Jesus Talks about the Sabbath and Heals on the Sabbath

Matthew 11:1-21

The fourth commandment of the Ten Commandments is to “remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.”  The Old Testament explains that in 6 days of the week we should do our work, but on the sabbath, we should rest from work and pay particular attention to the things of God.  

In Israel at the time Jesus lived there, the people were very focused on obedience to the Ten Commandments and the Law of Moses.  They were so focused on obeying the law that Jesus had to remind them why they had the law:  to help us remember God, so we can follow His plan for us and be happy.  

There were those so focused on not working on the sabbath that they forgot that the sabbath was meant for doing good.  

As Jesus’ disciples walked through fields of corn on the sabbath and picked some ears of corn to eat, some who saw them thought they were doing work and should stop.  

Disciples Plucking Corn by Gustave Dore

Jesus explained that the disciples’ purpose was simply to get something to eat; the disciples were not guilty of doing anything wrong by picking and eating corn.  

When Jesus went into the synagogue and saw a man with a withered hand, Jesus knew that those watching him might also accuse him of doing work on the sabbath if Jesus healed the man.  Trying to show that Jesus was about to do work and break the law of the sabbath, someone asked Jesus the question, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath?”  To show how it is more important to do good on the sabbath than to sit and do nothing on the sabbath, Jesus asked, “What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?”  

Then Jesus added, “How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.”  And Jesus asked the man to reach forward with his hand, and it was healed.

The Pharisees who saw this were angry that Jesus would disagree with them about the rules of the sabbath.  They were even more angry that the people believed his teaching and were following him.  They felt this threatened their position of authority and their importance.

When Jesus knew the Pharisees had gone out to talk about how they could destroy Jesus, he left.  Many people (the Bible says ‘great multitudes’) followed him and he healed them all.

One can only imagine how the Pharisees felt when they saw the multitudes leaving to follow Jesus.

What do you think?

  • How was Jesus’ teaching about the sabbath different than the Pharisees’ teaching?
  • Was Jesus teaching that we should ignore the fourth commandment about the sabbath?
  • What kind of good should we do on the sabbath?
  • Why were the Pharisees so angry with Jesus?  
  • If the Pharisees did not believe Jesus’ teachings, why didn’t they just disagree and leave him alone?

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