The Sabbath

Published by DonDavidson on

If you are like me, you probably think of chapters one and two of Genesis as the beginning of the Sabbath. After spending six days creating the world and the universe, Genesis 2:2-3 says:

By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because on it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

While the 7th day was a day of rest for God, Genesis says nothing about the Sabbath being a day of rest for mankind.

So I am indebted to my pastor for pointing out in last Sunday’s sermon that the Sabbath for people really began in the 16th chapter of Exodus, when God gave the Israelites manna in the wilderness. He told them to collect only enough for each day, for the manna would rot and spoil overnight. However, on the 6th day they were to gather twice as much so that they could rest on the 7th day—and what they collected on that 6th day did not spoil or rot. Thus, the Sabbath was born.

Of course, in Exodus 20:8-11 this became one of the Ten Commandments. The 7th day—which for the Jews is Saturday—became a holy day on which no work was to be done. After Jesus’ resurrection, the Sabbath became Sunday for Christians.

But what is “work”? By the time of Jesus, the Jewish leaders—and especially the Pharisees—had carefully prescribed what did and did not constitute “work” that was forbidden on the Sabbath. I read in a commentary that they had a list of thirty-nine types of “work” that couldn’t be done on the Sabbath, including picking grain and healing (except in life-threatening situations).

Jesus incurred the ire of the Jewish leaders—and especially the Pharisees—by refusing to conform to their often tortured views about the Sabbath.[1] He insisted that doing good on the Sabbath was not prohibited, even if it violated their rules. He also pointed out that the priests in the Temple do all sorts of “work” on the Sabbath, but do not thereby become Sabbath-breakers.[2]

The Pharisees made the mistake of treating their interpretations of the Law with the same force as the clear requirements of the Law. As a result they mistook Jesus for a transgressor of the Law—and missed their Messiah.

Do we have our own version of the Pharisees today? More on that next week.

[1]. See, for example, Matthew 12:1-14; Mark 2:23-28, 3:1-6; Luke 6:1-11, 13:10-21; and John 5:1-18, 7:11-31, 9:1-41.

[2]. Matthew 12:5


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