Jesus and the Sabbath

Safwana Basheer—Unsplash

Jesus said the Sabbath is for our benefit

“The Sabbath day was made for man. Man was not made for the Sabbath day” (Mark 2:27). In saying this, Jesus calls us to remember the purpose of Sabbath—rest and freedom; connection with God. If we create so many rules and expectations that Sabbath is a day of stress and worry, are we really keeping the seventh day according to God’s plan, or are we in fact breaking it?

Jesus claimed the Sabbath as His own

“The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath day” (Matthew 12:8). This is one of Jesus’ clearest statements that He, the Son of Man, is in fact God. If Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath day, then He must also be the creator of the Sabbath and, therefore, the Creator of heaven and earth. Our Creator-God restates in this verse His connection with the Sabbath-rest He has made. Sabbath is not just for ancient times, or just for the Jews, but God reminds us here that Sabbath is part of His creation for all humanity and for all time.

Jesus worshipped on the Sabbath

“Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. On the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue as he usually did” (Luke 4:16). There are multiple mentions in the four Gospels of Jesus participating in worship with His Jewish community on the seventh-day Sabbath. Some Bible translations of Luke 4:16 say this was His “custom”. After His death and resurrection, the early Christians continued this custom—the apostle Paul’s Sabbath worship is specifically mentioned in Acts 17:2.

Jesus healed on the Sabbath

“This woman is a member of Abraham’s family line. But Satan has kept her disabled for 18 long years. Shouldn’t she be set free on the Sabbath day from what was keeping her disabled?” (Luke 13:16). The healing of this bent-over woman is just one example of Jesus’ many Sabbath acts of mercy (see also Matthew 12:9–14, Luke 4:31–35, Luke 14:1–6, John 5:1–14). His actions challenge all of us who call ourselves Christians—does our focus on church activity and our personal “holiness” sometimes prevent us from seeing the needs of people right in front of us?

Jesus rested on the Sabbath

“The Sabbath day ended. . . . Jesus rose from the dead early on the first day of the week” (Mark 16:1,9). In Mark 15, we are told that Jesus died on the cross on the Preparation Day; what we usually call Friday. In Mark 16 it’s clear that Jesus lay in the tomb for the entire 24 hours of Sabbath, from sunset to sunset, and rose again on the first day, which we usually call Sunday. As in Genesis, where God rested after all His work, Jesus rested in the tomb on the seventh day.