Why Did the Lord Jesus Say He Is the Lord of the Sabbath?
By Li Qing, China
Early one morning, as I was practicing my spiritual devotions, I saw this written in the Bible: “At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, Behold, your disciples do that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath day. But he said to them…. But I say to you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” (Matthew 12:1–3, 6–8). After reading this passage, I fell into deep thought: “In the Age of Law, Jehovah instructed the common people to keep the Sabbath. On the Sabbath day, the common people were to stop all work; if they did not stop work on that day, then that would be a sin, and they would have to be dealt with. When the Lord Jesus came to perform His work, He no longer kept the Sabbath day, but instead He led the disciples to various places to preach the gospel and to work. Why was this? What warning does the Lord Jesus doing this hold for us?” I pondered this for a long time, but still I didn’t understand.
Several days later, I heard that Co-worker Xue had returned from a trip to hear sermons, and so I went to visit her at her home. She cheerfully shared with me what she had gained from listening to sermons and she took out a book. She said the book revealed many truths and mysteries that had never before been heard. She said that she’d read much of the book, that the more she read it, the more light filled her heart, and that she had come to understand many truths which she had not previously understood. After listening to Co-worker Xue, I kept thanking God’s preparations with all my heart, and I couldn’t stop myself from telling her about what had been perplexing me over the past few days. Smiling, she said to me, “Thank the Lord. This book speaks very clearly about the issue of why the Lord Jesus worked on the Sabbath day. Let’s look at it together.” As she said this, she opened the book and let me read. I read: “When the Lord Jesus came, He used His practical actions to tell the people that God had departed the Age of Law and had begun new work, and that this new work did not require the observation of the Sabbath. God’s coming out from the confines of the Sabbath day was just a foretaste of His new work; the real and great work was still to come. When the Lord Jesus began His work, He had already left behind the ‘shackles’ of the Age of Law, and had broken through the regulations and principles of that age. In Him, there was no trace of anything related to the law; He had cast it off entirely and no longer observed it, and He no longer required mankind to observe it. So here you see the Lord Jesus went through the corn fields on the Sabbath, and that the Lord did not rest; He was outside working, and not resting. This action of His was a shock to people’s notions and it communicated to them that He no longer lived under the law, and that He had left the confines of the Sabbath and appeared before mankind and in their midst in a new image, with a new way of working. This action of His told people that He had brought with Him new work, work that began with emerging from being under the law, and departing from the Sabbath. When God carried out His new work, He no longer clung to the past, and He was no longer concerned about the regulations of the Age of Law. Neither was He affected by His work in the previous age, but instead worked on the Sabbath just as He did on every other day, and when His disciples were hungry on the Sabbath, they could pick ears of corn to eat. This was all very normal in God’s eyes. For God, it is permissible to have a new beginning for much of the new work He wants to do and the new words He wants to say. When He begins something new, He neither mentions His previous work nor continues to carry it out. Because God has His principles in His work, when He wants to begin new work, it is when He wants to bring mankind into a new stage of His work, and when His work will enter a higher phase. If people continue to act according to the old sayings or regulations or continue to hold fast to them, He will not remember or approve that. This is because He has already brought new work, and has entered a new phase of His work. When He initiates new work, He appears to mankind with a completely new image, from a completely new angle, and in a completely new way so that people can see different aspects of His disposition and what He has and is. This is one of His goals in His new work. God does not cling to old things or walk the well-trodden path; when He works and speaks, He is not as prohibitive as people imagine. In God, all is free and liberated, and there is no prohibition, no constraints—what He brings to mankind is freedom and liberation. He is a living God, a God who genuinely, truly exists. He is not a puppet or a clay figure, and He is totally different from the idols that people enshrine and worship. He is living and vibrant, and what His words and work bring to mankind is all life and light, all freedom and liberation, because He holds the truth, the life, and the way—He is not constrained by anything in any of His work. … Thus, the Lord Jesus could openly go out and work on the Sabbath because in His heart there were no rules, no knowledge or doctrine that originated from mankind. What He had was God’s new work and God’s way. His work was the way to free mankind, to release people, to allow them to exist in the light and to live” (“God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself III”).
I understood a little after reading this passage, and I said to Co-worker Xue: “So when the Lord Jesus came to perform His work, He didn’t keep the Sabbath day, but He led His disciples to various places to preach the gospel and to work, and He did this to tell the people of that time that God had left the laws behind and was now doing a new work. He wanted to lead people into the new age. It seems that God’s will is behind every single thing God does!”
Co-worker Xue said to me, “Yes, this passage states very clearly why the Lord Jesus worked on the Sabbath day. When God works, He does not cling to old ways of doing things and He does not travel down old roads. God always does newer and higher work according to the needs of corrupt mankind. When He does a new work, God no longer holds to previous work, and if people hold to previous practices then they are clinging to rules. Only by giving up old rules and practices and closely following the footsteps of God’s work can people attain His salvation. In the Age of Law, for example, through Moses, God proclaimed the laws and commandments to guide mankind’s life on earth, and He required that man observe the laws and commandments and that they must keep the Sabbath day. This was because the people at that time didn’t know how to conduct their lives, and they knew nothing about what worshiping God was, about how to worship God or when to work, and so on. God didn’t wish to see mankind busying themselves all day long, working from the break of day and then resting at sundown, living only for the sake of food, clothing and shelter and raising their families. And so, He proclaimed His laws and commandments for man to observe, and He prepared the Sabbath day for man, requiring that they work six days, and then stop all work on the seventh day in order to come before God and worship Him. But at the end of the Age of Law, mankind was becoming more and more corrupted by Satan and, even though they appeared to keep the Sabbath day and they appeared to worship and praise God on the Sabbath, they no longer had any true worship of God in their hearts. Even though they kept the Sabbath day, it was still just a kind of rule or ritual, without any meaning whatsoever. Therefore, when the Lord Jesus came to perform His work, He expressed the way of repentance in light of man’s needs and He no longer enjoined people to keep the rules and practices of the Sabbath day. Instead, He led people to leave behind the laws and the Sabbath day, and He proposed new requirements for man: To worship God in spirit and in truth. In this way, people were able to have a newer, higher path of practice and, only by letting go of previous rules and practices and practicing in accordance with God’s requirements could they enjoy the peace and joy bestowed by the Lord and live under God’s care and protection. From the outside, it looked as though the Lord Jesus was abandoning the laws by no longer keeping the Sabbath day, but in essence He was fulfilling the laws, and was allowing people to move on from rules and rituals to worshiping God in spirit and in truth. This was a more profound practice and entry into worshiping God that enabled people to be closer and more intimate with the heart of God. If the Lord had not personally led His disciples to leave the Sabbath day behind them, then no one would have been able to move beyond the constraints of the laws. Only by God Himself continually doing new work were people able to have a new path of practice and obtain liberation and freedom of the spirit. From God’s work, we can see that God is the true and the living God, and that with God there are no rules and no taboos. God is not limited by laws or rules when He performs a new work, and He does not cling to old work. God is ever new and never old, and is always leading man into a newer, higher realm. When God performed His new work, He did not cling at all to old rules or practices; He worked amongst man in an entirely new way, thus enabling them to have a newer path of practice and, ultimately, He saved people from the laws and allowed them to live before Him in freedom and liberation, and to attain His salvation.”
After listening to Co-worker Xue’s fellowship, I said in excitement: “My heart is so clear now! God’s work is very practical and He does not cling to old ways of doing things at all. He always performs new work according to our needs, He shows us new paths of practice, and He enables us to better come before Him to worship Him and to enjoy His blessings. If God hadn’t done a new work and guided man away from the Sabbath day, people would have been constantly bound by the laws; they would have worshiped God in rules and rituals and would even have been condemned and punished for violating the laws. God really loves us so much!”
Co-worker Xue nodded her head, and said happily, “Yes indeed. Every single thing God does has a profound meaning, and they are all filled with the love God has for us mankind! Therefore, when God performs a new work, whether God’s work tallies with our misconceptions and imaginings or not, or whether we understand it or not, we should always seek God’s will and try to know His work with a heart that reveres Him, for only in this way can we follow closely God’s footsteps and attain His salvation. If we are arrogant and conceited, and we do not seek or know God’s new work, then we will be apt to rebel against God and resist God, and we will lose God’s salvation—the consequences don’t bear thinking about! The chief priests, scribes and Pharisees back then, for example, saw clearly that the words and work of the Lord Jesus possessed authority and power, but they did not seek the truth with an open mind, nor did they know God’s work. Instead, they clung tightly to laws and rules, and they used them to condemn the Lord Jesus’ work and words as having gone beyond the Old Testament, and they judged the Lord Jesus to have violated the laws by not keeping the Sabbath day. And they compared the Lord Jesus’ work with the work of Jehovah at every turn, and so long as they failed to tally with their own misconceptions and imaginings, they condemned, judged and even blasphemed the Lord Jesus. In the end, they collaborated with the Roman authorities to crucify the Lord Jesus upon the cross, and thus they were cursed and punished by God. The lesson of the Pharisees’ failure serves as a warning to us that, no matter where God appears or in what way He works, we cannot rely on our notions and imaginings and use God’s previous work to delimit His new work. The wisdom of God is so wondrous and unfathomable; no matter what God does, He does it to better be able to save mankind, and behind it all lies God’s will and His painstaking efforts. We—corrupt mankind—cannot possibly fathom God’s work. All we can do is seek and accept God’s work with a heart of reverence, for only in this way will we be able to win God’s approval and blessing.”
I nodded my head, and said to Co-worker Xue, “Yes! God is so wise, so almighty, how can we humans possibly fathom His work? Just like it says in the Bible: ‘O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? or who has been his counselor?’ (Romans 11:33–34). In our approach to God’s new work, we must seek and study it more with a heart that reveres God, and only then will we be able to attain God’s salvation! Thank the Lord! Today’s fellowship has really done me a lot of good!”
“Thank the Lord!”