Vol.XVIII No.IX Pg.1
November 1981

Sabbath Made For Man

Robert F. Turner

As Jesus' disciples walked through a grain field on the Sabbath, they plucked grain, rubbed the husk from it, and ate it. Jesus healed a man's withered hand on the Sabbath (Lu. 6:). The Pharisees had been looking for an accusation to bring against Him, and were furious when He said He was Lord also of the Sabbath — and went right ahead with His good work.

Jesus could have claimed authority to act as He did (some think this is the explanation); while others see a justification of His actions on the basis of the Pharisee's hypocrisy. I do not believe he argued their sin made His "sin" (?) acceptable. But He did point out that Temple needs outweighed Sabbath laws (Matt. 12:5), and cited extreme hunger and human needs (in David's case) as outweighing other ceremonial rules (Mk. 3:25-26). The key for all this may be Mark's citation of Jesus' saying, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mk. 3:27).

Genuine submission to divine authority, obeying as best we can each detail, is a good thing highly recommended by our Lord (Matt. 23:23). This supposed violation of the Sabbath does not argue that man's subjective judgment of "good" can set aside the laws of God. At the same time, God is not worshipped with men's hands, "as though He needed any thing" (Acts 17: 25). The details of worship and service are given for our benefit — are made for us, not we for them.

It is possible for us to reduce the kingdom of God to particulars; to "meat and drink" (Rom. 14:17) or tithe of "mint and anise and cummin" while we omit the weightier matters. It is difficult for us to teach the importance of assembling to sing, pray, and partake of the Lord's Supper without becoming slaves to the acts per se, rather than to the God who is worshipped in these things.

I think Jesus did not lessen the importance of the Sabbath (to the Jew) but enhanced it, by making it a tool of God that could be used for man's greater good. "I will have mercy and not sacrifice" (Matt. 12:7) does not negate commands to sacrifice, but demands more of man than externals.