SABBATH CONTROVERSIES

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During His Galilean ministry, Jesus clashed with the scribes and Pharisees over appropriate the scribes and Pharisees over appropriate observance of the Sabbath on three different occasions. The first conflict appears only in the Gospel of John.

According to John’s account. Jesus made a trip from Galilee to Jerusalem, probably to observe the Passover festival. While in Jerusalem, He healed a lame man at the Pool of Bethesda. The Pharisees criticized Jesus for this healing miracle because it occurred on the Sabbath. They believed any work done on the Sabbath-even an act of mercy-was a violation of the Old Tesetament Law (John 5:1-18).

Jesus responded to their criticism with a long speech about His relationship to God the Father (John 5:19-47). He claimed that His act of restoring the lame man to wholeness was part of God’s continuing work in teh world that He had created. Jesus had authority to do God’s work-even on the Sabbath-because of His credentials as God’s Son. He declared, “The works which the Father has given Me to finish-the very works that I do-bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me” (verse 36).

But the Pharisees were not convinced. They continued to watch Jesus closely to try to catch Him in teh act of violating the Sabbath law. One Sabbath Jesus and Before eating it, they rubbed the grian between their plams to remove the husks. To the Pharisees, this action was a violation of the Sabbath law because they were harvesting and threshing grain (Matthew 12:1-8).

Jesus defended their conduct by citing the example of David from the Old Testament. In an ememrgency, David and his men ate the sacred bread in the tabernacle that was supposed to be consumed only by the priests (1 Samuel 21:1-6). Jesus interpreted this to mean that human need is more important to God than keeping laws and observing cermonial rituals. In the parallel passage in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus stated the principle like this: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

Jesus’ third clash with the Pharisees on the question of Sabbath observance is reported in Matthew’s Gospel (12:9-14). One Sabbath day Jesus went into a synagogue, where He saw a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees were waiting for Him. They asked Jesus directly if it was lawful to heal this man on the Sabbath. Jesus pointed out that a sheep that had fallen into a pit should certainly be rescued immediately, even on the Sabbath. Then He declared, as He restored the crippled hand, “How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep!” (verse 12). This action upset the Pharisses. Perhaps they were humiliated by His response or angry because their attemt to trap Him had failed. For whatever reason, they began to plot His death.

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