Introduction: I love the Sabbath because I value having a weekly day of rest. Since I like to keep busy and do constructive things, I end up with many deadlines in my life. One of them is writing this lesson every week. Much of my work is something that I don’t think should be performed on Sabbath. The result is a guilt-free day of rest regardless of the deadlines bearing down on me. Have you noticed that many people seem to turn things upside down and make the Sabbath a burden, rather then a rest? Let’s plunge into our study and see what the Bible teaches us about the proper approach to the Sabbath!

  1. The Sabbath Command

    1. Read Exodus 20:8-10. Who benefits from the Sabbath? (Everyone! This is not just for the “boss man” or the rich. Everyone, even animals can claim the protection of Sabbath rest.)

    2. Read Exodus 20:11. What is the basis for the Sabbath? (God’s pattern during Creation. Six days He created the universe, and on the seventh day He rested. See Genesis chapter 1 and Genesis 2:1-3.)

    3. Look again at Exodus 20:8 and Exodus 20:11. The Bible Project points to the Hebrew words translated “Sabbath” and “rest.” Those Hebrew words are “Shabbat” and “Nuach.” Shabbat means “stop” and nuach means settle in place for restoration. Based on the Hebrew behind these two words, what approach to the Sabbath does this suggest? (It tells us to stop our busy work life and rest so that we can be refreshed.)

      1. Does that make any sense to you in terms of a rhythm? (I like the scheduled “full stop” so that I can rest and be refreshed.)

  2. The Great Contradiction

    1. John chapters 19 & 20 is one place in the Bible which recites Jesus’ terrible death at the hands of His torturers and His glorious resurrection. If you are a parent, and your child has just been tortured to death, but at the same time won the greatest victory in history, what would you want to do?

      1. If you could raise your child to life, would you want to do that immediately? Would you want to comfort your child and congratulate your child without any delay?

      2. What would be the impact of Jesus, immediately after His death, flying off the cross and gloriously rising up to heaven? What would the scoffers say then?

      3. Instead, Jesus rested in the grave on the Sabbath. Resting is completely contrary to basic human emotion and logic. Why did He wait? Why rest on Sabbath? (It reflects the “Stop and rest for restoration.” Jesus has just taken humanity from certain eternal death to the opportunity for eternal life. It is a pause to celebrate the ultimate restoration.)

  3. Keeping the Sabbath

    1. Read Matthew 12:1-2. What is the charge against the disciples?

      1. What is the legal basis for the charge? (Read Exodus 34:21. This has to be the Bible basis for the charge – the disciples are harvesting.)

      2. If you were Jesus’ legal counsel, how would you recommend He respond to this charge of illegal activity?

    2. Read Matthew 12:3-5. How does Jesus respond? Is His response anything like yours?(His defense is that others (David and his soldiers and temple priests)are doing the same thing – violating the law. They engaged in unlawful activity and they profane the Sabbath.)

      1. When you were a parent, did you accept from your children the defense that Jesus makes – “Others are doing it!”

    3. Read Matthew 12:9-10. Jesus is asked a question so that He can be hit with another legal charge! If you were Jesus’ lawyer, how would you suggest He answer this legal question?

    4. Read Matthew 12:11. Is this the answer you would give? Would you inject the issue of sheep and the issue of an emergency, when no emergency exists with the withered hand man and no animal is involved? (No one can dispute that the withered hand was not an emergency. Since Jesus knows that, I don’t think it is appropriate for us to draw any conclusions based on emergency situations. An emergency should not enter into our thinking.)

      1. If you stop adding the element of emergency to Jesus’ answer, what is left? (Jesus says it is right to restore the man and the sheep on the Sabbath.)

    5. Read Matthew 12:12-13. How does Jesus summarize His direction on Sabbath-keeping? (It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.)

      1. Let’s go back to the Hebrew we discussed earlier. If the Sabbath is a stop to rest for restoration, is that consistent with what Jesus has done for the man with the withered hand?

    6. Let’s go back and read Matthew 12:6-8. These verses follow Jesus’ admission that His disciples have violated the Sabbath laws, just like David and his soldiers violated the law, and just like the priests violate the Sabbath. What is the approach that Jesus takes to the Sabbath? (Jesus says that if your standard is “mercy” instead of “sacrifice” those (like His disciples, David’s soldiers, and the priests) who violate the Sabbath rules are “guiltless?”

      1. How do you go from “Sabbath breaker” to “guiltless?” (You arrive there based on “mercy.” God’s standard for Sabbath-keeping is mercy.)

      2. How does that compare to the idea that the Sabbath is a time to stop, and rest in place for restoration? (That perfectly accords with mercy.)

    7. Look again at Matthew 12:8. What is Jesus saying about His authority to say what is the appropriate approach to Sabbath-keeping? (He alone gets to make this decision.)

    8. Read Mark 2:27. This is part of the same story. What does this say about whether the Sabbath was created for our restoration or for judging our conduct?

    9. Read Matthew 12:14. The religious leaders disagree with Jesus’ approach to the Sabbath. What do they plan to do to Him based on that disagreement? (They will destroy Jesus.)

      1. Notice the opposite approaches to Sabbath-keeping. Jesus’ approach is one of mercy, rest, and restoration. The religious leaders’ approach is one of destruction if you disagree with them. Which approach is yours? Are you one who points the finger of accusation at those in the church who disagree with you on Sabbath-keeping? Do you try to destroy their position or influence in the church because they do not agree with your view of the Sabbath?

        1. Or, are you one who takes the approach of mercy towards those who disagree with you?

    10. Read Romans 14:4. What does this text say to those who point the finger of destruction at those who disagree?

      1. Are you the master over your pastor, your church leaders, or fellow church members? Are you entitled to pass judgment on them?(No. For each of us our master is our Lord, not fellow members.)

        1. Would it be fair to say that someone who claims to be master over another Christian is usurping God’s position of authority?

        2. What does this text say about the ability of the one who is being accused to stand before God? (It tells us that the accused person will be upheld by God.)

          1. What does that mean?

    11. Read Romans 14:5. I will not attempt to unpack this complicated text, but what does it say about different approaches to Sabbath-keeping? (It tells us that we should be fully convinced in our own mind. God calls on us to answer to Him, and not each other, when it comes to our approach to Sabbath.)

    12. Friend, do you need to change your approach to the Sabbath? Are you convinced that “mercy” is the correct standard? Do you understand why those who Jesus admitted were violating the Sabbath were “guiltless?” Why not, by the power of the Holy Spirit, apply mercy to your approach to Sabbath-keeping?

  4. Next week: Sabbath Rest.