Mark 2/Matt 12/Luke 6 – was the Sabbath made for all mankind to keep?

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Mark 2, Matt 12, Luke 6

(Mar 2:23) And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.
(Mar 2:24) And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?
(Mar 2:25) And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was hungry, he, and they that were with him?
(Mar 2:26) How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?
(Mar 2:27) And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
(Mar 2:28) Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

(Mat 12:1) At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were hungry, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat.
(Mat 12:2) But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.
(Mat 12:3) But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was hungry, and they that were with him;
(Mat 12:4) How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests
(Mat 12:5) Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless
(Mat 12:6) But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.
(Mat 12:7) But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.
(Mat 12:8) For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.
(Mat 12:9) And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue:
(Mat 12:10) And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.
(Mat 12:11) And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?
(Mat 12:12) How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.

(Luk 6:5) And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
(Luk 6:9) Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?

Adventists claim that these passages show that the Sabbath is still in effect, and Christians are obliged to keep it. They claim that Mark 2:27, in saying that the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath, proves that the Sabbath was not given to Israel alone, but to all mankind.

They are taking the verse out of context. If one goes back and read the entire passage along with verse 27, one sees that Jesus was not speaking about whether or not the Sabbath was made for Jews or for all mankind for all ages and in all places. Jesus was accused of breaking the law in many places in the Bible, and the Sabbath was one they often picked on him for – here he is pointing out that the purpose of the Sabbath is to serve man, not a case of man being made to glorify the Sabbath. By removing the verse from its context, Sabbath keepers turn the meaning around. This is a well-documented logical fallacy, called the false dichotomy. The verse, out of context, is presented as presenting two points (the false dichotomy) – the Sabbath was made for man, or the Sabbath was made for Jews. But in context, the actual dichotomy is between the legalist/Pharisee perspective (the Sabbath was more important than those keeping it) and Jesus’ perspective (the Sabbath was made to serve those keeping it.)

When Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man, he was NOT contrasting mankind with Judaism. He was contrasting the LAW with MAN … what he was saying is that the LAW was made to serve MAN, NOT man being made to keep the law. There is NOTHING about Jews or Israel AT ALL in this text … Adventists are reading something into the text that is not there, and, by removing a statement from its context, making it say something that doesn’t even fit into the actual context at all. The Old Testament is explicit – the Sabbath was made for Israel, and is explicitly called the sign of the Old Covenant. We all know that this was abolished at the Cross. And the Old Testament also tells us clearly that the Sabbath was given to MOSES, and NOT before the time of Moses. That alone proves that the Sabbath was not given to ALL mankind, because Adam, Noah, and Abraham never knew of it or kept it. See the article here for more info on that.

Jesus is not saying that Christians must keep the Sabbath. That is taking Jesus’ words out of context. Does Jesus actually preach anywhere about the future Christian Church and the laws it must keep? Such an idea is not found ANYWHERE in this passage, or in the New Testament. What Jesus is doing is instructing the Sabbath-keeping Jews of his day on how to deal with God’s law. They were legalistic, and put the law above love and mercy. Jesus is turning that around, and saying that the Sabbath God gave them is not meant as an end in its own right, but as a means to serve mankind. Jesus is explaining that the Sabbath is a means for grace and mercy, and not what the Pharisees made it into – the holy of holies, the final end of Jewish worship. This principle is equally valid in ALL Christian denominations. There is nothing at all in the text to suggest that Jesus is proclaiming that the Sabbath will continue. He is merely using a real problem of the time to expound a principle of mercy.

Jesus is actually discussing the law as a whole here – my reasoning is twofold. First, the Pharisees were always trying to find him breaking the law – the Sabbath, hand-washing, and so forth – and so this is just one of the several instances where Jesus gives us insight into the true nature and purpose of the law. Second, Jesus actually gives another example of law-breaking unrelated to the Sabbath – David was so hungry he ate a certain bread that could not be eaten by anyone other than the high priest. This has nothing to do with the Sabbath, yet Jesus uses this example to prove that the law exists to serve man, not man to serve the law. Based on this, I feel that Jesus is not promoting the Sabbath at all here, and this passage actually does not deal with the Sabbath’s implications for Christians. All that Jesus is doing is showing, using two contemporary examples, how the law is meant to be used. So he is not making a statement at all about who the Sabbath was given to – Israel versus mankind. The Bible has already spoken on that – the Sabbath was for Israel. What Jesus is saying – as I see it – is not about mankind’s relationship with the Sabbath, but the relationship between PEOPLE and the Sabbath – did people have to serve the Sabbath or did the Sabbath exist to serve the people Jesus was speaking to? And this is just one of several examples used to show the nature of the law.

What of the statements that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath? Adventists want the text so say that because Jesus is “Lord even of the Sabbath”, it means that it is his special day. But just go back and read the entire passage – it actually is saying that Jesus is ABOVE the law, that it is HE who determines when a law is applicable, and when it is legalistic. Basically, the text is saying NOT that Jesus’ special day is the Sabbath, but that Jesus is Lord OVER the Sabbath JUST as he is Lord over every other aspect of nature, the law, and the universe, and he controls it completely.

Circumcision too was made for man, and not man for circumcision.

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