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Lesson 5: Christ and the Sabbath *

Introduction: The Sabbath is a special time. When I was very young, it was the day when the family was all together. No doubt there were times that I wished the Sabbath day would end because my parents restricted what I could do on the Sabbath. When I was in college, it was a great day to spend with my girlfriend and not have to study. In law school and thereafter in life, it was a wonderful time to rest without guilt. Normally, I've got things to do and deadlines to meet. But, since I believe that working on Sabbath is a sin, it was a guilt-free rest. What is the Biblical basis for taking the Sabbath seriously? How should we view the Sabbath? Let's dive into our Bibles and find out!

  1. Creation Sabbath

    1. Read Genesis 2:1-2. Why do you think God took six days to create "the heavens and earth ... in all their vast array?" (Based on the account in Genesis 1, it seems that God could have done it all instantly. But, He had something in mind. I suspect it was giving humans a pattern for work and rest.)

    2. Read Genesis 2:3. We can all understand the need for rest after all God accomplished, but why would He "bless" the seventh day and make it "holy?" (It seems God wanted a special time to celebrate His work of creation.)

    3. Read 1 Samuel 7:12-13. Samuel memorialized the Israelite victory over the Philistines by setting up the Ebenezer stone. Why? (The people would be reminded of the victory that God had given them.)

      1. Is the Ebenezer stone like the Sabbath? (I think it is exactly the same kind of thing.)

    4. Read Exodus 20:8-10. Can animals remember the Creation? Why does God include them? (God wants us to give a rest to all those within our control. The Sabbath does not depend on wealth, power or influence. It is for all.)

    5. Read Exodus 20:11. This is thousands of years after the Creation. What does this suggest about the Sabbath? (It is permanent institution memorializing the Creation.)

    6. Read Deuteronomy 5:12-15. Why does this statement of the Fourth Commandment give us a different reason for the Sabbath? (The reason here is that God rescued His people from Egyptian slavery. This suggests the Sabbath is a memorial for all God has done for His people - created a perfect world for them and rescued them from slavery.)

    7. Read Matthew 27:50-52. We just celebrated Easter. We recognize this as a text telling us about Jesus' crucifixion on our behalf. What does this say happened at the moment of Jesus' death? (Among other things, many people were raised to life.)

      1. Assume Jesus was your child, and your child was terribly brutalized and killed. Assume that at the same time your child won the Super Bowl of the universe. If you were God, would you raise Jesus to life while He was still on the cross - just like these others were raised to life -- and gloriously welcome Him to heaven? (Yes, of course we would.)

        1. Why did God wait until Sunday? (This is exactly the same pattern we have seen before with the Sabbath - Jesus rested in the grave on the Sabbath to memorialize His next great work - saving us from sin and death. He rested on the Sabbath to memorialize Creation. He rested on the Sabbath to memorialize freedom from Egyptian slavery. He rested on the Sabbath to memorialize our rescue from the slavery of sin and our new relationship with God!)

    8. Read Isaiah 66:22-23. When should we stop observing the Sabbath? (Never! God tells us that Sabbath observance will continue in the earth made new.)

      1. What do you think the Sabbath will stand for then? (Read Isaiah 66:24. This suggests that we celebrate God's ultimate victory over the rebellion. Victory over sin, sickness and death.)

  2. The Sabbath and Natural Law

    1. We have previously decided that the moral law (which includes Sabbath worship) is a map to help us avoid running into trouble by violating the natural laws of the universe. How does the Sabbath fit into that logical framework?

    2. Read Mark 2:23-24. What is the basis for the Pharisees' charge? (No doubt working on Sabbath.)

    3. Read Mark 2:25-26. Two weeks ago we heard Jesus give a similar response. The religious leaders say that His disciples are violating the law and Jesus responds "you also violate the law." Do two wrongs make a right?

      1. What do you think Jesus is really saying? (Jesus is too smart to respond, "You're one too." He must be saying that when King David and his companions satisfied their hunger with consecrated bread this was appropriate. Thus, Jesus' disciples could satisfy their hunger on a consecrated day.)

        1. If hunger trumps consecration, what does that teach us about the Sabbath and eating?

    4. Read Mark 2:27-28. What does Jesus mean when He says, "The Sabbath was made for man?" (The Sabbath is not supposed to be painful, it is supposed to be a time of joy. It was made to give us a break from our daily obligations.)

      1. What point is Jesus making when He says that He ("the Son of Man") is "Lord even of the Sabbath?" (Jesus created the Sabbath ( John 1:1-3), and therefore He gets to authoritatively describe its purpose and how it should be observed.)

      2. How does Jesus' statement fit into our understanding of natural law? (It tells us that everyone needs a Sabbath rest. Eating is part of that rest.)

  3. The Sabbath and Healing

    1. Read Mark 3:1-2. Why would the religious leaders suspect that Jesus would heal on the Sabbath? (He must have done it before. Or, at a minimum, they were beginning to understand Jesus' view of Sabbath-keeping.)

    2. Read Mark 3:3-4. Why does Jesus ask this question? (He is intending to teach. This is a point He thinks is important.)

    3. Read Mark 3:5. Was it necessary to heal this fellow's hand on Sabbath? (Absolutely not. It was no emergency.)

      1. Why was Jesus angry? (He was upset that their understanding of the Sabbath was so corrupted.)

      2. What lesson about the Sabbath should we learn from this account? (That doing good for others on the Sabbath is in accord with the purpose of the Sabbath.)

      3. What does this say about Jesus and Sabbath-keeping standards? Are they gone? (This story teaches just the opposite. Jesus wants humans to understand the appropriate Sabbath-keeping standards. If He didn't care, He would not have taken the time to address this issue.)

    4. Read Mark 3:6 and review Mark 3:4. How much of Jesus' anger would this explain? (Jesus knew they were willing to spend their Sabbath plotting His death. He, on the other hand, was giving more abundant life.)

    5. Read John 5:5-6 and John 5:8-11. This healing was obviously not an emergency. Carrying the mat was not a necessary part of the healing. What lesson is Jesus teaching?

    6. Read John 5:14 and John 5:16-17. We have several moving parts here. A non-emergency Sabbath healing. Commands to carry a mat on Sabbath and to stop sinning. The statement that Jesus works on the Sabbath. How would you put these parts together to make sense about Sabbath-keeping? (First, Jesus is not rebelling against the law because He says, "Stop sinning." Second, healing, mat carrying, and certain work must be consistent with the Sabbath.)

      1. What kind of work is consistent with the Sabbath? (Helping others. Lifting others up.)

      2. What about carrying the mat? (Being able to carry his mat was part of the restoration miracle.)

    7. Friend, does this study give you a better vision of God's goal for His Sabbath? It is a day to celebrate what God has done for us. It is a day to take a break from our regular activities. It is a day to restore others. Will you determine to properly keep the Sabbath?

  4. Next week: Christ's Death and the Law.
* Copr. 2014, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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