God created the universe in six days. (Call me a conservative whacko fundamentalist, but I believe that He did it in six twenty-four-hour days. The Bible says it, so I believe it. I don’t have any problem believing that God could create everything out of nothing. I wonder why it took Him so long...) “On the seventh day God had completed his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it he rested from all his work of creation” (Genesis 2:2–3). The word “rested” comes from the Hebrew word from which we derive the English word “Sabbath.” On the seventh day, God “sabbath-ed.”
The fourth of the ten commandments required the Israelites to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You must not do any work” (Exodus 20:8–10). Later, Moses wrote, “Be careful to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy as the Lord your God has commanded you. You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God... Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:12–15). The Sabbath Day wasn’t just a lazy day. It was a day to worshipfully remember God’s merciful and gracious salvation!
By the first century, the Hebrew religionists had developed many of their own rules concerning the day of rest. They said that Jesus’ disciples were transgressing the law when they walked through a grainfield on the Sabbath and plucked a few heads of grain to munch on. Oh no, they said, the disciples were illegally harvesting on the Sabbath! (Matthew 12:1-2, Mark 2:23-24, and Luke 6:1-2).
So when Jesus healed on the Sabbath, the Pharisees had a conniption-fit. When Jesus healed the man who had been disabled for thirty-eight years, the man miraculously stood, rolled up his mat and danced out. The Pharisees responded coldly, “This is the Sabbath. The law prohibits you from picking up your mat” (John 5:10). When Jesus healed the Hebrew woman who had been stooped for eighteen years, “the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, responded by telling the crowd, ‘There are six days when work should be done; therefore come on those days and be healed and not on the Sabbath day’ ” (Luke 13:14).
Matthew 12:9-14, Mark 3:1-6, and Luke 6:6-11 record the healing of the man with the withered, shriveled, lifeless right hand. The “Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8, Mark 2:28) lovingly spoke to the man. “ ‘Get up and stand here.’ So he got up and stood there. Then Jesus ... told him, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He did, and his hand was restored” (Luke 6:8-10).
When the Pharisees confronted Jesus, He “replied to them, ‘Who among you, if he had a sheep that fell into a pit on the Sabbath, wouldn’t take hold of it and lift it out? A person is worth far more than a sheep’ ” (Matthew 12:11-12).
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.