PART 3 The Seventh Day Sabbath
CHAPTER 4The Incarnation of Christ
From the birth of Christ to the day of Pentecost
This period of time began with the virgin birth of the Messiah of the Jews, who is called Jesus Christ, God incarnate. Ate age 30, he began his public ministry. He chose twelve disciples to accompany him, and began to teach concerning a new kingdom, which involved a new way of life that was to come. He lived a sinless life; was rejected by the Jews; crucified on a cross; paid the penalty for the sins of the whole world; forgave these sins; rose from the dead after 3 days never to die again; was witnessed or seen by many after his resurrection as he abode on earth in his glorified body for 40 days; and then ascended into heaven. The Mosaic Law and all that pertained to it was still in operation during this time.
When Jesus lived on the earth, what were his comments about observing the 7th day Sabbath? Let’s find out by reading the scripture sections which follow.
A non-dispensationalist will look at the scriptures, in which observing the 7th day Sabbath was mentioned, and will choose one or more verses that they believe will support the perpetuation of this practice throughout human history.
A dispensationalist will look at the scriptures, in which observing the 7th Day Sabbath was mentioned during the age at hand, and will determine as to whether this observance was to be kept during this time.
The 7th day Sabbath:The Jews were not allowed to work on this day, however, acts of mercy, worship, and of necessity were permitted. With the development of the synagogue, the Sabbath became a day of worship and of study of the Law, as well as a day of cessation from all secular employment. It was during the period between Ezra and the Christian era that the spirit of Jewish legalism flourished. Innumerable restrictions and rules were formulated for the conduct of life under the Law. The beginnings of this elaborate definition of actions permitted and actions forbidden are to be found in the centuries immediately preceding the Christian era. The movement was at flood tide during our Lord's earthly ministry and continued for centuries afterward, in spite of His frequent and vigorous protests.
Jesus and the Sabbath: Apart from His claim to be the Messiah, there was no subject on which our Lord came into such sharp conflict with the religious leaders of the Jews as in the matter of Sabbath observances. The rabbis seemed to think that the Sabbath was an end in itself, an institution to which the pious Israelite must subject all his personal interests i.e. that man was made for the Sabbath. Jesus, on the contrary, taught that the Sabbath was made for man's benefit. If there should arise a conflict between man's needs and the letter of the Law, then man's higher interests and needs must take precedence over the law of the sabbath. 18
Some believe that the following scriptures support the idea that Christians are obligated to observe the Mosaic Law. A question we will seek to answer concerning this is what follows.When Jesus said that he came not to destroy the Law, did this mean that it was to continually be observed not only by the Jews, but also by Christians?
12. I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfillSuggested Reading: Matthew 5:1-2, 17-18Matthew 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
Jesus was in Galilee near Capernaum teaching the crowds. The scriptures in Matthew chapters 5-7 are otherwise known as the Sermon on the Mount. One of the many things that Jesus said was that he came not to destroy (deny the divine authority of) the law, or the prophets, but to fulfill (to embody them in living form accomplishing what was intended in them). The Law of Moses contained many sacrifices and rites which were designed to shadow forth the Messiah. These were fulfilled when Jesus came and offered himself as a sacrifice to God. Likewise, the prophets proclaimed many predictions respecting his coming and death, and these were all to be fulfilled and fully accomplished by his life and his sufferings. 19
In the next section, the disciple are accused by the religious hierarchy of doing something wrong on the Sabbath. The following question addresses this.What was it that the disciples did that was considered unlawful on the Sabbath?
13. Thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day:Suggested Reading: Matthew 12:1-8; Luke 6:1-5; Mark 2:23-28; 1 Samuel 21:1-6; Numbers 28:10
The Pharisees are accusing Jesus disciples of violating or breaking the Sabbath, because as they walked through the barley fields on this day, they picked the barley and rubbed it in their hands, which was considered to be work. There was nothing wrong with picking fruit or barley from a neighbor’s field as long as it was not picked on the Sabbath, it satisfied the person’s hunger, and he/she did not carry any away with them. The Pharisees contended that it was not wrong to take the fruit, but it was wrong to take it on the Sabbath, because it violated their designated 39 main classes of work, the first three of which are listed as sowing, plowing, and reaping. In this instance, picking (plucking) would fall under the category of reaping. It’s interesting to note that this particular Sabbath occurred during the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, which lasted for seven days. This feast began on the following day after the Feast of the Passover was observed. The first and seventh days of this feast were each considered as a Sabbath. No servile work was allowed. This referred to work you usually do every day, laboring at some definite occupation, i.e. farming, trading, etc. However, other kinds of work were allowed that was considered as non-servile work, such as the preparation of food, the gathering of sticks, and the making of a fire. According to Jesus, the picking of the barley and the rubbing of it in their hands was considered non-servile work and therefore should be allowed on this particular Sabbath. In response to this charge of violating the Sabbath, Jesus gave two counter examples to illustrate what else was allowed to take place on the Sabbath.
a. David and his men are on the run from King Saul. David asked Ahimelech the high priest for five loaves of bread. Abimelech responded by saying that the only bread he had available for them was shewbread. On the Sabbath, the priests were commanded by the Mosaic Law to make shewbread. Even though the making of shewbread was considered work, the Sabbath mandated that this must be done. Twelve loaves of this bread would be laid on a table in the tabernacle to be offered to the Lord on the Sabbath. On the following Sabbath, it became the sole possession of the high priest, who was required to eat it in a holy place. The priest responded to David that he and his men were allowed to eat the shewbread as long as they did not have relations with a woman. Remember, we learned earlier in this study that work for acts of mercy, necessity, and worship were allowed on the Sabbath. Therefore, the giving of the shewbread to David, for himself and his men, could be considered as an act of necessity. It was possible that they couldn’t stay in this geographical area for too long, because they were being hunted down by King Saul. Therefore, this act of necessity was allowed to take place on the Sabbath. 1 Samuel 21:1-6; Matthew 12:1-8
b. The next example concerned the priests of the tabernacle. On the Sabbath, they were commanded by the law to offer sacrifices. The animals, which were to be offered, were killed and then burned by fire. Even though this was considered work, the priest did what was necessary and what was commanded by the Mosaic Law. Because these sacrifices were done out of necessity, therefore an allowance was made. Numbers 28:10; Matthew 12:1-8
With what has been said, we could conclude that the plucking, rubbing, and subsequent eating of the grain seems not to be a violation of breaking the Sabbath, because non-servile work such as preparing food was allowed on certain sabbaths, which were associated with various feasts or festivals. We could also deduce that what took place by Jesus disciples was out of necessity. What was allowed to take place on the Sabbath and what was not allowed to take place on the Sabbath became a continual contentious issue between Jesus and the Jewish religious establishment. After presenting two examples that further supported the disciples’ decision to pick the barley and rub it in their hands Jesus made this statement.
8 For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.
So, what does this verse mean. The word Lord means to exercise power over or to have authority over. This could refer to the rules about the observance of the sabbath. Others would say that because the Lord didn’t say anything about there coming a time when the sabbath was no longer to be observed that He was proclaiming that the observance of such should be continued.
The Jews described their day in respect to the Sabbath. The following question pertains to this. In relation to the Sabbath, what does the first day of the week mean?
14. On the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchreSuggested Reading: Mark 16:1-11Mark 16:1-2 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.
Mary Magdelene, Salome, and Mary the mother of Jesus purchased anointing oil following the close of the Sabbath. Well before sunrise (6:00am), on the first day of the week, they left the town of Bethany and proceeded to Jerusalem, where the tomb in which Jesus body was placed in was located. They arrived at the tomb just after sunrise and noticed that the stone covering it had been removed. So, they decided to enter the tomb, and when they did, they saw a young man dressed in white, who told them that Jesus was risen. Furthermore, he conveyed to them they were to let the disciples and Peter know that He will meet them in Galilee. What we can gather is that Jesus was raised from the dead before sunrise on the first day of the week. What do the words first day mean? Is the first day of the week considered Sunday? Is the first day of the week considered as the day, which followed the 7th day Sabbath? In order to answer this, we need information as to how the Jews and Romans termed their days. As for the Jews, they referred to the days of the week as the first of the week (of the Sabbath cycle, the second of the Sabbath cycle, etc.). The seventh day was known as the Shabat (the Sabbath), the day of rest. The Sabbath began at approximately 40 minutes after sunset (6:00pm), when a minimum of 3 stars were able to be seen in the sky, which would be considered to begin at the close of the sixth day. Each of these days began and ended at sunset. Therefore, the first day of the week is the day following the Sabbath, beginning at sunset.20And remember, the Romans not only gave names to each day of the week, but each day began and ended at Midnight (12:00am). There is a six-hour difference between when a Jewish day ended and when a Roman day began. We could extend this study on the first day of the week and try to determine on what day Jesus was crucified. If possible, we might take a look at this in the next dispensation called the Church Age.
It appears that Jesus attended a synagogue on the Sabbath consistently. The following question can be asked in respect to this.
Does the fact that Jesus consistently attended the synagogue on the Sabbath serve as the basis for concluding that Christians should observe the 7th day Sabbath as their day of assembly worship?
15. Jesus went into the synagogue on the sabbath day:Luke 4:16-17 And he 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. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
Jesus attended a synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath day. And when he stood up to read, there was given him the book of Isaiah, which he opened to a certain place. It’s interesting to note that when a young Jewish boy reached the age of 13, attending the synagogue became a part of his legal life. Therefore, we could assume that when He reached age 13 this was the case. Can we conclude by Jesus regular visits to the synagogue that the 7th day Sabbath is the day Christians should observe for worship and praise?
●Jesus didn’t come to destroy (deny the divine authority of) the law or the prophets, but to embody them in living form accomplishing what was intended in them. The Law of Moses contained many sacrifices and rites which were designed to shadow forth the Messiah. These were fulfilled when he came and offered himself as a sacrifice to God. The prophets contained many predictions respecting his coming and death. These were all to be fulfilled and fully accomplished by his life and his sufferings. Matthew 5:1-2, 17-18
●According to Jesus, the picking of the barley and the rubbing of it in the disciples’ hands on the Sabbath, which was observed during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, was considered non-servile work. In this case and in others, when a Sabbath was connected to a Festival or Feast only work, which was associated with or was in connection to one’s trade was prohibited. All other work such as preparing food, gathering wood, kindling fire, etc. was allowed. Matthew 12:1-8; 1 Samuel 21:1-6; Numbers 28:10
●According to the Jewish reckoning of the days, Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, the day following the 7th day Sabbath. Mark 16:2
●Jesus consistently attended the synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath. On this particular Sabbath, he was about to enter the synagogue and read from the book of Isaiah. Luke 4:16-17
The dispensationalist would not use any of the ideas concerning observing the 7th day Sabbath as mentioned above as a basis for observing the Sabbath as a practice to be instituted in the Church Age, the age in which we currently live. But rather, he/she would use verses from the Church Age to determine such. The dispensationalist would admit that during Christ’s incarnation, not only was the Mosaic Law in effect, but He observed the tenets of such i.e. he attended the synagogue on the Sabbath, showed up at the various feasts, was circumcised on the 8th day, etc. However, it became apparent that Jesus teachings were reflective of a new kingdom that was forthcoming. This kingdom involved a new way of life, which was to be Spirit directed and not Law subjected. The specifics of such would be unveiled in the Church Age by means of divine revelation.
The non-dispensationalist would make the case that Christians are to keep the Sabbath due to the following:~ That the observing of the 7th day Sabbath was forecast prophetically in the book of Genesis, when God rested on the 7th day.~ That the Jews observed this day during their wilderness wanderings and entrance into the Promised Land of Canaan.~ That this practice was continued to be observed by Jesus himself during his incarnation. And because He continued to keep the Law, He was himself the evidence that all of the aspects of the Law should be continued to observed by Jewish and Gentile Christians in the age to come, the Church Age. ~That Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath and because of such He did not make any proclamation of prohibiting the observance of it.
As we can see, there are two opposing views in regard as to whether a Christian (Jewish or Gentile) is obligated to observe the 7th day Sabbath. We have one more dispensation to look at, but before we do let’s try to answer the question that we talked about earlier, which is the following.
On what day was Jesus crucified?
Most churches believe according to Roman time that this was a Friday. Depending on what time of the day this refers Jewish time would either classify this as either the 5th or 6th following the Sabbath.
Endnotes18International Standard Bible.19Barnes’ Notes.Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005, 6 Jan. 2012 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>. 20Karen Hill, “How Did the Names of the Days of the Week Come to Be?”, 2014. 05 February 2016 ˂http://superbeefy.com/how-did-the-names-of-the-days-of-the-week-come-to-be/>.
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