When you’re engaged or head over heals in love with your husband or wife, would you throw away your wedding ring? Of course not; it’s a treasure we protect and keep safe. As the Bride of Christ, has Jesus given us such a sign of our covenant with Him?
For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath. (Matthew 12:8)
I need to take a moment and set the stage for what is happening here, not just from the immediate context, but the context of the gospels. This account of the Pharisees confronting Jesus because his disciples were breaking the law by plucking heads grain to eat on the Sabbath is recorded here in Matthew 12:1-8 as well as in Mark 2:23-38 and Luke 6:1-5. Each of these accounts are also followed by Jesus healing of a man with a withered hand likewise on a Sabbath, which the Pharisees viewed as being unlawful for Jesus to do.
In each Jesus responds to the Pharisees with the example of David eating the bread of the presence, which was unlawful to do. Matthew also includes how the priests minister in the temple on the Sabbath but remain guiltless. Mark includes Jesus’s statement that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk. 2:27). Each then conclude with Jesus’ statement “the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
Now before I go any further, let me state that I believe Jesus is the LORD of the Sabbath. Not only is He LORD of this day we commonly refer to as Saturday, but He is also LORD of Sunday through Friday. Jesus is either LORD of all, or He is not lord at all. (Perhaps you’ve noticed that I always refer to Jesus as LORD – all caps – for He is Yehovah, One with the Father and the Spirit, God Almighty.) Why this disclaimer that Jesus is LORD of the Sabbath? Because country to what most bible commentaries tell us, I don’t think Jesus is establishing His claim as LORD of the Sabbath here.
You see that’s why I took the time to establish the big picture of what happened on this particular Sabbath (although only Matthew’s gospel seems to indicate that the incident in the grain fields and the healing of the man’s withered hand were on the same Sabbath – Luke says it was another Sabbath, and Mark seems to agree). The primary point of what happened here and on other Sabbaths was Jesus correcting the misguided teaching and legalism of the Pharisees.
The religious leaders not only criticized Jesus for what they saw as breaking the law of the Sabbath, but they constantly conspiring to find a way to kill Him (Mat. 12:14). Here is a brief list of other times the religious leaders were attacking in regard to the Sabbath:
- Jesus healed a cripple man telling him to take up his mat and walk, but the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath (Jn. 5:16).
- Jesus healed a man born blind but the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath” and went on to say Jesus was “a sinner” (Jn. 9:16, 24).
- Jesus healed a woman who had been bound for eighteen years, but “the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, ‘There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day'” (Lk. 13:14)
And that’s what is missing in response to Jesus statement, “the Son of man is lord of the Sabbath;” no rebuke or attack is made against Jesus for this in any of the accounts. Why would the religious leaders who were quick to point out that Jesus and the disciples had broken the law milling grain in their hands to eat on the Sabbath, but they say nothing in response to what most modern commentators view as a clear claim of Jesus divinity as LORD of the Sabbath? Likewise, when Jesus is on trial prior to the crucifixion He is charged with blasphemy, as having claimed to be God, but no mention is made that He had also blasphemed by calling Himself LORD of the Sabbath. Why is this accusation missing?
I think it is because of how Jews understood the Sabbath, but we don’t. The Sabbath was understood to be the sign of the covenant with the LORD; it was like our wedding ring, a constant reminder of the vows of love and commitment made between the bride and groom. Israel and the Jews of Jesus’ day saw themselves as the bride promised to God as their husband. It’s from this common belief that New Testament writers revealed that we are the bride of Christ.
And so because the Sabbath was viewed as the sign of the covenant like a wedding ring first given to Adam (i.e. the man), the sons of the man (humanity, but specifically the Jews) were entrusted with the Sabbath. This is why Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk. 2:27); it is the gift given as the sign of their covenant relationship to God. Through the Jewish marriage customs the Pharisees and Jews in general believed that the Jewish people were the lord or master of the Sabbath protecting their covenant relationship with the LORD Yehovah.
Therefore, when Jesus says, “the son of man is lord of the Sabbath” the religious leaders who challenged Him for letting the disciples pluck heads of grain to eat on the Sabbath are now silent. They don’t hear Jesus making a claim to be divine, but agree with Jesus that they are lord of the Sabbath guarding it as the sign of their covenant with God.
The Sabbath – it’s not a burden of the law, outdated and fulfilled by Christ. It’s our wedding ring.
As a member together of the Church, which is the Bride of Christ, I want to be prepared for our wedding day when Jesus returns as our Bridegroom. One way I can do this is by recognizing the Sabbath as the day given to me by the LORD to treasure and renew the covenant relationship He has established with us through Christ.
Yes to Yield
LORD Jesus, according to Your great love You have chosen me and all who believe as Your Bride. Thank You for choosing us. Holy Spirit continue to lead me in truth and teach me the importance of the Sabbath as a sign of our covenant marriage to Christ. Give me wisdom to know how to set this day apart as holy in my life. Help me to see that it is not a burden, but an expression of love and obedience to You.
If you’re new to Living it Now check out Hearing and Doing for an explanation of the O-B-E-Y journal.