Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath

Jesus , the Lord of the Sabbath

Pope Benedict XVI states that the “Bible declares that creation has its structure in the sabbath ordinance”[1] and that the Sabbath sums up the Torah, the law of Israel. As the Torah is an expression of the covenant and history of God and Israel, it is also an expression of God’s love of the human being, his image, for which he created the universe.

The apostle John used this history to introduce Christ as the Son of God, as always having been in the universe. “He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him” (John 1:2,3).

In the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4) Christ came to redeem man. He also redeemed the Sabbath from all the extremes the “law givers” had attached to it. The Scribes and Pharisees saw Jesus as defaming the Sabbath when on the Sabbath he performed miracles (Mark 1:21-26; 3:1-6, Mt. 12:10-13, Luke 6:6-10; 14:1-6, John 5: 5-9; 9: 1-41) or when his disciples picked handfuls of grain on which to snack (Mark   2:23-28). In these actions Jesus proclaimed that “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. This is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath” (Mark 2:27, 28).

He even questioned the Jewish leaders about the meaning of the law, “Is it right to save a life on the sabbath …?” (Luke 6:6-11), which is incidentally part of the law. Jesus taught that God created the Sabbath for humans; He did not create humans for the Sabbath. The followers of Jesus are to interpret the whole of the Jewish law according to God’s loving spirit.  To love the Lord and one another (cf Mt. 22-38) are the two greatest commandments. When this is at our heart, all of the commandments are followed. Do our Sabbath “rules” allow us to love? If not, we are not following the heart of the law.[2]


[1] Benedict XVI In the Beginning. Translated by Boniface Ramsey. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995), 294, Kindle.

[2] Sherman, “Reclaimed by Sabbath Rest,” 40.