Summary: Thus, if someone truly wants to observe the Sabbath Day in modern times (New Testament era), that’s a tall order! One that I do not think anyone could keep, because as religious as the Jews were, they could not keep it (Acts 15:10).
SABBATH MEANS REST
Mark 2:27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
Q: What happens when we operate a cellphone, tablet, ipod, etc. all day?
Q: What happens when we ride a horse all day?
Q: What happens when we operate an air-conditioner all day?
Q: What happens when anything operates all day?
Q: What happens when an animal is continually burdened?
Q: What happens when a field is constantly used to grow crops?
In all of these cases, something will either break down or lose its capacity to function at full efficiency.
What will happen to someone if they work or study 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, 30 days a month, 365 days a year?
The answer is obvious:
They will either lose health, end up in the hospital, or in some other way (mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually) break down. We need to rest. Everybody and everything needs to rest. This is the nature of our fallen universe, we do not have a perpetual sustained energy source, in this universe of entropy. When constantly operated, things and people lose their effectiveness, and or energy.
Now, the opposite is true too (some people take rest to the extreme):
We were made to work (Genesis 2:15)
It is understood that we are to work (Exodus 20:9)
In the New Testament church, if a (capable) man doesn’t work, he shouldn’t eat (2Thessalonians 3:10)
“The Fourth Commandment is not limited to a mere enactment respecting one day, but prescribes the due distribution of a week, and enforces the six days' work as much as the seventh day's rest” (Smith’s Bible Dictionary).
Sabbath means REST:
Sabbath (shabbath), "a day of rest," from shabath "to cease to do to," "to rest" (Smith’s).
God commanded Israel to keep the Sabbath (Exodus 20.8-11) for what appears to be THREE reasons:
1. Frankly, it was His command, and frankly, we don’t need to ask questions. Nevertheless,
God gives explanation because He is an awesome God of love and patience who explains why.
2. It was hallowed (verse 8).
God had created everything in six days, and rested on the seventh. Thus, we are to follow God’s pattern as it is our example from God.
3. It is for our benefit Verses 9-10).
We work a period of time then rest, and start the cycle all over again.
This was a serious command and a serious offense if broken, with a serious penalty:
The penalty was death (Exodus 31:14-15)
Example in the Old Testament of a man stoned for gathering sticks to make a fire (Numbers 15:32-36)
The Israelites had strict commands regarding the Sabbath:
Exodus 35:3 – could not start a fire
Exodus 16:21-30 – had to work for two days ahead in preparation for the Sabbath (day of rest)
Exodus 16:23-35 – they had to prepare their meals ahead
Exodus 16:29 – could not leave his place (walk more than about 750 yards [Adam Clarke’s Commentary])
Thus, if someone truly wants to observe the Sabbath Day in modern times (New Testament era), that’s a tall order! One that I do not think anyone could keep, because as religious as the Jews were, they could not keep it (Acts 15:10).
The Sabbath was a covenant day related to worship (Leviticus 19:3, 30). A day to cease from worldly, work, and weekly activities: “work for worldly gain that was to be suspended; and hence the restrictive clause is prefaced with the restrictive command. ‘Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work;" for so only could the sabbatic rest be fairly earned’” (Smith’s).
The Sabbath was not just CEREMONIAL, but it was also UTILITARIAN (PRACTICAL, USEFUL) because it was also a day of refreshment:
Exodus 31:17 – the Lord was “refreshed;”
Deuteronomy 5:15 – the heavy labor of the Jews in Egypt).
So the Lord says in Mark 2:27, to the legalistic Pharisees who would have Jesus’s disciples not pick corn and eat it on the Sabbath:
“And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:”
So, the Sabbath was also for our own BENEFIT from a gracious God who knows our condition and need for labor (Genesis 3:17 “for thy sake …”).
Now, on the spiritual side (Smith’s Bible Dictionary):
“The prohibition of work is only subsidiary to the positive idea of joyful rest and recreation in communion with Jehovah, who himself ‘rested and was refreshed.’”
“It was to be a sacred pause in the ordinary labor which man earns his bread the curse the fall was to be suspended for one and, having spent that day in joyful remembrance of God's mercies, man had a fresh start in his course of labor.”