Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath (A Literary Study)

The writers of the Synoptic Gospels established the authority of Jesus over 8 powers/realms through 8 different kinds of miracles. I have already written posts on the first three, authority over demons (which also included power in his word), authority over the unclean, and authority over sin. In this post I will talk about the next two realms over which Jesus had authority.

“Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28).”

Mark 2:28, mentioned above, is found in the center of two stories that took place on Sabbath days. The two stories are repeated in the same order with very little variation in all three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 12, Mark 2 & 3, and Luke 6).

In all three accounts, the disciples got hungry on the Sabbath day and plucked heads of grain in a field which upset the Pharisees (one group of religious leaders). After Jesus set up his argument for why it was appropriate to eat on the Sabbath, he claimed that the “Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” In all three accounts, the next story also took place on a Sabbath, when Jesus entered a Synagogue wherein there was a man with a withered hand. In the Book of Luke, both Scribes (those who could read and write, who were educated in the Law of Moses) and Pharisees waited to see if Jesus was going to heal on the Sabbath. But in the other two Gospels, only the Pharisees were mentioned.

By healing a man on the Sabbath, Jesus was showing people that he had power over the Sabbath, but the leaders believed he was breaking the Sabbath.

The Sabbath was the most important day on the calendar. Of all the celebrations, holidays, and holy days, only the Sabbath was mentioned in the 10 Commandments. Because it was so important. there were many debates about what was permitted and what wasn’t as far as work was concerned. Evidentally, taking corn from husks and healing on the Sabbath were frowned upon by many Scribes and Pharisees.

Jesus’ response to those who questioned him about corn was to argue that King David broke the Law in order to eat with his men and the Priest gave his blessing, so it would be no different for him and his disciples to take and eat corn contrary to the Law.

To further prove that what he did was acceptable, he healed on the Sabbath and then argued that it was good to save life on the Sabbath, using the example of the general permission utilized when saving animals from danger or death on the Sabbath.Lord of Time

Jesus claimed to be Lord of the Sabbath and demonstrated it by healing a man on the Sabbath. Being Lord over something implies there is some kind of realm or kingdom to rule over. In the West, Saturday/Sunday are considered days for worship and for rest from the weekly grind – nothing much more than that. But in Jesus’ day the Sabbath was much more than a day to rest with certain rules about what can and cannot be done.

Many cultures today believe that there are spirits that control inanimate things such as geographical areas, rain, thunder, stars, the moon, and so on. In Jesus’ day, the days of the week were not only dedicated to certain gods, but were probably believed to be days ruled over and controlled by those gods, so Thor’s day ended up being “Thursday.” The same is true for months of the year as they also are named after and for gods.

When Jesus claimed to be the Lord of the Sabbath, he was claiming that his reign was over the most important day of the week – a day set apart by God for holiness. The Sabbath was the most important day on the calendar which implies that Jesus was and is also the Lord of the calendar – Jesus was and is Lord of time.

We have already seen that he was over other realms such as sin, unclean, and the spirit world. In my next post in which Jesus calmed a storm, he demonstrated that his realm also included the sea and all that existed in that.

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