“Then He told them, 'The Sabbath was made because of man and not man because of the Sabbath. Therefore, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.'”
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“And then He told them, ‘The Sabbath was made because of man and not man because of the Sabbath. Therefore, the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.’” Mark 2:27-28 (NKJV)
One of the main arguments that religious Jews have against Christians is that they profane the Sabbath (“Shabbat” in Hebrew). Not only do most Christians recognize a different day of worship in the Jewish mind, but Christians have also lost touch with the Hebraic understanding of “how” to observe Shabbat. Sadly, most Jewish people have no idea that there are congregations of Messianic believers who meet every Shabbat. So, most of the Jewish community only has the “Church” as their example.
Perhaps, you have heard the old Jewish saying, “Ask five rabbis, and you’ll get ten opinions!” Not all Rabbis agree on how to observe the Sabbath either. There are Orthodox, Ultra-Orthodox, Conservative, and Reformed, and various sects of each. In the more religious homes, Shabbat controls your life. On Shabbat, everything is required to be turned off. Refrigerators, elevators, clocks…nothing is allowed to “work” on Shabbat.
But among religious Jews, there are dissenting opinions. In the Talmud, Rabbi Yonatan ben-Yosef, (commenting on Exodus 31:12-17) said, “For it (Shabbat) is holy unto you. That is, it is committed into your hands, not you into its hands!”
A similar passage appears in the Mekhilta Shabbata and is attributed to Rabbi Shimon Ben-Menaysa.
The debate concerning “man’s dominion over Shabbat” vs. “Shabbat’s dominion over man” is not exclusively Jewish/Christian. It is contested even among Jews!
David Stern, in his “Jewish New Testament Commentary,” makes this observation:
“It may be, therefore, that Yeshua’s comment in verse 28, that ‘the Son of Man is Lord of Shabbat,’ does not refer only to Himself but to EVERYONE, since the Hebrew words’ Ben-Adam’ (literal son of man) can mean simply” ‘man, person,’ with no Messianic overtone: “people control Shabbat and not the other way around.”
Perhaps, this is why Paul exhorted the early Messianic community (aka the Church):
“Therefore, no one is to act as your judge in regard to food, or drink, or in respect to a festival, or a new moon, or a Sabbath day - things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” Colossians 2:16-17 (NASB 95)
Regardless of the day a person deems as the “Sabbath,” we are the stewards of the Shabbat. Not the other way around. For practical reasons, Sabbath has been given to us to force us to rest and focus on God. It also points us to the eternal “rest” we will one day enter into with Messiah Jesus in the Kingdom to come.
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©Steve Wiggins 2021