“Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head:
they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away” (Isaiah 51:11).
On the Sabbath Day

by Jerry Gentry

Jesus, no doubt, set us the perfect example of keeping the Sabbath day holy. Yet He lived and ministered under the constantly critical, accusative and condemning eye of the religious leaders of His day–the Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees and lawyers. Why didn’t Jesus keep the "Jewish sabbath?" What can we learn from Jesus about keeping the Sabbath day holy?

"Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?" (Luke 6:9).

Jesus posed a major problem for the religious leaders of his day. As a perfect, living epistle of the law of Moses, Jesus upset the Pharisees’ applecart by redefining their laws right before their very eyes! What a masterful witness He was! Jesus confounded the leading lawyers with their man made Sabbath prohibitions. Jesus sent the Scribes scurrying back into the dark dens of their own evil making, because they negated Biblical law, in favor of "Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye" (Mark 7:13).

Jesus did not mince words; he called the shots and hit the bulls eye every time. He even got out His whip and dared to use it. He was a man’s man, never fearing the consequences of standing for truth, never worrying about being politically incorrect. The church leaders of His day feared him, hated him and continually tried to kill him, because he crashed their politically correct "comfort zone" party time. He turned their temple worship market place upside down. He ruffled their feathers, clipped their wings and sent them like chickens squawking and flapping back into their dens and caves and holes of the rocks!

In the normal course of events, Jesus "came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read" (Luke 4:16). As a Sabbath keeper, it was normal and customary for Jesus to stand up and read the word of God in the synagogues on the Sabbath days, as when He "came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days" (Luke 4:31).

At another time, when "the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day" (Luke 13:14), Jesus, with fire in his eyes, shouted: "Thou hypocrite" (v. 15). Now that is hell fire preaching, enough to make any political opponent want to destroy you!

When the scribes and Pharisees tried to trick him about the law, he got in their faces, lifting up his voice with: "Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?" (Matt. 15:3); explaining later to his disciples "in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (v. 9). After all He was the very God who had inspired Isaiah to pen: "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins" (Isa. 58:1). What preacher today will march to these orders, raise the level of his message and delivery, and unflinchingly trumpet the truth for all to hear?

Get one thing crystal clear from the four gospels–Jesus kept the Sabbath day holy. Mark it down with indelible ink. Never once even in the slightest, most miniscule degree did our savior break the true Sabbath, notwithstanding what anybody claims. Jesus honored the Sabbath every wit. He claimed: "the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath" (Mark 2:28). Now if you are Lord of something, you are in charge, you know what you are doing, you command respect from others about what you are Lord over, and you don’t apologize! Mark that down too.

Jesus was a man of authority because he was under authority. He obeyed His Father fully, which generated ultimate confidence in His soul. Of this young Man Jesus, it is said: "For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Matt. 7:29). Notice the contrast. Jesus boldly proclaimed the truth of the Sabbath by His own living epistle. The scribes wimped out, couldn’t ever fully make up their minds, could not teach with authority, because they were not under authority. They were like a bunch of whimpering, whining fools, blithering numskulls, with all their little beanies and robes and phylacteries and dos and don’ts and if’s and and’s and but’s and maybe’s!

It is against this religious/political backdrop, that Jesus, Son of God, kept and taught the seventh day Sabbath. Few details of the law of the Sabbath are given in the four gospels. These laws were already long since written down in the only Bible these folks knew–the law, the prophets and the psalms. The New Testament had not yet been written down. Sabbath law had been largely replaced in practice with Pharisaic tradition among the Israelite populace of Judea. Jesus taught his followers how to correctly keep the Sabbath day holy, without living "according to the tradition of the elders" (Mark 7:5). Keeping the Sabbath day holy was second nature to Him and his followers. He had no controversy with His Father’s Sabbath law.

Jesus meant to set things straight. His faithful practice was: "straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught" (Mark 1:21). Preacher, will you do the same? All over the gospels, Jesus entered the synagogues of Judea and preached and taught and healed the sick, restored sight to the blind, performed good works on the Sabbath day. This made the religious leaders mad. Jesus was encroaching on their territory. He was badgering their socks off, making them uncomfortable, showing them off for the hypocrites they really were. What a preacher this Jesus was!

"And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him.

"But he knew their thoughts, [preacher, if you will stay one step ahead of your enemies, you must have discernment!] and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth.

"Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?

"And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

"And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus" (Luke 6:6-11).

Do you you want a miracle? You you believe you could convert the world if only you could perform miracles? Brother, if Jesus’ miracles would not convince the worldly wicked to repent, neither will yours! You had better rely on the word of God and not on miracles, because miracles are not always from God. And even true miracles do not convert wicked men who’s hallmark is their disrespect for the word of God.

This Jesus redefined the law of the "Jewish sabbath," one of the Pharisees’ pet laws and fondest practices, because it was their way of controlling the lives of the people. People are sheep, and are willing basically to believe what they are taught. Now if the priest teaches that you can take only 25 steps, or any of a long string of other Jewish traditions concerning the Sabbath, people generally follow. Jesus came against all these traditions. Jesus stood up for the truth of the Sabbath. Jesus by his own living epistle restored a law dating from the very foundation of the world, the one law that God used to set in order the proper use of time for mankind.

After all, Jesus was the executive being of the triune Godhead, the Word, the one who had originally rested on the first Sabbath of creation week! Jesus understood this law well. He was there when He and the Father set up the blueprint, the foundation, for time and history. He had originally created the Sabbath, as in: "And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made" (Gen 2:3).

Jesus "went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands" (Luk 6:1), which was a lawful practice (Deut. 23:25) that got under the skins of the church leaders. The Pharisees had proscribed against this practice even though the law of Moses specifically allowed it. Jesus set them straight, saying: "the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath" (Luk 6:5). Upon Jesus death, His disciples were so used to keeping the Sabbath day holy that they "rested the sabbath day according to the commandment" (Luke 23:56). Note that they did not rest according to the tradition of the elders, but according to the commandment.

Jesus validated the creation Sabbath by living it, teaching on the Sabbath day, and confounding the Judaizers of the Sabbath. Jesus, Man of God, Son of God, never neglected to keep His Father’s Sabbath day holy. Will you follow Jesus?


“The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness,
and let us put on the armour of light” (Romans 13:12).

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