chapter 6.  His point was that necessity and mercy might dictate the need for certain works to be done on a Sabbath day.  When Jesus said that He is Lord of the Sabbath He was saying that since He is the Lord, He May allow or disallow as He deems best.


Jesus then explains in the Mark passage that God had created the Sabbath for man, not man for the Sabbath. It was so we could rest - so our animals could rest - so we could honor God on that day - so Israel would have a sign of their covenantal relationship with God.  The Pharisees took the opposite approach. They taught that since the Sabbath was queen, man was made so he could honor the sabbath.  These types of confrontations are going to continue now in the Life of Jesus.


Brethren - let us stand firmly in the truth of God.  We are free to keep man’s religious laws, but may we allow only God to rule our lives - not man.

Posted by Wayne Weissman with