“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”

This week Graham spoke to us about the debate about the Sabbath found in Mark 2 – 3. He explained the principle of the Sabbath – how it is to enable us to develop a rhythm of work and rest as well as giving us time to spend in God’s presence and not an obligation or duty. This principle reflects God’s own pattern of work and rest – He worked six days on creation and rested on the seventh – and His heart for His people for whom He loves and cares for.

Mark 2:23 – 3:6


Walking through fields. There is no reason to assume they were trampling a crop. They were probably walking along a path through fields. The crop could have been over the path.

The teacher, the follower, and the observers go together. As they walked some disciples snacked. They rubbed grain and their hands and ate the grain. The Pharisees challenged their actions. They saw this as work, which was forbidden on the Sabbath. Jesus justified their actions by referring to incidents in their history.

In the other incident we see that it is set among a community of worshippers, some worship while others watch.


About the Pharisees

They were not all bad people. They loved the word of God and wanted to be faithful in their observance of their national religion, and they wanted others to do so too. They knew that God had brought judgement on their nation in the past due to disobedience and they worked, prayed and preached to preserve the Godliness of the nation despite the pagan occupying rulers.


About the Sabbath

“I wish I had more hours in the day.” Why? What would they be used for? If we can now get so many things so quickly, what are we doing with the rest of our time?We have microwaved heated precooked food and emails that arrive in our pocket.

The time we call “free” time is filled with more… More what?

Three ways people fill time:

  • Distraction. Constant gratification

  • Avoidance. Avoiding the difficult or what requires effort – work

  • Avoidance of obligations. Avoiding the emotions or realities that we are reluctant or even frightened to face. We usually do this by more activity.

And meanwhile life is squandered and time slips through fingers never to be brought back.

A follower of Jesus can be particularly vulnerable to this as they comfort themselves by thinking of their glorious future beyond death where only the language of eternity fits. But that does not excuse us from having a responsibility to use the gift of time with some reverence as a gift to us from our God.


When did Sabbath begin?

Some would say that there is no record of sabbath observance early in the Old Testament. We can read of generations passing by from Adam to Joseph in Egypt without a mention – nothing. Eventually when the people leave Egypt, having been slaves there, they are introduced to the idea of treating one day as different. Manna would be provided for them, a miracle food. It would not keep beyond a day and must be gathered fresh every day except for the day before the Sabbath when they are together twice as much when it will keep for two days so no gathering will be required on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is to be a day of rest. It is about this time that the law of God is give to those people, it contains instructions about how they are to live as individuals, as a community, and in relationship with their God. The teaching about sabbath is preserved in the Ten Commandments.


Exodus 20:8-11 ‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labour and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.’


Before we declare that we are no longer bound by the Old Testament law, we must understand what it was and if there is a principle in it for us today.

I said that some would say that there is no record of sabbath observance early in the Old Testament. However that would not be entirely true. That would be to miss one hugely important detail.

The Genesis account informs us that the beginning of Sabbath had something to do with the act of creation. (Gen 2:2-2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.).


Sabbath rest is sacred because:

  • A Sabbath rest was something that God did.

  • A Sabbath rest was something that God blessed.

The Sabbath rest is a gift to human beings because:

  • A Sabbath rest was something that God did.

  • A Sabbath rest was something that God blessed.


The Sabbath rest  is a truth regardless of whether anyone participates in it. It is, it exists in the mind of God.

The Sabbath teaches us about sacred time. The Sabbath is a taste of the holiness of “the world to come.” It is a day when we are commanded to cease involvement in worldly efforts and concerns. It is a full day set aside to help you struggle with your petty, inner demons—to reconcile their power against what is offered you in a spiritual relationship with God. Holiness is timeless. To celebrate that beautiful truth every week is to help you focus your life the other six days on the concepts of meaning, character, and spirituality.

From: The Ten Commandments, the significance of God’s laws in Everyday Life. By Dr Laura Schlessinger. Page 99

“The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” It was made for, created for, because of mankind. It was not for the Jews but for all human beings. What the Jews had been custodians of was meant for all. The good of human beings is the end of Sabbath not the other way around.

Jesus never said Sabbath did not matter but raised the understanding of it beyond what they will have known.

If land is to be its most productive it must be given time to rest (see Leviticus 25:4. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards.)

If we are to be productive, and sound physically, mentally and spiritually, to live with purpose and joy, we must have a rhythm of work and rest. How a believer honours a day of rest is up to the individual but the need is there within each of us. All believers should honour this principle of rest.


Keeping Sunday special

Christians do not keep the Jewish Sabbath which is from sunset to sunset the following day – from Friday evening to Saturday evening. We are more familiar with a Sabbath from midnight to midnight. Our special day is the day the first disciples chose as their special day, resurrection day. Even then, we see from the New Testament that it is not a binding law.


Colossians 2:16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.



I can not buy more time. I can not buy back time that is lost to me.

To manage time and get the most from it I must honour the principle of the rhythm of rest and work, work and rest.

3 thoughts on ““The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”

  1. Many christians today blindly believe what’s been passed down from generation without reading their bibles. You rightly stated the sabbath was present at creation, before any Jew. ( then contradicted yourself by saying the 7 th day was for the Jews.) This day was set apart by God,( for all men) the 7 th day not 1 st day of the week. The 1 st day was not made special by the disciples. They were hiding in a locked room in fear of the jews. When Jesus was resurrected and appeared to the disciples he upbraided them for their unbelief in his resurrection . This was not the sabbath it had just passed. There are no scriptures that support it. Remember their will be a sabbath in eternity. The disciples preached on the 7 Th day. The Romans Changed the sabbath to Sunday as their mark of authority. ( just over 300 years after christ) remember the sacrificial laws were kept separate from the 10 commandments. In the time of Moses the 10 commandments were kept inside the ark of the covenant. They were written by Gods own hand. The sacrificial laws kept outside the ark. Written by Mosses hand. It’s the sacrificial laws that were nailed to the cross with Jesus. The 10 commandments stand for eternity. The 4 Th commandment ‘REMEMBER’ the sabbath (7 th day sanctified and set apart, not any old day will do!) Acts 20 Paul spoke till midnight , the next morning they set sail. ( if this was the new sabbath why didn’t the disciples rest as commanded, because they had the sabbath on the 7 Th day when it ended at nightfall and it was then the 1 st day of the week. Days started in the evening.

    1. I think your argument is the one that the Seventh Day Adventist take. A brief reply is that I celebrate the Lord’s Day, or resurrection day, not the Jewish Sabbath. Now that Christians are no longer under the OT law they are free to choose which day they observe as their sabbath rest. Traditionally this has been the Lord’s Day.

      See Colossians 2:15-17 “15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. 16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

  2. Hi Graham: just stumbled across this and must commend your gracious reply. The original critique, whilst giving a semblance of understanding, is actually occasioned by more than one historical flaw. I think Pope’s well-known line in his ‘An Essay on Criticism’ is particularly apposite: “A little learning is a dangerous thing…”

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