Did Jesus or His disciples ever break the Sabbath commandment?

Approximately thirty-seven miracles of Jesus have been identified as recorded in the four gospels of the new testament. However, there were far more things that Jesus said and did alongwith many more miracles that He performed which aren’t recorded in the Scriptures.This is how John expresses it; “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” John 21:25


Out of the thirty-seven miracles recorded in the gospels, seven have been identified as having occurred on the Sabbath day:

  1. Jesus heals a lame man by the pool of Bethesda. John 5:1-9
  2. Jesus drives out an evil spirit. Mark 1:21-26 3. Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law. Mark 1:29-31
  3. Jesus heals a man with a deformed hand. Mark 3:1-6
  4. Jesus heals a man born blind. John 9:1-16
  5. Jesus heals a crippled woman. Luke 13:10-17
  6. Jesus heals a man with dropsy. Luke 14:1-6

These miracles of Jesus performed on the Sabbath, was one of the primary reasons as to why the Jews accused him of breaking the Sabbath.

Even today many “are taking the same ground as did the caviling Jews. In this they contradict the testimony of Christ Himself, who declared, “I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.” John 15:10.
Neither the Saviour nor His followers broke the law of the Sabbath. Christ was a living representative of the law. No violation of its holy precepts was found in His life. DA 287.3

But then, if this would potentially be a point of contention with the Jewish leaders then why did Jesus still go ahead and heal on the Sabbath day.

The truth is to reveal a deep-rooted error surrounding the Sabbath commandment. Christ was never dealing with whether the Sabbath had to be observed (because this was a plain, straightforward, well-known and undisputed requirement of the law) but He was dealing with a much deeper problem, which was, the incorrect manner in which the Sabbath commandment was being interpreted, represented and observed by the Jewish leaders.

“It was the work of Christ to clear away these misconceptions. Although the rabbis followed Him with merciless hostility, He did not even appear to conform to their requirements, but went straight forward, keeping the Sabbath according to the law of God.” DA 283.4

“In the days of Christ the Sabbath had become so perverted that its observance reflected the character of selfish and arbitrary men rather than the character of the loving heavenly Father. The rabbis virtually represented God as giving laws, which it was impossible for men to obey. They led the people to look upon God as a tyrant, and to think that the observance of the Sabbath, as He required it, made men hard-hearted and cruel.” DA 283:4

Yet another point of contention with regards to the Sabbath observance is recorded in the account where Jesus’s disciples, while passing through the corn fields, plucked the ears of corn and ate them, rubbing them in their hands.To which the Jews immediately retorted, “ Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the Sabbath days?. Luke 6:1-2

Here Jesus points them to how David had taken and eaten of the shewbread from the Holy Place of the sanctuary which is forbidden for anyone to touch or eat apart from the priests serving in the temple.

But then Jesus says something which, I believe is often misquoted and stated out of context to support the theory that Jesus made of none effect the bindings of the old covenant Sabbath observance.

Note carefully what He says: “ And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.” Mark 2:27,28

Apparently this seems to covey the idea that since the Sabbath was made for man and not the other way round, it looses its significance under the new covenant. However when understood in the right context, these words reveal a much deeper truth, easily missed by the surface reader.
Jesus continues, “Have ye not read in the law, how that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.” “The Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.” Luke 6:3, 4; Mark 2:27, 28; Matthew 12:5, 6.

If it was right for David to satisfy his hunger by eating of the bread that had been set apart to a holy use, then it was right for the disciples to supply their need by plucking the grain upon the sacred hours of the Sabbath. Again, the priests in the temple performed greater labor on the Sabbath than upon other days. The same labor in secular business would be sinful; but the work of the priests was in the service of God. They were performing those rites that pointed to the redeeming power of Christ, and their labor was in harmony with the object of the Sabbath.
But now Christ Himself had come. The disciples, in doing the work of Christ, were engaged in God’s service, and that which was necessary for the accomplishment of this work it was right to do on the Sabbath day. Christ would teach His disciples and His enemies that the service of God is first of all. The object of God’s work in this world is the redemption of man; therefore that which is necessary to be done on the Sabbath in the accomplishment of this work is in accord with the Sabbath law.

Jesus then crowned His argument by declaring Himself the “Lord of the Sabbath,”—One above all question and above all law. This infinite Judge acquits the disciples of blame, appealing to the very statutes they are accused of violating. Jesus did not let the matter pass without administering a rebuke to His enemies. He declared that in their blindness they had mistaken the object of the Sabbath. He said, “If ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.” Matthew 12:7.

Their many heartless rites could not supply the lack of that truthful integrity and tender love which will ever characterize the true worshiper of God.
Again Christ reiterated the truth that the sacrifices were in themselves of no value. They were a means, and not an end. Their object was to direct men to the Saviour, and thus to bring them into harmony with God. It is the service of love that God values. When this is lacking, the mere round of ceremony is an offense to Him. So with the Sabbath. It was designed to bring men into communion with God; but when the mind was absorbed with wearisome rites, the object of the Sabbath was thwarted. Its mere outward observance was a mockery. DA 285.1 – DA 286.1

“Wherefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.” These words are full of instruction and comfort. Because the Sabbath was made for man, it is the Lord’s day. It belongs to Christ. For “all things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.” John 1:3. Since He made all things, He made the Sabbath. By Him it was set apart as a memorial of the work of creation. It points to Him as both the Creator and the Sanctifier. It declares that He who created all things in heaven and in earth, and by whom all things hold together, is the head of the church, and that by His power we are reconciled to God. For, speaking of Israel, He said, “I gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them,”—make them holy. Ezekiel 20:12.

Then the Sabbath is a sign of Christ’s power to make us holy. And it is given to all whom Christ makes holy. As a sign of His sanctifying power, the Sabbath is given to all who through Christ become a part of the Israel of God. DA 288.1 – DA 288.2

Dear friends, there never was a doubt or question as to whether or not the Sabbath was to be observed, but the basis of the controversy was “how” it was to be observed. This was specifically the point of conflict.

The leaders and priests had erroneously created and formulated laws ( which God had never intended nor communicated) around the Sabbath commandment making it a tedious and wearisome experience for the people, invoking a spirit of misapprehension and hatred towards the giver of this law and towards His character.
The Law of God is the very transcript of His Character, thus the observance of the Sabbath has always been, is, and will always be a reflection of God’s Holy character. This is the reason the commandment is placed in the very bosom of the decalogue and eternally stands as a memorial of the work of creation and a sign of God’s power and His love between Him and His people.

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