Today we have two separate instances of Jesus talking about the sabbath. We do well to understand what Christ tells us about the sabbath.

What is the heart of the Sabbath?

On my pastoral Renewal Pilgrimage to The Holy Land in 2009 I learned a lot about the biblical principals we, as Christ followers, should apply to our ‘remembrance’ of the Sabbath. Let’s start with the commandment itself:

Remember The Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. ~ Exodus 20:8-11

  • The 4th commandment, 1st one after the big 3 directly about God
  • 7th day of the week, Hebrew week started on Sunday.
  • The word ‘Work’ has always been understood as essential activity to survive
  • As an example to mankind He completed His work [Creation] and THEN rested
  • That pattern; completed work, and then rest, is blessed and holy
  • When the work is done, the rest is now blessed…it ‘Re-Creates’ us

Our goal is to emulate the principals God has revealed to us about the Sabbath. But we also have to emulate God by having grace for those who differ in practice…

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath” (Colossians 2:16)

Not as crucial as salvation by grace, but important in our relationship with Christ

We seek the heart God in the gift of the Sabbath, not the sabbath rules. Jesus takes us directly to the ‘Heart of The Sabbath’ because it is God’s heart 4 U!

Chapter 2:23-28 [The Sabbath Is To Bless People]

23 And it happened that He was passing through the grain fields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees were saying to Him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”

  • Travel not for commerce but for pleasure, ‘Old School Road Trip’
  • Wheat or barley [raw grain]
  • They wanted Christ to enforce THEIR nitpicking legalism!
  • They were defining work incorrectly, what the disciples are doing is not work
  • It is not ‘work’ to work on your golf game or a new recipe or your yard…

25 And He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry; 26 how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?”

  • Jesus uses Scripture to answer [they consider themselves scripture experts]
  • He used the example of eating the bread to talk about rule worship in general
  • Because it’s recorded in Scripture as positive we must assume God is ok with it

27 Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

  • The curse made work wearisome…God gave us a day of rest and ‘re-creation’
  • The commands about the sabbath are meant to create relationship

Chapter 3:1-6 [The Sabbath Is For Doing Good]

1 He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. 2 They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. 3 He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!”

  • Another Sabbath, another synagogue
  • Jesus understood the set up, that the legalist were looking to cause trouble
  • He makes sure everyone sees what is is about to do

4 And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. 5 After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

  • He uses the term ‘lawful’ because that is what they are so intent on
  • He goes right to the heart of the matter: ‘what is the sabbath for?’
  • God is both angered & saddened when His creation misses His love for them
  • Jesus wants everyone to know he can restore all that is not as it should be

6 The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.

  • The Pharisees were legalistic scribes [law worshipers]
  • The Herodians were secular supporters of the Roman backed king [illegitimate]
  • That these two group would conspire together is significant [typically opposed]
  • Christ threatened both groups hold on power
  • There holding power was more important that their disagreements

So we see the beginning of what would result in Christ being captured & put to death. God was right there in their midst and they totally missed it…


The Pharisees practiced a religion of worshiping rules. Taking God’s law and making the rules more important than God. We must always be on guard against legalism.

The Heart of the Sabbath is the peace of having our basic needs met while resting from the things we do the other six days to survive.

The Heart of The Sabbath is doing God’s work / ministry; that was what Jesus did on Sabbaths. [Teaching & Healing]

Worshiping rules and not caring for others hardens our hearts and moves us away from God. We anger and grieve God if we focus on rules and not relationships.


How does a Biblical Sabbath flow from achievement / completion of work?

Have you considered regularly practicing a Biblical Sabbath? What would that look like?

[2 Biblical Sabbath Essentials: rest from your normal ‘work’ & ministering to others]

Why is it important to hear and apply what Jesus has to say about the Sabbath?