Matthew 12:1-8 ESV
(1) At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.
(2) But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, "Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath."
(3) He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him:
(4) how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?
(5) Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless?
(6) I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.
(7) And if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless.
(8) For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath."
This is a standard proof-passage for those who defend worshiping on the Lord’s Day, rather than on the seventh-day Sabbath. The argument goes, “They did it, so we can do it too.” Of course, Sabbatarians counter with their two standard arguments: First, that God instituted seventh-day Sabbath observance the day after he finished creating the universe, so it’s not part of the ceremonial law that Jesus fulfilled. Second, that Jesus never rescinded seventh-day Sabbath observance, so it still applies to us. And the debate continues ad nauseam.
Any conscientious debate judge would, at this point, award victory to the Sabbatarians, as the Lord’s Day proponents’ argument is pathetically weak—so far—but let’s reexamine the above Scripture passage.
In verse four, Jesus cites the historical precedent of King David breaking a ceremonial law for expediency’s sake. Then, in verse five, Jesus gave ceremonial law precedence over Sabbath law. So, on two counts, Jesus negated the primary, seventh-day Sabbatarian argument.
Verse six establishes Jesus’ superiority over the temple, and thus, over all ceremonial observations related to it. Since verses four and five establish a higher priority for ceremonial law over Sabbath law, seventh-day Sabbath comes in dead last.
In verse seven, Jesus stresses love over law by quoting from the Old Testament: For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6 ESV) Thus, the King of kings declared his disciples not guilty of breaking the Sabbath, and by extension, we are not guilty of breaking the Sabbath by worshiping on the Lord’s Day.
Verse eight caps off Jesus’ Sabbath teaching by declaring himself, Lord of the Sabbath. In other words, “Look, people, when I talk about the Sabbath, you can take it to the bank.”
In their letters to the churches, Jesus’ apostles had to deal repeatedly with Judaizers. Apparently, seventh-day Sabbath advocates felt the need to snip a bit out of the New Testament.
- What do you think of using Bible verses and passages to prove religious teachings?
- What do you think of debating other Christians about differences in teachings?
- What is wrong with celebrating corporate worship on Saturday?
- How does King David’s experience apply to the situation Jesus faced in the story?
- What does “Sabbath” mean?
- On what basis does Jesus claim to be Lord of the Sabbath?
- Why is the general Sunday Sabbath argument, given in the presentation, so lame?
- Who were the “Judaizers,” and what did they teach?
- Why did the letter-writing apostles come down so hard on the Judaizers?
- What does our liberty in Christ mean to you?