Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath

Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath
And he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”--Luke 6:5

We see two things clearly and beautifully in this passage:  Jesus is Lord of all and he cares greatly for you.  Reading this verse in context we can see the accusation brought by those opposed to the ministry of Jesus and his response.

On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” And Jesus answered them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” And he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” (Luke 6:1-5)

The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day.  They were self-appointed “fruit inspectors”.  They felt it was their duty to maintain the purity of Judaism, to let everyone know who the “real” Jews were.  (By the way, the “real” Jews were the ones who agreed with them and followed all of their man-made customs and traditions, along with agreeing completely with all of their interpretations of Scripture.)  They had a “passion for God’s Law” and a “love for their neighbor” that was so great that they saw need to add to God’s law in many, many ways in order to “protect” the neighbor they loved so and to ensure the “purity” of the assembly. (If your own tendencies to Pharisaical thinking are not leaping to the forefront of your mind at this moment, then hang out for a second and let the Lord of the Sabbath bring knowledge and repentance to your heart…this is a human temptation dating back to the garden and a temptation that only seems to intensify with your love of the Lord).

Jesus, however, when confronted with the pharisaical additions to the legitimately binding Mosaic Law, did not respond that the additions were illegitimate or not actually binding (although he could have).  Instead, he responds in a manner that cuts straight to the heart of any situation.  Rather than seek a loophole or a technicality to explain why he, and his followers, were not observing Pharisaic interpretation of the Mosaic Law, Jesus simply said he was above it.  He said, in essence, “It is my Sabbath.  It belongs to me to do with as I wish.”  How’s that for playing to an audience?  Either Jesus was not as concerned about being popular and well-received as we often are, or he was in a desperate need for a PR director on this and many other occasions.  I’ll let the discerning reader determine which way I lean on this subject. 
But Jesus seemed unconcerned with the Pharisees immanent rejection of his claim.  He could boldly say that he is Lord of the Sabbath because he is the Son of Man.  He is eternal.  He is divine.  He is Messiah, Christ, Savior.  He is Emmanuel, “God with us”.  And, all this considered, he is most definitely the Lord of the Sabbath.

When accused by the Pharisees of breaking the Sabbath law, Jesus did not point out that he was only breaking the oral tradition. Instead, he made the astounding claim that, just as King David and the priests were ‘above the law’ in certain respects, so he was not subject to the Sabbath law, but Lord over it (Luke 6:1–11; cf. Mark 2:23–28). Not only does this imply that Jesus has an authority at least as great as that of the Mosaic law, it suggests that Jesus is the one who will finally bring the blessings of the Sabbath to Israel.[1]
But, he is not simply Lord of the Sabbath.  It is interesting to take this position to its proper conclusion.  The Sabbath was an ordinance dating back to creation.  Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, in his claim of sovereign rule over the Sabbath, is making clear his claim to sovereign rule over all of creation.

Christ is described in language reserved for deity alone. It is interesting to compare the graphic description of Daniel’s Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:9–10) with John’s description of the Son of Man in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 1:12–16; 5:11–12).The Son of Man is a figure of splendor and power. He is deity, as is seen in the Old Testament portrait and in Jesus’ self-understanding. Jesus links the Son of Man with creation by saying that “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5). To claim lordship over the Sabbath is to claim lordship over creation. The Sabbath was an ordinance given by the Lord of creation. Jesus made a point of forgiving a paralyzed man of his sins “that you [the Pharisees and the teachers of the law] may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Luke 5:24). Here was a privilege of God alone. The Jews did not miss the inference. They sought to kill Jesus because his claim to deity came through loud and clear.[2]

And the Lord of all, the one who owns all things, the one through whom all things live and move and have their being, he wants good for his people.  He is Lord of the Sabbath, and he made the Sabbath as a blessing for man. The Sabbath says two things: 1) You (and I) are not God, thus we need significant rest, and 2) The one who is God cares enough for us to bless us with the rest we need. 

Jesus audaciously (as far as the Pharisees were concerned) claimed that he was the Covenant Lord who instituted the Sabbath in the first place. He therefore offers the authoritative interpretation of the law. To turn the Sabbath into a burden is to utterly contradict its purpose, although to ignore it is surely to violate God’s stated will. The Sabbath is not concerned with a slavish observance of the day, as in the Pharisees’ practice. Rather, it focuses our attention on the gracious invitation to enter into the blessings not merely of Adam’s once-a-week rest but also the Second Adam’s(Jesus Christ) eternal rest that is enjoyed “through a glass darkly” in this age through the Christian Sabbath.[3]
The Sabbath of God is a gift given to man and it is a gift that is not to be neglected.  CH Spurgeon, in speaking about the benefit of this splendid gift, put it this way,

(Is it not to be expected) that the Lord of the Sabbath should specially display his sovereignty upon that day? May we not now expect that, on the Lord’s-day, the Lord of the day will magnify his own name, and make the day illustrious by his grace? The first day of the week was signalized by the giving of the light of nature, and it is most delightful that now it should be a chosen day for bestowing the light of grace. It is to us the Sabbath; should not the Lord give rest to wearied hearts upon that day? Men call it Sunday: we are happy when the Son of righteousness then arises with healing in his wings. Of old the week’s work was done, and then the Sabbath dawned; but now rest leads the way: we begin the week’s work with the Sabbath rest, because we first find rest in Jesus, and then labour for him. Blessed is the Lord’s-day when the Lord himself speaks rest in his own finished work, to those who otherwise would have laboured in vain..[4]

[1] Alexander, T. D., & Rosner, B. S. (Eds.). (2000). In New dictionary of biblical theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
[2] Sproul, R. C. (2000). Renewing your mind: basic Christian beliefs you need to know (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Baker Books.
[3] Horton, M--. A Better Way.
[4] Spurgeon, C. H. (2009). My Sermon Notes & 4: Matthew to Revelation (Vol. 3, p. 135). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.