Jesus and The Sabbath, Part 1.

THE SABBATH IN THE GOSPELS. Jesus and The Sabbath, Part 1.

Bible Study Guide/ The Sabbath in the New Testament: The Gospels/ 86-020, (Matthew 5:17) / Key Text: “Do not think that I have come to do away with or undo the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to do away with or undo but to complete and fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17, AMP)

Lesson Objectives: To review the main instances where Jesus taught by example, by word, and through miracles of healing the essence of true Sabbath observance. Today we are going to focus our attention to Christ’s example of attending the worship on the Sabbath day.

Opening Remarks: The majority of Christians today claim that it’s no longer necessary to keep the biblical seventh day Sabbath — That the Sabbath was a “shadow of things to come,” and thus when Christ died, the Sabbath was “nailed to the Cross;” That the Saturday that Jesus’ body was in the tomb was “the last official Sabbath” (Col. 2:16–17); That all believers should now keep Sunday [the first day of the week] in honour of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. All these reasons sounds great but are they biblical, or taken out of context? Often time we hear Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10, etc., as justification for Sunday Sacredness. Does these texts say, if anything, that God changed the day of worship from Sabbath to Sunday? The answer is a resounding “No.”

Since many use Christ (namely, His resurrection) to justify their claim, it is paramount then that we have a deeper study, investigating Christ’s attitude toward the subject of the Sabbath. After all, Christ is the Author of the Sabbath (Gen 2:1-3); He is “the Lord of the Sabbath” (Mt. 12:8). If He is the Lord of the Sabbath, I am sure He will have something to say, and teach us about this crucial and most debated subject of the scripture.

Note: Some of the references to the Sabbath in the four Gospels involve no controversy whatsoever between Christ and the Scribes/ Pharisees; whereas others do. We are going to begin with “Christ and the Sabbath in Noncontroversial Settings.” This lesson focuses on Jesus’ synagogue attendance. Upcoming lessons will highlight Christ’s earliest recorded Sabbath healings; Christ’s Sabbath counsel in Matthew 24:20; and the Sabbath-keeping when Jesus was in the tomb, Luke 23:54–56.


[1] What is the absolute source of truth?  What is the absolute standard of morality? What is the absolute rule of Justice? The answer is ‘God’s Law.’

This is the question all of us need to answer, and must answer it correctly. God’s Law is the standard to live by. God’s Law has an absolute/ unchanging authority –because of its nature: it comes from a Transcendent Source—God Himself.

From a theological point of view, the word ‘Law’ becomes even more important because it includes the Law of God – [the Ten Commandments]. In this Law, the divine requirements are made of all human beings, in all generations.  

[2] What did Christ teach about the perpetuity of God’s Law? It would remain unchanged. “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17–19, NKJV) “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail.” (Luke 16:17, NKJV)

[3] How would that fact affect the Sabbath? Since the Law of God was to remain unaltered, then one can conclude that the Sabbath (the fourth commandment) would remain unchanged as well.

[4] For whom was the Sabbath made? “And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27, NKJV) Christ taught that the Sabbath was made for man, which includes all mankind.

The word man, Gr. anthrōpos, literally, “a person,” a generic term including men, women, and children (see on Mark 6:44). “Mankind” would reflect the meaning of anthrōpos more accurately. The Sabbath was designed and ordained by a loving Creator for the welfare of humanity. It is only by the wildest stretch of reasoning that a person could consider the Sabbath “against” man in any respect (see on Col. 2:14). [SDA BC 5:588].

[5] Discuss how Jesus Christ worked and kept the Sabbath. At Nazareth, where He had been brought up, He worked at the carpenter’s trade (Mark 6:3; Mt 13:35), but on the seventh day of the week [the Sabbath], it was His custom to rest and attend worship; and thus He kept the Sabbath, (Luke 4:1).

[6] On what day of the week did Jesus go to church? The Seventh Day. Jesus attended the synagogue on the Sabbath. Notice the following verses:

  • “Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught.” (Mark 1:21, NKJV)
  • “And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands!” (Mark 6:2, NKJV)
  • “So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.” (Luke 4:16, NKJV)
  • “Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbaths. (Luke 4:31, NKJV)
  • “Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.” (Luke 13:10, NKJV)

According to Luke 4:16, His “custom” was to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath. By synagogue attendance, Jesus manifested His positive attitude toward the Sabbath as a time for holy convocation: “Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.” (Leviticus 23:3, NKJV)

[7] Does Luke specifically identify the Sabbath as the seventh day of the week? Yes.  “Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.” (Luke 24:1, NKJV)

“The resurrection took place on the first day of the week in fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction that He would be “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:40; cf. 27:63; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33–34). The Jewish people had no names for the days of the week, but numbered them in relation to the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week. The first day, therefore, was Sunday, the day after the Sabbath.” [John MacArthur, Luke 18–24, MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 409].

Luke specifically mentions Friday, the “preparation” day (Luke 23:54), the Sabbath day (Luke 23:54, 56), and the “first day of the week” (Luke 24:1). There can be no question as to the sequence of these days or their identity. Christ was crucified on Friday, rested in the tomb over the Sabbath, having completed the work of redemption (see on Gen. 2:2, 3; Eze. 20:20), and rose the following day, the first day of the week.

[8] What did Jesus do when He entered the synagogue? He stood up to read.” (Luke 4:16)

“It was to be expected that Jesus would be asked to read the Scriptures and to preach a sermon when He returned to Nazareth, a task any qualified Israelite, even those under age, might be called on to perform. He had often been asked to do so as a child (DA 74), and His reputation as a preacher in Judea (see John 3:26; DA 181) now made His fellow townsmen eager to hear what He had to say. The one who read the selection from the Prophets was also expected to give the sermon.” (SDA BC 5:727).

[9] Why did Jesus stand up to read (Mark 4:16)? Men stood to read the Scripture to show their reverence for it. Reverence for the written Word required that the one reading it publicly remain standing. But they sat to teach, distinguishing their commentary from the Scripture itself.

[10] What was the attitude of the disciples, and the women concerning the Sabbath even the same day when Christ died? What did they do? “Then they (the women) returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.” (Luke 23:56, NKJV) “Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.” (Luke 24:1, NKJV)

“This translation makes quite evident the sacredness these early Christian believers attached to the seventh-day Sabbath. Their last act on Friday was to prepare “spices and ointments” (ch. 23:56). Then they laid everything aside “according to the (Sabbath) commandment” (see on Ex. 20:8–11), and did not resume their labor of love until early Sunday morning. The strong contrast between the sacredness of the Sabbath and the secular character of Sunday here embedded in the gospel narrative speaks eloquently to Christians today.” [Francis D. Nichol, Ed., The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1980), 5:880–881].

DEVOTIONAL IMPLICATION: “The fact that Christ, when here on earth, personally observed the same day of the week as did the Jews, is also evidence that time had not been lost since the giving of the law at Sinai, or for that matter since creation. Christ is “Lord also of the sabbath” (Mark 2:28); that is, He made it (Gen. 2:1–3; cf. Mark 2:27) and claims it as His day. His example in observing it is therefore a perfect pattern for the Christian to follow, both as to the time and as to the manner of its observance. Furthermore, there can be no question but that the week as we have it now has come down in unbroken sequence from the time of Christ, and that observance of the seventh day of the week today is observance of the Sabbath as Christ kept it. From that day to this there have been millions of Jews scattered throughout the civilized world, and it would have been impossible for all of them simultaneously to make identically the same mistake in figuring the seventh day of the week.” [Francis D. Nichol, Ed., The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1980), 5:727].

THE GOSPEL’S VOICE: What does the Lord say to me today? Christ says: “If you (really)love Me, you will keep (obey)My commands.” (John 14:15, AMP). Beloved, if we truly love Jesus, we will not engage in endless debates concerning His Law, instead, we will strive to uphold, obey and keep His Law (that would include the seventh day Sabbath).

Let us remember something here … “The law was not spoken … exclusively for the benefit of the Hebrews. God honored them by making them the guardians and keepers of His law, but it was to be held as a sacred trust for the whole world. The precepts of the Decalogue are adapted to all mankind, and they were given for the instruction and government of all. Ten precepts, brief, comprehensive, and authoritative, cover the duty of man to God and to his fellow man; and all based upon the great fundamental principle of love.” [Ellen Gould White, The Faith I Live By, (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1958), 86].

ACTION STEP: What response do you think this Lesson should inspires us to do? Obey God by keeping His commandments.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.” (Exodus 20:8–10, NKJV)

One Final Point: Luke’s simple statement that Jesus habitually attended the sacred synagogue services on the Sabbath day, which he specifically identifies as the seventh day of the week (Luke 23:56; 24:1), makes clear the duty of the Christian who loves his Master and would follow in His steps. “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21, NKJV). Beloved, will you follow His steps today? Blessed are they who “walk” in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who “keep” His testimonies (Ps. 119:1-2)

MY DESIRE TODAY. Check the Box which best reflect your decision today:

  • I want to follow Christ’s footsteps by keeping the Sabbath.
  • I want to ask the Lord to forgive me for breaking His Sabbath.
  • I want to learn more about the seventh –day Sabbath.
  • I want to share with others the truth about the Sabbath.
  • I want to keep all God’s commandment, including the Sabbath.
  • It is my desire to obey the Lord by keeping His Day (the seventh –day Sabbath) holy, Ex. 20:8.

Have a Blessed Day: “Moreover, also I gave them My Sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might understand and realize that I am the Lord who sanctifies them (separates and sets them apart).” (Ezekiel 20:12, AMP)

The Gospel’s Voice/ Bible Study Guide/ Doctrines/ Sabbath: The Sabbath in History and Holy Scriptures / Lesson # 20.