Summary: The folly of hedging the Sabbath with man-made rules


Our attitudes to the Sabbath can tell a lot about our Christianity. In Luke 13:10-17, the president of the synagogue obviously felt it was more important to keep the Sabbath, even in the minutiae of man-made rules, than to look after his parishioners: "There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day."

Never one to mince words, the Lord addressed him before the whole congregation in the vocative, "Thou hypocrite!" You know, people look after their animals on the Sabbath, so why not this daughter of Abraham? No, it will not do to leave one who has suffered for 18 years for just one more day!

In one of His arguments about Sabbath observance with the Jews in Jerusalem, Jesus said “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17). So they sought to kill Him, for not only had He (allegedly) broken the Sabbath, but also made Himself equal with God (John 5:18; but see also John 1:1). On another occasion He reminded the Pharisees that the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28).

Hebrews 12:18-29 contrasts Mount Sinai which represents the law, with Mount Zion and the liberty of the new covenant in Jesus. The law is temporary, whilst what we have in Jesus is enduring. God's law is fulfilled in Christ, whilst man-made rules (about the Sabbath or anything else) have no place in the new economy.

For us every new week dawns with a reminder of Jesus’ ministry on our behalf, and the communion reminds us of the wine which we will drink anew with Him in His Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:29). So let our "Sabbaths" be but oases in the pilgrimage of our lives, as we journey onward to the eternal rest which awaits us in heaven, rather than occasions of bondage and fear.

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