Tony Balatayo of San Diego, CA, USA asks the Editor of God’s Message magazine:
“PLEASE ADVISE ME with regard to the verses Luke 6:6; Mark 6:1-2; Acts 13:13-14, 16:13; 17:2; 18:4 in which it is taught that Jesus and the apostles ‘went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day.’ Furthermore, Christ pronounced in Mark 2:27-28, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.’
“Whose Sabbath is this that Christ Jesus and the apostles were observing? Had Christ made His own Sabbath?”
The Sabbath being referred to in the verses you quoted is none other than that which God commanded to the ancient Israelites as a sign of His covenant with them (Exod. 31:16, Deut. 5:1-3, 12-14; Mal. 4:4). They were to observe the Sabbath to commemorate their deliverance from bondage in Egypt, hence it was exclusive to the Israelites as it was they who became slaves in Egypt (Deut. 5:15, Today’s English Version). Observance of the Sabbath includes strict prohibition on doing one’s work on the ‘seventh day’ that even kindling of fire (Exod. 35:3) and cooking (Exod. 16:23) were forbidden, let alone plowing and harvesting (Exod. 34:21).
The biblical verses you listed in your letter do not teach that Christ and the apostles observed this Sabbath, or an Sabbath for that matter. Though these do state that Christ and the apostles went into the synagogue on Sabbaths, the verses themselves clarify their purpose in going there—”to teach” (Mark 6:2; Luke 6:6), “to speak” (Acts 13:14-16; 16:13), to preach (Acts 13:42), and to reason with people (Acts 17:2; 18:4). During the Sabbath the Jews in Christ’s time would gather in the synagogue, hence Christ and the apostles made use of such opportune times to preach the gospel to many people.
The biblical accounts of Jesus’ healing the sick on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:11-13; Luke 13:10-17) and His disciples working on that day (Luke 16:1-5) all the more show that the observance of the Sabbath was not their practice. In fact, Christ was even accused by Sabbath observers of being “not from God” for not obeying the Sabbath law (John 9:16).
The incident in which Jesus declared ‘the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath … the Son of Man is also “Lord of the Sabbath” even more underscores His consistency in not keeping the Sabbath law. Jesus then was defending His disciples who plucked the heads of grain in the fields on the Sabbath: “Now it happened that He went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; and as they went His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to Him, ‘Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’ But He said to them, ‘Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him: how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the showbread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?’ And He said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath’ (Mark 2:23-28, New King James Version).
Christ’s being “the Lord of the Sabbath”, only means that He is above it and not bound by it, as He Himself demonstrated in His actions. But, by not observing the Sabbath, did Christ and His apostles violate any of Gods laws? No, for it was God Himself who had put an end to the observance of the Sabbath (Lam. 2:6; Hos. 2:11, TEV).
Proving that such a law is no longer in effect in the Christian Era, the apostle Paul teaches us this concerning the Sabbath: “Let no one criticize you in food or drink, or in matters concerning festivals, new moons, or the Sabbath. … These doctrines may seem to be profound because they speak of religious observance and humility and of disregarding the body. In fact, they are useless in overcoming selfishness” (Col. 2:16, 23 Christian Community Bible).