“The Sabbath was made for man”

“The Sabbath was made for man” has meant two very different things to Christians. Some Christians believe it means there is still a required Sabbath Day to be set apart every week and kept holy, while for others it means there are no rigid rules and regulations as to what can or cannot be done on the Sabbath; the Sabbath was made “FOR” man, therefore Christians are free to choose what they do on the Sabbath. Both groups believe a Sabbath Day every week is important, but is either of their interpretations correct when reading what Jesus meant by “The Sabbath was made for man” IN CONTEXT?

The context of Mark 2:23-28 is an accusation by the Pharisees that Jesus’ disciples were doing something “unlawful on the Sabbath” by picking heads of grain. The Pharisees based their accusation on the Sabbath laws given to Israel, that no Israelite should work on the Sabbath, and to them plucking corn was work. Jesus pointed out, however, that David and his companions also did something unlawful by eating the consecrated bread in the temple, but human need superceded the law, which Jesus then applied to his disciples picking grain on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and just like David and his men who were hungry, human hunger came first. It wasn’t “unlawful,” therefore, to meet human need on the Sabbath.

The Pharisees disagreed with that. They believed that man was made for the Sabbath, meaning a man had to obey the Sabbath rules given to Israel no matter what his need was. Jesus replies that the Sabbath was made for man, by which he meant, in context, that the Sabbath regulations given to Israel were always overruled by human need.

And having corrected the Pharisees on their interpretation of the Sabbath regulations given to Israel, Jesus then says to them, “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” The context is still what is lawful and unlawful on the Sabbath, and who decides. Jesus says it’s the Son of Man who decides, referring indirectly, of course, to himself. The Son of Man is the ultimate authority on matters of the Sabbath, because the Son of Man is “Lord even of the Sabbath” too. It’s a very strong statement by Jesus to the Pharisees that he is the rightful authority on these matters, not them.

Jesus used the Pharisees’ accusation to not only stamp his authority as the Son of Man and Lord of the Sabbath, but also to stamp his authority on the correct interpretation of Scripture. And as usual the Pharisees didn’t accept his authority. Instead, they plotted to have him killed (chapter 3:6).



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