Then 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.” Mark 2:23-28 (NIV)
The Old Testment laws for the Jews included a required day of rest—just as God rested from his work of creation of the world in Genesis (Genesis 2:2). When God gave the law to Moses to instruct the Israelites how to live righteously as God’s people—set apart from the rest of the world—he included a Sabbath rest for people, livestock, even land.
But some Jews in Jesus’ day became legalistic regarding the requirements of the Sabbath rest to the point of making it a burden to the people.
Jesus said they were missing the point—Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath!
- “Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” John 7:23-24 (NIV)
- Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Matthew 12: 10-12 (NIV)
- One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.“ Mark 2: 23-27 (NIV)
You may wonder why this claim is important or worth considering—especially if you are not Jewish.
Many religions have ‘rules’ or ‘regulations’ to which their adherents are bound. In fact, it’s on the basis of following the rules, so to speak, that many religions promise eternal benefit. If you obey, you live, if you don’t, you’re condemned.
Jesus stated the law of resting was instituted by God for our benefit and strict adherence to this law was subject to reason. He did not hesitate to do a ‘work’ of healing, for example, on the Sabbath. He wanted us to understand that doing good took precedence and did not in fact contradict the law of resting.
Believing you are saved by any work of your own is a misunderstanding of Christianity. It is only on the basis of the work Jesus did on the cross, paying for the sins of the world and reconciling us to God, that we are free from the condemnation of God. This is grace—the difference between Christianity and other religions.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)
Modern-day Christians may still practice keeping a Sabbath rest. Resting from work has many benefits (the Sabbath was created for man). Resting also reminds us, it’s not on the basis of our work that we are saved, but the grace of God (the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath).
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”