“The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
Matthew 12:1-21 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.” 3 But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, 4 how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? 5 Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? 6 But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.
8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
9 Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. 10 And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse Him. 11 And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.
15 But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all, 16 and warned them not to tell who He was. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:
18 “Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen;
My Beloved in whom My soul is well-pleased;
I will put My Spirit upon Him,
And He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 “He will not quarrel, nor cry out;
Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.
20 “A battered reed He will not break off,
And a smoldering wick He will not put out,
Until He leads justice to victory.
21 “And in His name the Gentiles will hope.”
What does it mean that Jesus says: “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath?” In the Jewish law there were strict regulations limiting what could be done on the Sabbath. Basically no work was permitted, only the very minimum required to take care of animals and livestock. The purpose of the Sabbath rest was to take a day off from work and labor. It was not for self gratification, self pleasure, entertainment or slumber. It was to focus entirely on the Lord. The Sabbath was to be the Lord’s day. The religious leaders in Jesus time had added to the regulations of God regarding the Sabbath, making more restrictive and controlled by man rather than focused on God. They made it into religion rather than about relationship. In yesterday’s text Jesus said: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29) A yoke is a wooden device which joins two animals together for work. That we find rest being yoked to Jesus means that even in labor we can find a Sabbath rest in Him. If we are yoked to Christ, then He will be our focus no matter what we are doing.
Before his conversion, when Saul was persecuting the church, the Lord confronted him and said: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” When we work in our own strength or when we strive against God’s will everything will seem difficult. Even our rest will not be satisfying. We lay down, but we awake as weary as we were. Jesus said of Himself: “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing.” (John 5:19-20) Doing what the Father was doing, working in sync with His will, His plan and His purpose, yoked with Him, allowed Jesus to perform all sorts of miracles, healing the sick, opening blind eyes, causing the lame to walk, raising dead back to life, feeding thousands with a few fish and loaves. In Luke 8:22-24, we see another example of what Jesus did by being in sync with the Father: Now on one of those days Jesus and His disciples got into a boat, and He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they launched out. But as they were sailing along He fell asleep; and a fierce gale of wind descended on the lake, and they began to be swamped and to be in danger. They came to Jesus and woke Him up, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm. Jesus was able to speak to the storm and bring calm, but even more, Jesus Himself was able to rest in the storm. That is the fullness of the Sabbath rest we have in Christ. Not only will we be able to do the things that He did. We will be able to rest in Him regardless of the circumstances surrounding us.
What does it mean then for us that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath? For us it means that our rest is in Him. That each day, not just one day each week, we walk and we work yoked to Him. The Lord will lead us and give us what we need each day and every minute of every day. As the psalmist says: He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul…(Psalm 23:2-3) He will give us physical rest when we need it. In John 14:10-14 Jesus says: “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” First Jesus says we will do the works He did and even greater works. Then He says: “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do… If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” If we are yoked to Christ, walking and working with Him, He is the one who does the works through us. It is no longer too difficult for us to heal the sick, open blind eyes, cause the lame to walk, raise the dead back to life, feed thousands with a few fish and loaves. It is neither too difficult, nor are the results our responsibility. If we are yoked to Christ, all that is done is: so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” If Jesus is Lord, He is our Sabbath rest.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You that yoked to You, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, I can walk and work with You. I can do the things You are doing. I never need to strive against or without You. I have rest when I lie down, when I work and even in the storms of life. You are my Lord, my Savior and my Sabbath rest. Amen.