Did Jesus change the Sabbath?

by | Apr 27, 2022 | 01 Podcasts, sabbath

Did Jesus change the Sabbath? How did Jesus add to our understanding of Sabbath? He taught that Sabbath is a rest that is given, not earned, and that our “job” is to enjoy it, not to live up to it.


  • Sabbath is to remind us who God is. We rest to remember God.
  • Sabbath reminds us that God created us (Exodus 20).
  • Sabbath reminds us that God chose us (Exodus 31).
  • Sabbath reminds us that God redeemed us (Deuteronomy 5).
  • We rest by refraining from doing the work that sustains our lives (Exodus 16; Exodus 35).
  • Sabbath is more than what you do or don’t do on the outside. Sabbath is about where your heart is and why you are doing what you’re doing (Numbers 15).
  • What constitutes keeping the Sabbath changes with culture (Nehemiah 13).
  • We are to cease striving and relate to God (Psalm 46).
  • Sabbath is a “foretaste of the feast to come” (Hebrews 3-4).

Mark 2:23-28

23One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.  24And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”  25And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him:  26how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?”  27And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  28So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”  – Mark 2:23-28

  • In this story, the Pharisee ask a thoughtful question and receive a thoughtful answer.
  • After the end of the exile, the scribes and rabbis developed a rigorous code of regulations and restrictions about what was allowed and prohibited on the Sabbath.
  • A rabbi’s views on the Sabbath became a kind of litmus test on his credibility. The Pharisees are greatly interested in what Jesus thinks of the Sabbath.
  • Depending on your views, the disciples of Jesus are breaking a number of the rabbi’s Sabbath rules.
  • 1Samuel 21:1-6: The prophet Samuel has anointed David as the next king of Israel, but Saul is still on the throne. Saul wants to kill David. David is fleeing for his life. David appeals to the priest at Nob for food and the only food available was the holy shew bread (Leviticus 24:5-9). David argues that the journey he is on is holy as he is obeying the Lord. The priest agrees and gives him the bread.
  • Jesus concurs that David rightly understood. It is more important to obey God than to follow the rules of religious practice.
  • If David’s men can violate the laws of the Sabbath because they are obeying the commands of their king, how much more can the disciples violate the laws of the Sabbath because they are serving the Messiah himself who is the LORD of Sabbath?

Mark 3:1-6

1Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand.  2And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him.  3And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.”  4And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent.  5And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.  6The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. – Mark 3:1-6 

  • This story has a different tone. Here the Pharisees are seeking a reason to accuse Jesus.
  • The answer to Jesus’ question ought to be obvious: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or evil? Which would God delight in: to give life or to take it? Yet the Pharisees don’t answer.
  • Jesus heals the man without moving a muscle, healing, yet not breaking any of their Sabbath rules.
  • Sabbath is ultimately a question of the heart. God is more concerned with who we’re trusting than the rules we are keeping.
  • Sabbath is a rest that is given, not earned. It is given to teach us about God.
  • Sabbath was given to remind us that God is in charge of creation and we cannot add one bit of life to it.
  • Sabbath was given to remind us the God redeemed us from slavery to sin.

1Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. 2In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat– for he grants sleep to [or while they sleep he provides for] those he loves. – Psalm 127:1-2 NIV

28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

Please listen to the podcast for more detail and explanation.

Previous: When do we keep the Sabbath?

Series: Sabbath: Why, how and when

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Podcast season 19 episode 11