The SABBATH in the New Testament
The Sabbath, as it comes to us in the Old Testament, is a day that must be strictly maintained, on penalize of all kinds of disaster.
Is the Sabbath in the New Testament also clearly defined, or gives the NT a different view?
We will now study.
The Pharisees said to Jesus:Matthew 12:l-8
“Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.” (namely: pick some ears of corn).
Jesus says then: “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?
4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread--which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests.
5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent?
6 I tell you that one greater than the temple is here.
7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.
8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. ”
Jesus gives the Pharisees a number of lessons. The disciples were hungry, just like David, says Jesus. David decided that it was better to eat the consecrated bread, which was forbidden to eat under the regulations, than to die of hunger. Jesus condemns this thinking not. Rather, he added:
"The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."
The priests desecrated the Sabbath in the temple , but were not convicted. That would of course also be crazy. They were dedicated by the One who also had instituted the Sabbath, to do their work on the Sabbath. The temple was the house of God, where God was served. If serving God means that the Sabbath is violated, serving God is more important than keeping the Sabbath.
And then Jesus says: "one greater than the temple is here." Jesus is God. He was served in the temple.The temple was meant for that. He is therefore more than the temple. He is the Lord of everything, including the Sabbath. He has instituted the Sabbath. The commandment is never bigger than the commander.
The Pharisees condemned the disciples. They did not understand what it means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ 1 Samuel 15:22
Jesus said before and quotes 1 Samuel 15:22, where the subject is: listen and obey is better than sacrifice. In Hosea we read this way of thinking of God too.
"For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.."
In Mark we can read this too:Mark 12:33
"To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."
Love of God and neighbor are more important than strict rules. It is the spirit of the commandment.
In all of this Jesus is not neutralizing the Sabbath, but makes it clear that keeping the Sabbath does not make sense when not listening to God and obey Him.
On another occasion: the healing of a man on the Sabbath, Jesus said:Matthew 12:10-14
"it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath"
Jesus himself kept the Sabbath. His followers did too. Even after His death.
"But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment."
In His speech on 'the last things' Jesus says about what will happen just before His return among other things:
"Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath." So just before His coming to earth, which will be after today, a group of people will flee for the abomination that causes desolation. Jesus calls on them to pray that this fleeing will not fall on a Sabbath . Why? Apparently because He assumes that the Sabbath commandment is still in force. Jesus speaks to people to whom He can say that they will be hated because of Him. So followers of Jesus, whether Jewish or not is not important. Being hated is because they identify themselves with Jesus' name.
Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath and He says:John 5:1-18
"Get up! Pick up your mat and walk."
As Lord of the Sabbath, He could give this command, which came over the Sabbath commandment. Moreover, the wearing of the Matthew ess was the result of 'doing well'. And as Jesus had already shown it is fully authorized. When the Jews wanted to prosecute him nevertheless Jesus said:
"My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working."
verse 19: "the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does."
Among works Jesus understands in this case, "to do good'. And as we have seen, this is allowed on the Sabbath. The Lord of the Sabbath has said..
In several places in Acts, the Sabbath referred to as the day when they came together to talk about biblical issues.
The only time that further talks on the Sabbath day is Colossians 2:16. This text doesn't need an extensive commentary, as well as Hebrews 4 where it talks about the Sabbath rest. Both texts are described below extensively as we examine nine reasons why Christians keep Sunday as the day of rest.
We have read a lot of texts on the Sabbath. It is time to consider the texts on the Sunday.
Unfortunately .... which are not in the Bible. That is not surprising because our English word "Saturday" is not there either. However, it is the same day as the Sabbath. The day we call 'Sunday' is mentioned in the Bible as the 'first day'. So we go in search of texts which those words and which talks about our Sunday.
"After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb."
Parallel texts in Mark, Luke and John:Mark 16:2
"Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb"
"On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb."
"Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance."
The remainder of this event, we read among others, in Mark 16, and because it is important to read this text as clearly as possible, we do so from the King James translation. That is often closer to the ground text than the NIV translation.
Mark 16:9 KJV
"Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene,"
Comma's are not in the original manuscript, and he word 'when' neither.
The text could be translated as well as:
"So Jesus was risen. Early the first day of the week he appaered to Mary Magdalena:
On that same day of the week Jesus has shown himself to his disciples.
"On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”".
Then there are two more texts on the first day of the week which are found in Acts and Corinthians.
"On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight."
1 Corinthians 16:2
"On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made."
Now we can discuss all these texts, but it can be interesting to do that in a different way.
In a Bible with marginal notes I found a list of nine reasons why Christians celebrate Sunday, so the first day of the week. Let us examine that list. The texts we have read will all get a chance.
1 Samuel 15:22
But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
22 “As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the LORD, “so will your name and descendants endure. 23 From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the LORD.