In this sermon, we will examine how Jesus Christ kept the Sabbath and how we are to go about observing the Sabbath and keeping it in our own lives.
Brethren, last Sabbath we began a two part sermon on the Sabbath day. You might remember that we covered quite a bit of ground, especially in the Old Testament, on the Sabbath. We saw that the Sabbath has been in existence from creation. Actually, the time of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, I’m sure, had the Sabbath explained to them, because God rested on that day. And we find that it’s one of the, as I explained, first commandments that’s actually articulated in the Bible because God created it, and it’s recorded there. God rested on this day.
Now, undoubtedly, He instructed the first couple. It’s interesting, when you begin to look at some of the quotes from Catholic scholars, protestant, that those who have integrity will acknowledge that the Sabbath is still the Sabbath. And let me quote to you from one prominent protestant minister. Many of you have heard of Dwight Moody. He is one who’s been around or had been around for a long time. Notice what he said here. “The Sabbath was binding in Eden, and it has been in force ever since. The fourth command begins with the words ‘remember,’ showing that the Sabbath already existed when God wrote the law on the tables of stone in Sinai. How can man claim that one commandment has been done away with when they will admit that the other nine are still binding?” And I think that’s a very you know, very analytical, very clear assessment.
Now, I could read to you a number of quotes. Maybe we will, as we go on through the sermon, but there are a number of quotes where many prominent protestants, as well as Catholics, acknowledge that the Sabbath day ought to be kept. Now, it’s not my purpose today to try to prove to you about the Sabbath, but we want to focus more on how we go about observing the Sabbath and keeping it.
We went through some of the passages in the Old Testament that some critics of the Sabbath try to use to say it’s impossible for us in a modern day society, like today, 21st Century, to keep the Sabbath. We’re similar, you know. Confronted with issues today, those who tried to demonstrate that the New Testament that the Sabbath was changed from Saturday to Sunday. And they will try to quote various scriptures. I think over the years you and I have seen that. We understand that, that there are those who will try to quote scriptures to say that the Sabbath has been changed.
Let me just read you two or three quotes from some Catholic writers. This is taken from Catholic publication. It says, “Nowhere in the Bible do we find that Christ or the Apostles ordered that the Sabbath be changed from Saturday to Sunday. We have the commandment of God given to Moses to keep holy the Sabbath day, that is the seventh day of the week, Saturday. Today most Christians keep Sunday because it has been revealed to us by the Roman Catholic Church outside of the Bible.” In other words, the Roman Catholic Church changed it outside of the Bible. The Bible has nothing to do with it. It’s just what they did.
“Faith of Millions,” Dr. John O’Brien says, “But since Saturday, not Sunday, is specified in the Bible, isn’t it curious that non Catholics who profess to take their religion directly from the Bible, and not the Church, observe Sunday instead of Saturday?” Well, yes, of course, it is inconsistent; but this change was made about 15 centuries before the Protestantism was born, and by that time the custom was universally observed. They have continued the custom, even though it rests upon the authority of the Catholic Church and not upon an explicit text in the Bible.” So, you know, the Catholics admit that and acknowledge it.
“Faith of our Fathers” here, notice, “You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify.” That’s James Cardinal Gibbons who made that statement.
So, in other words, the Catholic Church never sanctified it. But, you know, the the protestants have no other authority for doing so, keeping Sunday, except to acknowledge the authority of the Catholic Church. And, of course, the church then always comes back and says, “If you acknowledge our authority, why aren’t you with us”?
And then one final quote here, form of a question and answer: The Converts’ Catechism of Catholic Dogma. “Question: What is the Sabbath day? Answer: Saturday is the Sabbath day. Question: Why do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday? Answer: We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church, at the Council of Laodicea, transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday.” So, you know, they freely admit it.
Then I said as I have a number of other quotes from Protestants to say the same thing. As I stated, brethren, it’s not my purpose to try to cover all of the scriptures that try to show, you know, why we observe it. But I want us today to take an overview of how did Jesus Christ and the apostles keep the Sabbath? How did they observe it? Many who wish to trash the Sabbath tried to claim that Jesus Christ broke the Sabbath and taught against it. But is that true? Let’s take a look at the Sabbath and see again how Christ and his disciples kept it.
Now, I asked at the end of the sermon last week if any of you had questions. A few of you did. And I will try to inculcate those questions in the sermon today likewise. Now, let’s notice, to start with, that Jesus Christ was condemned by the Pharisees, the religious leaders of his day, for healing on the Sabbath. Christ and His disciples were condemned for His disciples plucking heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands and, you know, taking the chaff and the grain and eating the grain. Pharisees said this was harvesting. You’re not supposed to harvest, you know, on the Sabbath day. You know, that’s how they looked at it. This account is found in Matthew 12. So let’s go over to Matthew 12:1 Matthew 12:1At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat.
American King James Version×, and let’s notice the story here. It’s surprising how much is mentioned in the Bible, in the gospels about the Sabbath and how Jesus Christ was constantly butting heads with the religious leaders of His day.
Matthew 12:1 Matthew 12:1At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat.
American King James Version×At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath.
Now, I want you to notice one thing here. He was out walking on the Sabbath. So the question well, we’ll get into that a little later. Can you go outside of your house on the Sabbath is certainly answered right here by Christ and His disciples. Not only are they going out here walking, but they’re walking through the grainfields. They’re not on the highway. You know, they’re walking through the fields, and His disciples were hungry.
So was Christ’s retort, “Well, you should have eaten more?” No. It says they began to pluck the heads of grain and to eat. Now, if this was wrong, this was a wonderful opportunity for Christ to come along and say, “Huh uh. You don’t do that. Throw that grain down. Let me tell you what we should be doing here.” You don’t find Him saying that. In fact, you find him defending His disciples. And there are four examples or four things cited here. And it says,
Matthew 12:2 Matthew 12:2But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, Behold, your disciples do that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath day.
American King James Version×When the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”
Now, the question you know, sometimes people get into trouble, because they don’t ask the right question. The right question here is: Whose law is being violated? The biblical standard or the Talmud or the teachings, the dos and don’ts of the Pharisees? Well, it is dos and don’ts of the Pharisees. It’s not what the Bible says. So Christ clearly stated, as we go through this, that the disciples did nothing wrong by satisfying their hunger on the Sabbath. So he then cites these examples. And let us notice,
Matthew 12:3 Matthew 12:3But he said to them, Have you not read what David did, when he was an hungered, and they that were with him;
American King James Version×He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: How he entered into the house of God and he ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?”
Now, notice David did something that you don’t find anybody else doing. A person who’s not a priest, coming in, saying give me some bread. They said we don’t have it. You know, many times we read examples like this, we really don’t go back. You know, when you are reading something like this in the New Testament you really ought to go back and check it out in the Old. Let’s go back to 1 Samuel 21 where this occurred, 1 Samuel 21:3 1 Samuel 21:3Now therefore what is under your hand? give me five loaves of bread in my hand, or what there is present.
American King James Version×, and let’s notice the example here. David is on one of his fleeing episodes. And notice here, in verse 3,
1 Samuel 21:3 1 Samuel 21:3Now therefore what is under your hand? give me five loaves of bread in my hand, or what there is present.
American King James Version×Now therefore, he comes to the priest, and he says, what have you on hand? Give me five loaves of bread in my hand, or whatever can be found.”
V.4 The priest answered David and said, “There is no common bread on hand; but there is holy bread holy meaning bread that had been set aside to be in the temple. And it says if the young men have at least kept themselves from women. And David said, well, we haven’t been near women for three days. And then he went on to say, the last part of verse 5.
V.5 These vessels of young men are holy, and the bread is in effect common, even though it was consecrated in the vessel this day.
V.6 So the priest gave him holy bread; for there was no bread there but the showbread which had been taken from before the Lord, in order to put hot bread in its place on the day when it was taken away.
Remember, every Sabbath the bread was changed, and then the priest ended up eating the bread.
Let’s go back to Leviticus 24, where the original instructions are given.
Leviticus 24:5 Leviticus 24:5And you shall take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth deals shall be in one cake.
American King James Version×“You shall take fine flour and bake 12 cakes with it. Two tenths of an ephah shall be in each cake.
V.6 And you shall set them in two rows, six in a row, on the pure gold table before the Lord.
Now, I have a slide show of all of this, which one day I’d like to show you, of the tabernacle, how it was laid out, and how it ties in with the plan of salvation and pictures that. But notice you’re to put frankincense on it. And then verse 8
V.8 Every Sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord so they changed it every Sabbath continually, being taken from the children of Israel for an everlasting covenant.
V.9 And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place; for it is most holy to him from the offerings of the Lord made by fire, by a perpetual statute.”
So Jesus Christ is explaining to the Pharisees that if you’re hungry like this there’s nothing wrong with picking an apple off the tree, pulling a tomato off the vine, plucking an onion out of the ground, grabbing a handful of grain and rubbing it and popping it into your mouth to satisfy your hunger. So He showed that to eat is good on the Sabbath. One doesn’t have to go hungry, you know, on the Sabbath day. Now, that’s one example that He cites,
Now, let’s go on. In verse 5 He cites another example.
Matthew 12:5 Matthew 12:5Or have you not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?
American King James Version×Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?
Now, the priest worked on the Sabbath. Let’s hold your place here again. Go back to Numbers 28 in the Old Testament, and you will notice, beginning in verse 9, chapter 28, lists the offerings that were to be offered throughout the week on this Sabbath day, Passover, various other days. And verse 9 it says,
Numbers 28:9 Numbers 28:9And on the sabbath day two lambs of the first year without spot, and two tenth deals of flour for a meat offering, mingled with oil, and the drink offering thereof:
American King James Version×‘On the Sabbath day two lambs in their first year, without blemish; three tenths of an ephah of flour as a grain offering, mixed with oil, with its drink offering
V.10 this is the burnt offering for every Sabbath, besides the regular offering with its drink offering.’
And you go back to verse 2, the regular offering. There was an offering to be offered in the morning and in the evening, and it was to be offered. Now, you might say, now, that doesn’t sound like a lot of work. Have you ever killed a bullock or a sheep or a goat, skinned it, cut it up, drained the blood, burned it, disposed of the ashes, disposed of, you know, the dung, you know, did away with the hide and, you know, all of this? There’s a lot of work connected with that. I’ve cut a number of deer up over the years and, believe me, you don’t just do it like that. You know, it requires a lot of effort, a lot of work to be able to do it.
Over the years, I would say that the Sabbath day has been one of the hardest worked days that those of us in the ministry have. Now, you know, I would say for 40 years plus, my wife and I always had two churches, sometimes three. We would travel sometimes two or three hours between churches, speak in both places. Remember in the early days I led songs. I gave the sermonette. Sometimes I gave closing and opening prayer. I gave the sermon, announcements, conduct spokesman club that evening, came back home at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, and think nothing of it. That’s why I’m old and run down now, you know. I say I should have taken better care of myself, but, you know, that’s one of the things that we we have done for years, most of our ministers. I’m not tooting my horn. I’m just saying that the Sabbath is a day and, believe me, of when you have to prepare a sermon and speak twice, drive, counsel, talk to people and, as we used to do, do clubs, then drive back home, it makes for a long day.
And so Christ said, look, the priests were able to work, doing the work of God in the temple, profane the Sabbath in the sense of doing physical labor and not be held accountable by God for it, and the same is certainly true of the ministry today.
Now, Christ cites another example. Notice, he said,
Now, what was He referring to? Well, the temple was physical, physical building. And it was only holy because of God’s promise. Now, when the temple was destroyed, you find go back to the book of Ezekiel. The glory of God seemingly departed from the temple when it was rebuilt during this day. There was not the glory of God in the temple that we know of. There’s no reference to it by any of the historical writers. What made the temple holy? Because the glory of God was there. It is the presence of God that makes something holy. Moses came, and God said, “Take your shoes off. You’re on holy ground.” Why? He was there. His presence was there. When God’s presence is in something, it is holy. And His presence was not there at the time, but He was there. He was in their presence. Here was God with us, you know, Emmanuel. And, you know, He was there, and, yet, they did not acknowledge Him.
So He’s saying, look, fellows, if you only understood, I’m God. I’m here, and I’m telling you how to do all of this, and so, you know, He gives that example. And then He goes on in verse 7, and He says,
Matthew 12:7 Matthew 12:7But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless.
American King James Version×“But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
So He proclaimed the fact that He desires mercy. God wants mercy. He wants forgiveness. He doesn’t want sacrifice. He doesn’t require us to go out and sacrifice bulls, goats. You know, that’s what they thought. And He wants us to do the weightier matters of the law.
Then He proclaimed that he’s Lord of the Sabbath. You might remember He had proceeded to heal people who were sick on the Sabbath. And then He’s trying to teach them that it’s clearly a mistake to develop your own rules for the Sabbath, unless it clearly has biblical support. If it has biblical support, if there’s clear statements in the scripture, then that gives us guidance. Clear statement is, Thou shall not work on the Sabbath. You know, that’s mentioned many times, so we don’t work on the Sabbath.
The Pharisees had biblical commands that did not allow what they defined as work. As I mentioned to you last Sabbath, they had 39 categories of things that they had established as being wrong or sins. And then they elaborated on those, you know, point A, B, C, little a, b, c, 1, 2, 3, 4, you know, on down the line. Everything you can think of from carrying a needle on your lapel if you were a tailor to, you know, you were only able to carry one garment out of your house, if the house burned down, at a time. If you could put 20 on and waddle out, that was okay. But, you know, what you had on you could wear, but you couldn’t carry anything else. You know, they had all of these silly regulations.
Now, the fact that Jesus Christ made the statement, “I am Lord of the Sabbath,” what was He trying to tell them? Well, let’s go over to Mark 2. You know, this is mentioned also in Mark 2. We’ll come back here again, but Mark 2, you’ll notice verses 27 28.
Mark 2:27 Mark 2:27And he said to them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
American King James Version×He said to them, the Sabbath was made for man. So the Sabbath day is a day that’s made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.
God didn’t create man so that, you know, He could okay. Here’s the Sabbath and, you know, for the Sabbath. The Sabbath is for us. It is God’s gift to mankind. It was made for man as a day of rest, a day for us to worship God.
But I want you to notice, He says, number one, the Sabbath was made. So who is the maker of it? Well, God is. That’s why Christ said, “I’m the Lord of the Sabbath.” When was it made? Well, as we found out last Sabbath, it was made on the seventh day at creation. It was made at that time. And it’s made for all mankind, because as we read here, He said the Sabbath was made for man, and the Greek word means mankind, anthropos, not just men. When it’s talking about male versus female, it means mankind. So the Sabbath was made for man, and it was made for all peoples, all nations, for all times.
Then he goes on to say that He is Lord of the Sabbath. The word Lord has the same meaning it normally does, meaning owner or master or ruler, one who exercises authority over. So He says, I’m the Lord, or the master, the ruler, one who exercises authority over the Sabbath. So He’s telling them, look, I have authority to say how the Sabbath should be kept, what you should do on this Sabbath.
So the Sabbath was made for man. It’s a tool for worshiping God. It’s not an object of worship. We don’t worship the Sabbath. We observe it and worship God, and it is a wonderful gift. It is a day of collective worship by the congregation or spiritual Israel. The congregation of Israel would convene and God has created the Sabbath as a day for us to worship on.
Now, let’s go back to chapter 12 of Matthew again, verse 9. It says,
V.10 And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. They asked him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
Now, notice why they asked Him. Were they genuinely interested on is it okay to heal on the Sabbath? No. That they might accuse Him, that’s why. They wanted to find something that they felt would go against their law. Where in the Old Testament do you find the Bible says thou shall not heal on the Sabbath day? Well, you don’t. But let’s go on.
V.11 And then He said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?”
V.12 Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath?”
So He shows that it’s it’s good to do good. Now, several things you’ll notice as we go through this. Number one, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He attended the place of worship that was established at that time.
Now, you might remember, in Luke 4, verse 16, says as was His custom. Let’s just turn over there, because I want to read a few more verses. Luke 4:16 Luke 4:16And 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.
American King James Version×, the Bible tells us this.
Luke 4:16 Luke 4:16And 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.
American King James Version×So he came to Nazareth, where he’d been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and He stood up to read.
So He stood up to read to them. So it was His custom to go to the synagogue. Now, the word custom, from Lonida Greek Lexicon, says it means to carry out a custom or tradition, to be in the habit of it, carry out a custom to maintain a tradition. So this was something that He traditionally did. It was His custom. If you might remember, Paul’s example, back in Acts 17, verse 2 I won’t turn there but Acts 17:2 Acts 17:2And Paul, as his manner was, went in to them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
American King James Version×says,
Acts 17:2 Acts 17:2And Paul, as his manner was, went in to them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
American King James Version×Then Paul, as his custom was, went into them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them out of the scriptures.
So it was his custom likewise. Now, let’s notice, in verse 17 here. He stood up to read to the people.
Luke 4:17 Luke 4:17And there was delivered to him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
American King James Version×And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
V.18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, and He has anointed Me. These verses in red, the older you get, the harder they are to read. Because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; and He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives.
And so He goes on and He reads this famous portion.
V.20 Then he closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.
V.21 And He began to say to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
So Jesus Christ clearly taught the Jews of His day about Himself and that He was the Messiah, what His job, what His responsibility, what His duty was. But let’s notice, in verse 23.
V.23 He said to them, “You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard about you done in Capernaum, do also here in your own country.’”
V.24 He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country.
And that, you know, is certainly true. They they doubted. They disbelieved. So He didn’t do a whole lot of miracles among them at that time. And then He went on and said,
V.25 Truly, many widows were in Israel on the day of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years days and six months, there was a great famine in all the land;
V.26 But to none of them was Elijah sent except to this one widow in the region of Sidon, a woman who was a widow.
V.27 Many lepers were in Israel in the days of Elijah the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.
So He’s pointing out things to them that should have been obvious, but wasn’t.
V.28 So those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath.
Now, why would they be upset? Was He teaching something contrary to the scriptures? No, He wasn’t.
V.29 They rose up and they thrust Him out of the city; they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff.
V.30 Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.
So they were trying to kill Him, because of what He had taught and what He had said on the Sabbath.
Now, let’s back up again to Matthew 12. You might remember again about going through the grainfield here. One interesting point, notice that when Jesus and His disciples walked through the grainfield on the Sabbath, it ties in with the scripture I explained to you last week. Remember, in Exodus 16:27 Exodus 16:27And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none.
American King James Version×30? It talks about not going out of your place on the Sabbath. Well, that’s quoted by many critics of the Sabbath as trying to say, see, this shows if you keep the Sabbath, you can’t go out of your house. You got to stay right there in your four walls. Maybe walk out on your porch, you know, your place, whatever is your property or your land, but you can’t go any further.
And, yet, here we see Jesus Christ coming out and walking through a grainfield. Jesus Christ likewise, not only walked through a grainfield, but walked over to the synagogue and taught them on the Sabbath day. God commanded Israel to walk around Jericho seven days. That’s got to encompass the Sabbath. So here they are out walking around Jericho on the Sabbath day.
Leviticus 23:3 Leviticus 23:3Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; you shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.
American King James Version×tells us that the Sabbath is a commanded assembly. How can you assemble unless you come out of your house? In other words, anciently, if you were in Jerusalem, you would go up to the temple and you would be there in the morning for the morning sacrifice. Hebrews 10:25 Hebrews 10:25Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.
American King James Version×tells us that we’re not to forsake the assembling of yourselves together as the habit of some are.
So, basically, I’m just trying to show you that sometimes when people bring up these arguments, you and I need to be armed, and we need to realize not just argue with them, but to realize that there’s nothing wrong for us to assemble together on the Sabbath, because, let’s face it, many of us travel some distance to be here.
What about Acts 1:12 Acts 1:12Then returned they to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey.
American King James Version×? If you remember Acts 1:12 Acts 1:12Then returned they to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey.
American King James Version×, we’ll turn back and read this one. It says,
Acts 1:12 Acts 1:12Then returned they to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey.
American King James Version×Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey.
Now, where in the Old Testament do you find a Sabbath day’s journey? You don’t. Where do you find the idea of a Sabbath day’s journey mentioned? Well, let me quote to you here from the New American Commentary, volume 26, dealing with the book of Acts. And it says this, “In verse 12 we learn the setting of the accusations, the Mount of Olives. Olivet lies to the east of Jerusalem on the opposite side of the Kidron Valley. The distance of their walk was a Sabbath day’s journey, which was the longest distance one could walk without breaking the Sabbath.” Now, who says so? Well, the Jews did. The Pharisees did. This was part of their rules and their regulations. You don’t find it in scripture. The Rabbinical tradition set this as 2,000 cubits, about three fifths of a mile, as N.I.V. note indicates.
Now, another one, the Kendall Concise Bible Commentary, says similar, but gives a little different perspective. They say a half mile, not three quarters of a mile. Now, it is also referred to as a Sabbath day walk. The limit had been calculated by the rabbis on the basis of Exodus 16:29 Exodus 16:29See, for that the LORD has given you the sabbath, therefore he gives you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide you every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.
American King James Version×, not to go out of your place, and interpreted by Numbers 35:5 Numbers 35:5And you shall measure from without the city on the east side two thousand cubits, and on the south side two thousand cubits, and on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits; and the city shall be in the middle: this shall be to them the suburbs of the cities.
American King James Version×. Okay. Let’s go back and read Numbers 35:5 Numbers 35:5And you shall measure from without the city on the east side two thousand cubits, and on the south side two thousand cubits, and on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits; and the city shall be in the middle: this shall be to them the suburbs of the cities.
American King James Version×. See if it has anything to do with a Sabbath day’s journey. This is talking about the cities that were set aside for the Levites. And there were cities that were set aside from Levites where they could live. There was common land around the outside of the city where they would have their cattle, could maybe grow a garden, you know, this type of thing.
Numbers 35:5 Numbers 35:5And you shall measure from without the city on the east side two thousand cubits, and on the south side two thousand cubits, and on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits; and the city shall be in the middle: this shall be to them the suburbs of the cities.
American King James Version×And you shall measure outside of the city on the east side two thousand cubits, on the south side two thousand cubits, west side two thousand cubits, on the north side two thousand cubits. The city shall be in the middle. And they shall belong to them as common land for the cities.
Okay. What does that have to do with the Sabbath? Absolutely nothing. It’s just talking about land that was designated as part of the city. We’d call it a green belt today or, you know, surrounding the city, and went out about a half mile, maybe three quarters of a mile where they, you know if you lived in the city you could have a garden or you could run animals. And so, you know, that was referred to by the Jews to say, well, that’s what a Sabbath day journey should be. You don’t find that as a commandment of God. That’s a man made tradition.
Okay. With all that in mind, let’s go back to Matthew 12 again. Matthew 12:9 Matthew 12:9And when he was departed there, he went into their synagogue:
American King James Version×, notice what Christ did.
He healed this man. We read that. He mentioned to them, you know, about the ox in the ditch. So we find that it’s permissible to heal on the Sabbath. Even though the Jews viewed this as a violation, Christ, as the Lord of the Sabbath day, said it was not. The ox in the ditch, the Jews would pull an ox out of the ditch. You know, they would go down, save the life of the ox. But, you know, they weren’t willing to see somebody who had an affliction or was demon possessed to be healed on the Sabbath. It shows their self righteousness that they had.
What is an ox in the ditch? Well, an ox in the ditch is an emergency. It’s not throwing the ox in the ditch so you can get out and do something. You don’t push the ox in the ditch. But you’re driving down the road on the Sabbath, coming to church, you have a blowout or a flat tire. Plump, plump, plump, plump, you know. Jim, what did you call those? May pops. Okay. You had the May pops, you know, and it pops. So, you know, here you have to get out. Are you going to just sit there for the rest of the Sabbath and watch the traffic go by? Or do you get out, pull the tire off, put another one on, come to church? That’s an ox in the ditch.
You wake up in the morning and your appendix is trying to burst. Should you stay there and say, well, it’s 15 hours until the Sabbath is over. I’ll wait to go see the doctor. Or would you go see the doctor? Well, obviously, you’d probably go see the doctors. See, it’s an emergency that would justify work being done. When one has a legitimate emergency, life or death, illness, accident, he’s not condemned for doing what is necessary to meet the challenge of the emergency on the Sabbath day. But, again, we don’t push the ox in the ditch. We try not to create the problem. We try to avoid that.
Now, I want you to notice, again, the attitude that they had over here in Luke 4. Remember Christ had entered into the synagogue. He had taught them. And let’s notice in verse 31.
Luke 4:31 Luke 4:31And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days.
American King James Version×Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbaths. So Jesus Christ taught them on the Sabbath day.
V.32 And they were astonished at His teaching. Now, in verse 38, now,
V.38 He arose from the synagogue and entered into Simon’s house.
So you find that Christ gets up from where He’s staying, He goes over to the synagogue. He walks that far. I don’t know where Simon’s house was in relationship to the synagogue, but then He walks over to Simon’s house. That’s Peter. He enters into Simon’s house, and,
V.38 Simon’s wife’s mother his mother in law was sick with a high fever, and they made request of Him concerning her.
V.39 So He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. And immediately she arose and served them.
Another example of Christ doing good on the Sabbath and healing the sick. Now, notice what the Jews did, verse 40:
V.40 When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them.
He cast out demons also. They waited until the sun went down.
Now, there’s several accounts in the New Testament of Jesus Christ healing on the Sabbath day. You see, the New Testament gives insight on the Sabbath observance. He violated many of the rules and regulations that were established by the Jews. But Jesus Christ never violated the Sabbath. How do I know that? Well, the Bible says He was sinless. He never sinned. If He had broken the Sabbath day, guess what? We don’t have a Savior. But we do have a Savior. He died, and, you know, His sacrifice was to cover our sins.
Now, in Exodus chapter 35, we have another example. Let’s turn back here, and we will see is another reason why people are told not to keep the Sabbath. Exodus 35:1 Exodus 35:1And Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together, and said to them, These are the words which the LORD has commanded, that you should do them.
American King James Version×.
Exodus 35:1 Exodus 35:1And Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together, and said to them, These are the words which the LORD has commanded, that you should do them.
American King James Version×Moses gathered all of the congregation of the children of Israel together, and said to them, “These are the words which the Lord has commanded you to do:
V.2 Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day. So, again, we find the Sabbath is holy time. A Sabbath of rest to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.
Now, God doesn’t come down and stone us today. But if we work on the Sabbath, we don’t repent of it, and we say, “I’m going to do it anyway,” then we have the death penalty hanging over us.
V.3 You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day.
Now, how many times have we heard somebody say that if you try to keep the Sabbath in the 20th century and you live in a cold climate and you’re heating your you know, your house by pot belly stove, coal or wood, and the fire goes out, you cannot light a fire on the Sabbath day. You can’t heat up your food, or whatever, that you have to sit there. You got to go to bed, wrap yourself up in heating, you know, blankets and so on, and just endure.
That’s not what Exodus 35 is referring to. What is he talking about? Not working on the Sabbath day. So this is a reference to fire for work or for baking and boiling. A fire for warmth was not a problem. The critics of the Sabbath say if you freeze or if you’re freezing on the Sabbath, you know, too bad; you got to freeze. But, you know, you can’t make a fire. I want you to notice that the priests did light a fire on the Sabbath. They consumed the offerings. They had a fire there. And, you know, they had a fire for the sacrifices. It is not wrong to have a fire on the Sabbath. Now, most of us don’t have that problem. We have gas heat. Does that mean you can’t flip your switch?
You see, in the nation of Israel I don’t know if they still do it, but they used to on the Sabbath, all the elevators were set on automatic. So if you were in a hotel that had 30 floors, on the Sabbath, so you wouldn’t have to push a button, it stopped on every floor so that nobody would have to push a button. I mean, you know, that was how far this type of a principle was being carried. So, brethren, it is not wrong for us to have a fire on the Sabbath.
Last week we covered Nehemiah 13. Now, I’m not going to go through Nehemiah verses 13 25, but where we read about the fact the Sabbath must not be treated as a market day. And as I explained, Nehemiah clearly taught the people that they were not to go out and trade merchandise, go out and buy what we would call their do their weekly shopping on the Sabbath. Now, I explained that this was a discussion about doing your shopping, and it was not addressing whether you should eat out in a restaurant on the Sabbath.
What about specific questions, though, about eating in a restaurant? This is where questions have come up this week. And I thought I might try to address some of these with you. Questions have come up concerning this topic, so let me address it.
One of the questions is: Isn’t it wrong for someone to serve you a meal in a restaurant on the Sabbath day? Are they not working for you, you know, on the Sabbath when they do that? And the answer is no. The waitress, waiters and cooks in a restaurant are not your employees. They’re not your servant. They do not live in your household. This was the principle that was given in the book of Exodus. Let’s turn back to chapter 20. Now, I want you to notice carefully what Exodus 20 says.
V.9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
V.10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: So you are not to, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your maiden, male servants, nor your female servants. Who are we talking about? We’re talking about those that you have authority over. Those that you can tell what to do. My children were at home when they were under my authority. They always went to church with us, and, you know, they had to sit there and be quiet and take notes and listen, and, you know, we taught them that. So it’s talking about your male servants and your female servants, those that you have jurisdiction over. Nor your cattle, nor the stranger who is within your gates.
Now, those who live under your roof and under your control were not to work on the Sabbath day. Now, there are even occasions when someone under your roof cannot be forced to work on the Sabbath day. An example of that would be a son or a daughter who chooses to live at home and maybe they’re 25 or 30 years old. Now, not too many of us here fall into this category, but what if Bradley were still living at home? Thankfully he’s keeping the Sabbath. But what if he says, “I’m not going to keep the Sabbath, and you can’t make me keep the Sabbath?” Can you drag him to church? Can you make him keep it? Well, obviously not. When he becomes an adult, he’s of age, and he answers to God at that time. Should you try to force him to keep the Sabbath? Can you forbid them from working, if they say, you know, “You’re going to go to church. I’m going to go to work.” There’s not much you can do about that, except, “You’re not staying in my house anymore.” I mean, you might say that. But that’s other than that, you know, there’s not much that you can do. Wisdom would dictate who is considered part of your household, those that you have authority over, who are under your jurisdiction.
What about a mate that is not converted? Mate gets up in the morning, says, “I’m going fishing.” Mate gets up in the morning, says,” I’m going to cut the grass.” Your mate gets up and says, “I’m going to a movie today,” or, you know, “I think I’m going to go out here and chop some trees down,” or whatever it might be. And you say, “Oh, no. You can’t. This is the Sabbath. I forbid you.” You might say that, but are they going to do it? So you have no authority for them. Can you force them to observe the Sabbath? Again, let’s remember that in ancient Israel, God was dealing with the whole nation. He called the nation of Israel. He entered into a covenant with them. We call it the old covenant. And so, you know, this the Sabbath was part of that.
Now, we have the new covenant. Is the new covenant made with one nation? Not one nation like Germany or France or the United States. God is not calling just people by nations. He’s calling people out of all nations. So there may be people in Germany. May be people in France, in Ghana. Wherever it might be, God is calling and working with those individuals.
So God dealt with a whole nation when he dealt with Israel. So if you conclude that a waitress is working for you, and you have to make the same judgment about any number of other areas, such as the power plant. You know, many of these things are automated. But there are people who work at the power plant. When sunset comes, do you go and shut all the power off to your house so that you’re not making somebody work? Are they going to be working whether you shut the power off or not? Well, sure they are. What about those who work at the water plant? Well, I’m going to turn all my water off. It’s the Sabbath. I’m not going to use any water. And so you turn all of your water off. What about those who work in hospitals? And you break your leg. Got to go to a hospital. What are you going to do? Sit there until the sun goes down, and then, again, get your leg set? No, I think you would go and have it set.
Now, to believe it’s wrong to eat in a restaurant because the waitress will be working on the Sabbath requires, again, that you not turn on your electricity or your water to be consistent. The same would be true of mail delivery. Here comes somebody delivering your mail, so you leave a note, “Please deliver my mail five days a week. I don’t want any on Saturday.” Do you think they’re not going to leave it on Saturday?
Now, if you have a whole community that keeps the Sabbath, you can do that. Notice Collegedale. Collegedale closes the post office on Saturday. Why? Well, basically, they’re dealing with the Seventh Day Adventists, and they’re something like 5 to 8,000 Seventh Day Adventists in the Collegedale/Ooltewah area. So they can control that. But, you know, the Ooltewah Post Office doesn’t do that. You know, they go ahead and deliver mail.
What about your paper being delivered? The real question that should be asked is this: Who employs them? Who is responsible for hiring them? They’re the employer. They’re the ones who are responsible for that individual.
If you own a business, clearly, you must close the business down on the Sabbath. Clearly, you do not work your employees on the Sabbath. But what if you have an employee who works for you? You close your business on the Sabbath, and he says, “Well, you know, I need some extra money,” and he goes over here and works at the 7 Eleven. Do you have any control over that? Well, obviously not. You only have control over what he does for you. So if you don’t go to a restaurant, the waitress, the cook, the owner, everybody who’s working will be working whether you show up or not. You’re not causing them to work.
So the question comes up, aren’t you participating in a business transaction on the Sabbath? Well, I think if you order a meal, you would certainly be expected to pay for it. You know, you couldn’t get away with that. But this is not running your business or operating your business on the Sabbath. Simply paying for the meal that you received. There’s nothing in the scriptures that you can read that violates that principle. We covered the two scriptures last week that talk about merchandising and trading on the Sabbath.
It’s actually less work for some people to eat in a restaurant and pay for the meal than have a group of people come over to their home. You know, even though you’ve got everything prepared, you still have to put it out. You’ve got to serve. You’ve got, you know, a number of things that you will probably be doing, collecting the dishes and putting them up, and, you know, it involves a lot to entertain a person when they come over to your house.
Let’s notice if you apply this as a principle, same thing has to apply to the Feast of Tabernacles. For example, when you go to the Feast of Tabernacles, do you have to check out of your motel room Friday night and Saturday night come back? Where do you stay, in your car? You’re down in Panama City Beach. You’re in a motel. You know, they take care of it. You’ve paid for them. You paid for the room on Saturday. Maybe, you know, you eat there at the motel. Where are you going to eat, you know, on the Sabbath? By staying in a hotel on the Sabbath, you’re being served and you’re being charged for the service. There’s an entire staff of people who are there on duty 24 hours a day to serve you. So, you know, would you not stay in the hotel? Well, I think certainly you do.
What about a nursing home or a hospital? You’re in a hospital. Again, you know, you’ve had some type of operation and it’s over the Sabbath and you’re there. Do you not eat on that day? Do you tell them, “I don’t want anybody to come around my room and check on me.” That’s not going to happen in a hospital. They’re going to be in there every 20 minutes to an hour checking on you, poking you, giving you something. Taking your temperature, you know, whatever it might be.
You’re in a nursing home, so you give orders to the nursing staff. I know my mother’s 95, but I don’t want her fed on the Sabbath. You can’t change her bed. I don’t care if she does something in her diaper. You know, she’s just going to have to stick it out for that 24 hour period. We all know that those are ludicrous examples, but this is the extreme that people will carry the you know, the observance sometimes of the Sabbath.
If I could summarize. I don’t see, and the church has never seen, anywhere in the Old Testament where it says don’t eat out on the Sabbath. It says don’t do your shopping on the Sabbath. Don’t set up business on the Sabbath. Don’t trade, you know, merchandise on the Sabbath.
In fact, sometimes eating out on the Sabbath with a group of people is the highlight. I’ve known church areas and I’ve pastored church areas where nobody lives in the city where the church is. It just happens to be a central location. We’re so scattered nowadays that the only time a lot of people see each other is on the Sabbath. So, in order to be able to see each other, many times people will go out. They’ll eat and they’ll sit around and they’ll fellowship for two or three hours to be with God’s people. It’s not something that I say we do as just you know, all the time. But it is something that’s certainly not wrong to do.
What about listening to the radio, watching television on the Sabbath? It’s not wrong to listen to nice music on the Sabbath. They would go to the temple. They would hear, you know, the singers sing on the Sabbath. Now, I know we all have different tastes for music. So some would never listen to anything but classical music. Others might like a little country. Now, I would not be listening to country music. You’d have to be extremely selective, you know, in that type of music. But what about anything that inspires, uplifts, encourages? You certainly would not be listening to hard rock music or, you know, anything of that nature.
It’s not wrong to hear the news, watch the news on the Sabbath. But you don’t sit around all day and watch the news. You know, I’ve got Fox on, you know, from 7:00 in the morning until 10:00 at night, and you’re just watching Fox news. Well, you don’t do that. You see what’s going on, and you move on.
I’ve known members in the past who said, “It’s not wrong to watch movies on the Sabbath.” When I asked them, “Well, what kind of movie are you talking about? Are you talking about a wonderful, beautiful nature show that comes on, and maybe, you know, describes God’s creation?” No, you know, “The Planet of the Apes,” or “The Return of the Mummies.” I said, “Well, how can that be keeping Sabbath?” “Well, it just inspires me, helps me to relax, you know.” I think somebody is kidding himself.
Children should not be watching cartoons on the Sabbath. We should try to make the Sabbath something that is different. And I don’t mean a day that is unpleasurable. You know, Isaiah 58 tells us that we are to take pleasure in God’s Sabbath. We are to delight in the Sabbath day. And, you know, I’ve only really scratched the surface here on some of these issues. You know, we will have to cover this not necessarily right now, but we will continue at some point with the Sabbath day. There’s so much to learn about the Sabbath. It’s a wonderful gift from God to mankind that He’s given to us, a day to be set aside for us to worship Him in private, at home, and collectively as His body.
And generally, in our day, I think it’s a tendency to take the Sabbath for granted for a lot of people. Many people seem to be a little too liberal when it comes to the Sabbath as compared to those who are too strict. I think at one time, the early days of the church, probably a lot of people were extremely strict in observing the Sabbath. I don’t think that’s necessarily true today. We need to take the Sabbath serious and not allow too many liberties on the Sabbath, or that the Sabbath is just another day to us. And it’s a day that we should devote to God, to prayer, to study, to fellowship, the coming together and encouraging and exhorting one another. Certainly, we can get extra rest, but we don’t go to bed at 7:00 at night and get up at 12 noon the next day and hurry and come to church. No. We get extra sleep. We’re refreshed. We study. We pray.
We certainly have not exhausted the topic, brethren, and we will continue this in the future. But I wanted to cover some of these basic principles and guidelines on how should you keep the Sabbath.