23. One Sabbath he was going through the grain-fields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.
24. And the Pharisees were saying to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?"
25. And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him:
26. how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?"
27. And he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
28. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath."
Voltare, a French philosopher, hated Christians so much. He advised the government that the best way of eradicating Christianity was by abolishing the Sunday public Worship by the Christians. Sadly the government heeded this advise and they to a greater degree minimized the number of Christians in France. today, France is one of the most secular (pagan) nations in Europe. As we talk, France has the highest number of Muslims in France!
The passage before us will challenge our thinking in a number of things in regard to the keeping of the Lord’s Day. Please do not switch off because you may not like some of the instructions here. This passages chops off by the roots the trees of materialism, earthlimindedness, and pleasure-madness that so many Christians seem to enjoy and relish their fruits.
You will notice that most of your time is taken up by making money, thinking of what new property you need to acquire, pursuing pleasure and family. You notice that though these in of themselves are not sinful, bust silently tend to dethrone the Lord from His position in the heart, if not checked.
This passage deals with both extremes of the positions held by various people who do fail to pay full attention to the Lord Jesus Christ in His Word: legalism and fatalism. Two lessons to take note here and take home:
Two things – there is a Sabbath and Sabbath is made for the sake man
1) There is a Sabbath
There are many Christians who are now claiming that there is nothing like a Sabbath for Christians. I may excuse them, that they do not know what Sabbath is. Sabbath means rest − the pricelessly precious benefit of rest. The passage simply says that, "The Sabbath was made for man…”(v.27). What proves that there is Sabbath?
a) God made it
This is attested by Genesis that in the beginning, when God made or created the, after creating man, He created the Sabbath or rest and blessed it and made it holy and went on to utilize it Himself! (Gen. 2:2-3). The fact that He gave man work to do (like He had done), made led to the fact man will also need to rest – all pointing to the time when He will ultimately rest from all labour while in glory. That God made the Sabbath means that it is there – because all the created things are still in existence in order to accomplish the purposes of God. And will you ignore something that your heavenly Father has made?
b) The law teach it
The Pharisees had a problem with the disciples of Jesus because they were breaking the law. They were referring to the Law of Moses and in particular the ten commandments. Remembering the Sabbath is of uttermost importance because it is one of the Ten Commandments, indeed, a commandment that belongs to the first table of the Law − not a minor matter. The 1st commandment regards to the object of worship – God, the 2nd regards the means of worship – not by any representation, the 3rd is the means of worship – the Name, but must not be taken in vain, and the 4th in respect to the time – one day in seven. Sabbath was instituted in paradise even before the Fall! Even the Gentiles, the strangers etc. were expected to keep it although they were not to keep the rest of the ceremonial law. The law taught it – period!
c) Jesus did not deny it!
When the Pharisees charged Jesus’ disciples of abusing the Sabbath, did Jesus respond, “I’m sorry, I’m not Sabbatarian?” Did He tell them that the Sabbath was no longer effective because He fulfilled it? No! He simply took them back to the law – their interpretation of what it means to keep the Sabbath was flawed in three ways:
I. It was inconsistent with the rest of Scripture
He took them to what David did when he was in need and was hungry. The disciples of Jesus were not harvesting corn – they were in need and hungry – this is why they plucked the ears of corn.
II. It denied the purpose for which God made it – it is for man
God made the law for the sake of safeguarding the best interest of His people – His glory. He wants men to know sin and to reject it. In giving the law, God was showing men their utter need of Him for they can’t keep it. The law of God must not be used to oppress people. The priest, who was present (Ahimelech) who served at the days when Abiathar was the high-priest, gave David and his men the Isaiah 58:13-14how-bread and yet the law does now allow anyone else other than the priest to eat it! The priest appreciated the need of David and his men and provided for their need.
III. Jesus is the best to explain how the Sabbath works because He designed it!
He teaches that it is to be applied in a manner consistent to the rest of God’s Word. It is to be used for the good of the people not the other way round where it is oppressively applied. It is to the honor of God because it belongs to Him. This is how he explained it here.
d) The New Testament teach it
The gospels teach it through the teaching of the Lord. In fact, the Lord envisaged a situation where the Sabbath will be observed even after the destruction of the temple (Matt. 24:20). And the evangelists accepted it as normative and faithfully recorded it. The Apostles observed the Sabbath and met for worship on it - John 20:19; Acts 20:7; 1Cor. 16:2. Those who use to Colossians 2:16 and Hebrews4:9 to say that Sabbath is a shadow that is done away with and fulfilled in Christ, fail to see the reference in Colossian is actually on a Sabbath (it is singular) and is a reference to a ceremonial Sabbath, since there were so many sabbaths. The reference in Hebrews is in the future Sabbath rest for the people of God that ‘remains’!
I say this because there is a view gaining ground among many respectable Christians and believers. That the 4th commandment was wholly ceremonial − “Jewish” − and so fulfilled by Christ so that it is no longer binding. That the observance of the first day of the week is merely a custom of the NT Church (though a good custom, it is usually admitted), based upon a decision of the Church herself. Use of the first day of the week for public worship is not due to any binding law of God, but to the free choice of the Church. She could have chosen some other day of the week. The keeping of the first day is strictly a matter of Christian liberty.
Remembering the Lord’s Day is not a matter of Christian liberty, i.e., something neither commanded nor forbidden by God. Rather, it is law, the law of God, just as are the matters of having no other gods, honoring our parents, and not stealing. It is the commandment of the Redeemer to His saved people. It is a commandment that at once teaches us to know our sinful nature more and more, so that we fly to Christ for righteousness, and directs us in the way of pleasing our Deliverer and of living a happy life. It is a commandment that the thankful believer gladly obeys, as a child willingly obeys the father whom he loves.
The 4th Commandment is part of the moral law of God, and is perpetually valid. No more is this commandment done away with than is the commandment against idolatry or taking God’s name in vain, or killing or adultery, or covetousness. Like the other nine, it was engraved on the stone tablet by the finger of God. If it were the case that the Fourth Commandment was entirely ceremonial, we would now have only nine commandments, not ten, and should speak of the “Ennealogue,” not of the Decalogue. The Fourth Commandment, perpetually valid, requires that we remember a day to keep it holy and, in connection with this, that we cease from our work
2) The Sabbath is for the sake of man
The Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27). The good of man that God had in mind is rest. Is there anything that we need more? Everywhere, there is unrest. There is unrest in the church; there is unrest in the family; there is unrest in the soul of the believer. Apart from every other consideration, it is sheer folly to forfeit rest by forgetting, and even abandoning, the Lord’s Day. There is sure rest in Jesus and in keeping His Word because it is for our good. He bids us to come to Him for rest and we do this by learning from Him and taking His yoke that is easy and light (Matt. 11:28-30).
There is the growing practice of missing the worship services, now and then, because they interfere with our pleasures, e.g., our vacation-plans. The Lord’s Day is completely forgotten. It’s used for working, or for studying, or for travelling or for sightseeing, just as though it did not belong to the risen Christ, but to us. The strange notion is found in the Church that the 4th Commandment may be broken occasionally. Men suppose that, if they remember the Lord’s Day 51 weeks of the year, they are warranted in forgetting it one week. What would these same people say if others would adopt this thinking in regard to the commandment against stealing, or the commandment against murder?
But the Lord’s Day gets in the way of my work and so I’m unable to feed my children or I'm unable to prepare adequately for my exam or it gets on the way with my family or pleasure,” Yes, the Law of God has a way of doing this. Throughout the OT, all the commands of God “interfered” with Israel’s work, family, pleasures; and for this reason they broke it (cf. Isaiah 58:13 and Amos 8:5). May we bend and twist the Law to suit our pleasures? Or are we to plan our lives according to the law and to find our pleasure in doing what it says? Is it the family day or workday? Is it the study day or the exam day? Is it not the Lord’s Day?
But because the Sabbath is for man’s sake notice what promises the Lord has for those who diligently keep it:
Jesus says that He is the Lord of the Sabbath. Both the Lord and the Sabbath are in existence. He is the Lord, meaning that He determines and controls what happens on this day because He owns it! It is for His special use. It is holy for Him, which echo what God did when He made the Sabbath – He blessed it and made it holy.
This means that Jesus did not abolish this commandment; nor did He have a lax view of Sabbath-keeping, in comparison with the Pharisees. It is true that the Pharisees charged our Lord with laxity regarding the Sabbath. They accused Him of breaking the Sabbath (John 5:18). They said, “he keepeth not the Sabbath Day” (John 9:16). But this charge was false.
a) Jesus kept the Sabbath
Did Jesus keep the Sabbath? The answer is He did. Did He teach it? He did. What was Jesus’ teaching? What was the teaching of His behavior, first of all? Where did the Sabbath Day find Him, and what did it find Him doing? Was He in the field harvesting the crops? Was He in his father’s workshop planning the wood, to make a table? Was He taking scenic tours of the Mediterranean? Was He in the stadium in Jerusalem watching soccer game of the Nazareth Arsenals vs Capernaum Canons? Not at all, but He was always in the synagogue preaching the Word; and He was always doing good to distressed saints, healing them and destroying the power of the Devil in their lives.
b) Jesus taught on the Sabbath
What was the teaching of Jesus’ words concerning the Sabbath? Did He ever admit that the Pharisee’s charge was true? Did He ever say, “I am come, and, therefore, the Sabbath is no more?” Not at all, but He taught that remembering the Sabbath does not consist of idleness; it rather consists of working. He taught that this work must be the worship of God and the help of the needy brother. He taught that the Sabbath was made for man, for man’s great good.
And He taught that He is the Lord of the Sabbath. Note well, Jesus does not call Himself, “Destroyer of the Sabbath,” but “Lord of the Sabbath”. How can He be the Lord of a non-existent Sabbath? Those who claim that the NT is silent about the 4th commandment need to listen to this statement of the Lord – “So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath."(v.29)
As the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus fulfills the Sabbath, creating the perfect rest by His atoning death and resurrection. That the Sabbath is now fulfilled Jesus shows by changing the Sabbath Day from the seventh day of the week to the first day of the week. Not the Church, but the Lord Jesus set the first day of the week apart as the day of rest for the New Testament people of God. The Church has no authority to change the Sabbath Day or to require believers to observe the first day of the week. The Church does not make laws; she only proclaims the will of her sovereign Lord, as that will is revealed in Holy Scripture. The Lord of the Sabbath Himself ordained the first day of the week as the day of rest for the Church come of age. He did this by rising from the dead on the first day (Luke 24:1); by meeting with His disciples on the first day, prior to the Ascension (John 20:19; John 20:26); by coming back to the Church in the Holy Spirit on the first day (Pentecost was a Sunday); and by directing the apostles and the Apostolic Church to gather for worship on the first day (Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:1, 2).
He is the Lord of the Sabbath because he dealt away with all the little laws of the Jewish Talmud created by the Pharisees and the Scribes in order to protect the breaking of the 4th commandment. While their good intention is not in question, we know that by their traditions of men, Christ said that they made the Word of God to be non-effect.
How are we to observe the Lord’s Day?
v The entire day is to be given over to worship; the whole day is to be devoted to the Lord Christ. This is the answer to the familiar question, “What are we to do on Sunday?” We are to worship the Lord; we are to cultivate fellowship with other saints, as we will do in all eternity.
v God intends that we be active; work is required. Doing nothing is not obedience to the 4th Commandment, e.g., “sacking out” all day. Jesus showed this in John 5. He healed the lame man on the Sabbath and, when the Pharisees objected, said, “My Father worketh hitherto and I work” (v. 17). The notion that one kept the Sabbath by doing nothing was part of the legalism of the Pharisees.
v Do good to others on the Lord’s Day. “Works of charity,” i.e. good works of love for our neighbor, especially our fellow saints. Contributing to the relief of the poor, or almsgiving is an important aspect of worship.
v It is true that there are works of necessity that may be done. Jesus taught that one may pull a donkey out of the ditch. But, as someone has said, “if I have an ass that falls into the ditch every Sunday, I will either fill up the ditch or sell the ass!”
v On Sunday evenings, delightful Christian fellowship can be enjoyed − and practiced, as a duty…. Because our Saviour comes in a very special whenever a community of his people is gathered for the sake His Name.
v On the Lord’s Day, there should be family worship. The 4th command is addressed by God to the head of the home, the husband and father: “. . . in it (the Sabbath Day) thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter . . .” The father is responsible for the obedience of his house. He is to rest, with the family. The family should discuss the sermon, to remind themselves of the personal applications. Sing together, learn catechism etc.
It is my prayer that this has challenged you to be more diligent in the attendance of the Sunday worship because you come to hear your Lord in whose Day we are privileged. That you will spend far more quality time than you have done in the past. That you will not be as careless as you have been in the past. May the grace and peace, goodness and mercy of the Lord follow you today and forever as you dwell in the house of the Lord forever, even so as you will and do the good pleasure of His will.