Simplicity Series #41

The Sabbath Reveals the Love and Grace of God

“For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Matthew 12:8

“The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27

In our last post, I left you to ponder the question, “What does Sabbath rest look like from the divine perspective?” Before we continue to look at the expanded concept of the Sabbath, we should consider that the greatest conflict between human viewpoint and divine viewpoint is centered around this question.

Jesus’ View of the Sabbath

The purest and clearest way that we can gain insight into the divine viewpoint on the Sabbath rest comes by considering Jesus’ view toward its true meaning. Like everything else in the Mosaic Law, the original meaning and purpose of the Sabbath was corrupted and perverted by centuries of rabbinical interpretation, which was wholly false.

During His earthly life and ministry, the Lord Jesus constantly labored to correct the perverse views of the religious leaders. They viewed His interpretation as both a violation of true Jewish tradition and an act of blasphemy against the God of Israel Himself. This was the main issue that goaded the religious leaders to commit to Jesus’ destruction.

The Author of the Sabbath

When Jesus declared, in the first quote above, that “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath,” He was declaring Himself to be the Author of the Sabbath commandment (Exod. 20:8–11). This was as clear a declaration of His Deity as could have ever been given.

As the Author of the Sabbath, He alone could define its true meaning and purpose. In the same context, as He contended with the Pharisees, He boldly declared, “Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple” (Matt. 12:6). Only the One true God, to whom the Temple was dedicated, could be greater than the Temple, which spoke—in all its furniture and ceremonies—of Jesus Christ in great detail.

In the Temple were seven (perfect number) pieces of furniture:

  1. The altar of sacrifice spoke of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on behalf of all mankind (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2).
  2. The laver of cleansing speaks of the power of the blood of Christ for the daily cleansing of every believer (John 13:3–10; 1 John 1:9).
  3. The lampstand spoke of Christ—“the light of the world” (John 1:9; 8:12).
  4. The table of showbread (the bread of the presence), spoke of the Lord as “the bread of life” (John 6:35, 48, 51, 53–56).
  5. The altar of incense spoke of Jesus Christ as a “sweet-smelling aroma” before God on our behalf (2 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 5:1–2).
  6. The veil before the Holy of Holies, which veiled the glory of God, was a picture of His body, which concealed His majestic glory (Isa. 53:1–3; Matt. 17:1–5; John 1:14; Heb. 10:20).
  7. The ark of the covenant, on which sat the mercy seat, was a picture of His propitiation for the sins of the world (Rom. 3:24–25; Heb. 9:4–5).

So, the Lord Jesus Christ—Lord of the Sabbath and fulfillment of the tabernacle shadows—came into the world to demonstrate to men the divine viewpoint of the Sabbath, which was central to every doctrine of Judaism. How did He do this?

First, He repeatedly healed the blind, the deaf, and the maimed, on the Sabbath day. This was an outrage to the religious leaders, who declared, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” (Luke 6:2; see also John 5:10). His question in response was, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4). His point was this: that to have the power to do good to one in need and not to do it was, in essence, to do evil.

Not only did He heal, but He also allowed feasting on the Sabbath. In the first instance of this issue, Jesus and the disciples are passing through the grain fields on the Sabbath. We are told, “His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat” (Matt. 12:1). Now, you may object to calling this a feast, but we find it almost impossible in the midst of our plenty to understand the ancient world. The provision was made in the Law of Moses that the edges of fields and vineyards were not to be harvested, so that “the poor and the stranger” might have food to eat (Lev. 19:9–10; Deu. 24:19–22). Because most Americans have never been truly hungry, we cannot comprehend what a feast just a little can be.

Consider that when Jesus fed the multitude (Matt. 15:32–39) on one occasion, they had been following Him for three days without food. The disciples had also had no food. If you have ever gone for three days without food, it takes very little to seem like a feast. As an old quote says, “If a little is enough, enough is a feast.” It is clear that one of the objections of the Pharisees against Jesus and His disciples was that they were always feasting (Matt. 9:14–17; Luke 5:29–30; Matt. 11:19; Luke 7:34).

The point is, for a blind man to see is cause for celebration. For a cripple to walk is a joyous occasion. For hungry people to be provided food—in a culture where hunger was common—and to be given the food freely, shows Jesus’ idea of what the Sabbath is all about. It is the free and gracious provision of God for the needy—by grace alone.

A Never-Ending Celebration

“And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb … laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful … Then Peter said … in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk … So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God.” Acts 3:2–8

The power of Jesus Christ carried on into the ministry of the Apostles, who continued to demonstrate the love and grace of God. Like their Master, they did not heal everyone. It is not in the purpose of God to remove all suffering at this time. But those they healed were a preview of what life will be like in the Kingdom Age—a thousand-year-long Sabbath. Jesus chose to work many of His mightiest miracles on the Sabbath as a means of pointing to the life, health, and joy that would prevail in His kingdom.

In other words, the Sabbath spoke of the love and grace of God for the most needy of men. Those who were poor, destitute, and needy in the extreme were provided with their needs by the free and extravagant grace of God.

Furthermore, Jesus did not take a survey among the needy to see how many had already trusted in Him to provide for them alone (the Calvinist concept of limited grace). Jesus showered the needy with His grace first, and those who responded in faith were saved.

As I said before, God loves a good party!

Gene



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