The Law (Ex. 20:8-11)
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou
labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of
the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son,
nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle,
nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the LORD
made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested
the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and
What we must remember is at the beginning of this Chapter(vss 1-2)
And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the LORD thy God, which
have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of
These words were spoken in the hearing of All Israel who were at Mt. Sinai; the words following were those that God spoke to Moses. Also, if that weren't enough, God wrote these 10 Sayings on the 2 tablets of stone that Moses brought up the mountain with him:(Ex. 34:1)
And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto
the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in
the first tables, which thou brakest.
So He wrote them twice, lest they forgot the 1st time.
One must be very clear when understanding this commandment:(Num. 23:19)
God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he
should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he
spoken, and shall he not make it good?
God both spoke and wrote this commandment with His own finger, and He intended this commandment to be obeyed the same as "Thou shalt not kill(do no murder)", and "Thou shalt not steal". His intention was for All Men to obey this commandment, as well as the other 9 commandments.
Lord of the Sabbath
κύριος γάρ ἐστιν καί τοῦ σαββάτου ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου(Lord indeed is of the Sabbath the son of the man-Interlinear/TR Stephanus).
To properly understand this phrase, it's necessary to understand "שַׁבָּ֥ת הִוא֙ לַֽיהוָ֔ה"(sabbath of the Lord-Lev. 23:3). Lev: 23:3 says,
Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of
rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the
sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.
It is: 1) A Day of Rest from one's occupational labor.
2) A Day of Assembly-Israel came together for worship, prayer, and the
reading and expounding of the Law.
Indicated in the reading of Ex. 20:8 is the Blessing of the Lord is on the Sabbath, therefore, His Special Blessing is on those who honor it. In Mark 2:22, the parallel passage, Jesus says in vs 27,
And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for
The Sabbath was intended by the Lord to be a blessing to man; not only were his needs to be met(Israel had a double portion of manna the day before the Sabbath-Ex. 16:29), but he was to meet in assembly with the Lord. This is the True Rest of the Sabbath; Paul makes this point in Heb. 4:8-11,
For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have
spoken of another day. 9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the
people of God. 10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath
ceased from his own works, as God did from his. 11 Let us labour
therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same
example of unbelief.
So, from this passage we can see that the pattern of Sabbath rest was meant to be continued, it was not abolished when Jesus came.
Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath
From the previous passages quoted, it is clear Jesus was not abolishing the Sabbath, nor was He 're-defining it' to make it palatable to future generations. It has and will always remain:
1) A day in which we cease from our labors(Heb. 4:10)
2) A day in which we assemble to worship(Heb. 10:25, Acts 1:4, 2:42, 20:7)
What Jesus is making clear for the scribes and Pharisees is, "What is work". Jesus, in John 5:17,
But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.
Jesus healed a man by the Pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath day; the Pharisees, seeing the man carrying his bed, accused him of violating the Sabbath, then finding out that Jesus told him to "...take up your bed and walk", were even more furious with Him, wanting to kill Him. So when Jesus says,"...My Father works and I work", it is clear that "work" doesn't mean the same thing to Jesus(and the Father) that it does to the scribes and Pharisees. Healing a man on the Sabbath, does not constitute 'work' outlined in the Law, nor does "doing good". Mark 3:4 says,
“And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days,
or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.”
He says even further,(Luke 13:15)
"The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each
one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and
lead him away to watering?
And again(Luke 14:5),
And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox
fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the
The scribes and Pharisees themselves were hypocritical in observing the Sabbath, for while they accused the disciples of picking corn and wheat and feeding themselves on the Sabbath, they themselves would feed and water their animals and even pull one out of a pit on the Sabbath. Jesus didn't 'bend the Law' to accomodate His disciples; rather, the scribes and Pharisees "condemned the guiltless", by accusing His disciples of feeding themselves.
If therefore, to do good and not evil is the intended purpose of the Sabbath, and Jesus(the son of man) is the Lord of the Sabbath, then therefore to obey Jesus is honoring the Sabbath. This is an important understanding to have; in the Old Testament, the exceptions were spelled out(priests in their ministering duties, care for the sick, children, etc). The Sabbath was meant to "give life", and to "enter into His rest(Heb. 4:11)" is to enter fully into the life of God. The Gentile believers were free from the observances of the Law of Moses(not the 10 commandments-everyone is)(Acts 15), therefore all the admonitions of what constituted properly obeying the Sabbath in the Old Testament(doing of housework, cutting wood, preparation of meals, etc) are non-binding for the Gentile believer.
What is important for all is obeying the spirit of the commandment. Jesus says in Matt. 5:20,
For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the
righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter
into the kingdom of heaven.
He then goes on to describe that the sin of murder(Thou shalt not kill) even includes calling your brother a fool; and adultry(Thou shalt not commit adultry) includes looking upon a woman to lust. Therefore, mere outward observance of the Sabbath is insuficient, a "striving to enter the rest of the Lord(Heb. 4:11)" in which spirit, soul and body are participating is what is meant in keeping the Lord's Sabbath. Since Jesus is "Lord of the Sabbath", our focus is no longer fulfilling an obligational requirement, but "abiding in Him"(John 15:4). Charles H. Spurgeon says,
Living near to Jesus, thou art covered with the wings of God, and
underneath thee are the everlasting arms. Let nothing keep thee from
that hallowed intercourse, which is the choice privilege of a soul
wedded to THE WELL-BELOVED. Be not content with an interview now and
then, but seek always to retain His company, for only in His presence
hast thou either comfort or safety. Jesus should not be unto us a
friend who calls upon us now and then, but one with whom we walk
evermore. - See more at:
Jesus fully expects that we take our "rest" in Him; assembling with the saints on the Lord's Day(Heb. 10:25),
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of
some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see
the day approaching,
and abiding in Him,(Matt. 11:28)
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give
We were meant to cease from OUR labor:(Heb. 4:10)
For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own
works, as God did from his,
and yet DO the works Christ,(John 6:29)
Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye
believe on him whom he hath sent.
This is not a mere mental assent; He preached, healed, cast out demons, fed the multitudes, and exorted His disciples to do likewise(John 14:12),
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works
that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do;
because I go unto my Father.
We are "free" from the legalistic requirements of the Law(Saturday-sundown to sundown, and the various prohibitions described in the Law) so that we can "keep the Sabbath" as it was Originally Intended: A day where we "cease" from our labor so we can more fully enter into the rest of Christ. This is what Jesus meant when He said,"I am the Lord of the Sabbath".
So, to answer the OP's questions, 1) Jesus never abolished the Sabbath, nor did He re-define it. He explained what "work" meant, and what it didn't mean. 2) By saying "I am the Lord of the Sabbath", everything about the Sabbath is in deference to Him. The object of the Sabbath is to enter into His rest, and do His works. To abstain from our own labor is but one element of keeping the Sabbath, the other is "Abiding in Him", doing those things that bring life to ourselves and those around us.