Summary: Message based on Jesus’ words regarding the Sabbath.

Jesus and the Sabbath

Matthew 12:1-21

March 26, 2006


What do you think of when you think of the word, “Sabbath?”

Do you think of church? Do you think of rest? Football on TV? Some of you might think of Black Sabbath, the heavy metal band of the 70’s and 80’s…

Well, in our American Christian culture the whole idea of the Sabbath seems to have taken a backseat.

Or really, it’s been shoved to the backseat, because we don’t want to be seen as people who are legalistic about stuff that has nothing to do with getting to heaven.

And I can understand that – no one wants be to called a legalist, and observing the Sabbath can become just that if we’re not careful.

We can lay down tons of rules about just how we should do it and then compare ourselves to others, thinking that if they were real Christians or really understood the Sabbath, they’d do it like us, right?

I’m not very legalistic about the Sabbath, as long as it includes a Twins game and/or a John Wayne movie, along with the required nap.

Other than that, I’m pretty flexible!

Today we’re starting a two-part series of messages on the Sabbath. What is it, what does it mean for us today, and that kind of thing.

Today we look at the first of two passages that deal with that subject as we continue our walk through the gospel of Matthew.

I’ve got two main purposes of this message: to show the fact that Jesus is supreme over man-made regulations, and to lay a foundation for what I’m going to cover next week – just what observing the Sabbath means for people today.

Today we’re going to look at some basic Scriptural philosophy about the Sabbath, and next week I want to give you some ideas on just how to be a person who honors the Sabbath without being shackled into some form of legalism.

We’re in Matthew 12, and I’d invite you to turn with me there. If you’re using the Bibles in the seats, this is on pages 689-690.

We’re going to look at a few verses at a time to help us get a grasp on what Jesus has to say about the Sabbath.

But before we do that, I think something needs to be said. While we don’t want to become legalistic about this, we also need to realize that this is important.

It’s important enough for Jesus to set people straight about it so they could observe it in ways that honor God and people.

So please don’t just tune this out. Listen for what God may have in mind for you, okay?

Let’s pray as we get started.

There are two main divisions of this passage that will help us learn about Jesus’ attitude toward the Sabbath. Here’s the first one:

Jesus sheds new light on the Sabbath.

In this first section we see the Pharisees beginning to jump all over Jesus with their understanding of the Sabbath.

Jesus sees that he needs to educate these guys about the Sabbath that they were trying so hard to protect.

And he does this by letting them in on three very important aspects of the Sabbath. First…

1. Mercy trumps ritual. (vv. 1-8)

What I mean here is that mercy “wins” over religious ritual. We start in verse 1 –

1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath."

3 He answered, "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."

There were 39 types of work prohibited by religious tradition on the Sabbath. This included such things as reaping, which seems to be at the center of the controversy in these verses.

Most of these prohibitions were not in the actual Law, but had been added by the religious leaders over the centuries.

I think it’s important to understand that at the heart of the regulations was a desire to honor God. It was never the intention for these to become the burden that they ended up becoming.

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