The Review and Herald

892/1902

August 3, 1897

Did Christ Break the Sabbath?

EGW

“At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the Sabbath day. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungered, and they that were with him; how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or 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. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath day.” RH August 3, 1897, par. 1

Jesus had lessons which he desired to give to his disciples, that when he was no longer with them, they might not be misled by the wily misrepresentations of the priests and rulers in regard to the correct observance of the Sabbath. He would remove from the Sabbath the traditions and exactions with which the priests and rulers had burdened it. In passing through a field of grain on the Sabbath day, he and his disciples, being hungry, began to pluck the heads of grain and to eat. “But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the Sabbath day.” To answer their accusation, he referred them to the action of David and others, saying: “Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungered, and they that were with him; how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or 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.” RH August 3, 1897, par. 2

If excessive hunger excused David from violating even the holiness of the sanctuary, and made his act guiltless, how much more excusable was the simple act of the disciples in plucking grain and eating it upon the Sabbath day! Jesus would teach his disciples and his enemies that the service of God was first of all; and if fatigue and hunger attended the work, it was right to satisfy the wants of humanity even upon the Sabbath day. RH August 3, 1897, par. 3

Through Moses, Christ had declared: “And on the Sabbath day two lambs of the first year without spot, and two tenth deals of flour for a meat-offering, mingled with oil, and the drink-offering thereof: this is the burnt-offering, of every Sabbath, beside the continual burnt-offering, and his drink offering.” The work of the priests in connection with the sacrificial offerings was increased upon the Sabbath, yet in their holy work in the service of God, they did not violate the fourth commandment of the decalogue. Works of mercy and of necessity are no transgression of the law. God does not condemn these things. The act of mercy and necessity in passing through a grain field, of plucking the heads of wheat, of rubbing them in their hands, and of eating to satisfy their hunger, he declared to be in accordance with the law which he himself had proclaimed from Sinai. Thus he declared himself guiltless before scribes, rulers, and priests, before the heavenly universe, before fallen angels and fallen men. RH August 3, 1897, par. 4

When Moses desired to see the glory of God, God revealed his character to his servant. “And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty.” He who made this proclamation to Moses was the One who now spoke to the Pharisees, though now his divine character was veiled by the garb of humanity. But the priests and rulers had not that which they needed so much,—a knowledge of God's character. For this reason they were constantly misrepresenting him. They had much to unlearn of the traditions and inventions of men; they had need to learn the true principles of the law of Jehovah. RH August 3, 1897, par. 5

Christ saw that lessons must be given to scatter the rubbish of traditional exactions which they themselves had invented and piled upon the holy institution, given in love by a merciful God. The Sabbath was not to be that which the Jews had made it,—a rigorous burden and exaction, loaded down with continual additions of their own invention. By this means the day was made what Satan had been working on human minds to make it,—a grievous yoke in the place of a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable. God gave the Sabbath to be a blessing to man; it was to be to him a memorial of God's work of creation; it was to remind him of God's sacred rest, for which reason he had “blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” RH August 3, 1897, par. 6

Christ declared, “I have kept my Father's commandments.” In what did he, in the keeping of his Father's commandments, differ from the scribes and Pharisees, in their professed observance of the law of God? When these men had asked him, “Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?” Christ answered them, “Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” This is why they charged Christ with Sabbath-breaking, and this is why men today charge Christ with transgression of the law. RH August 3, 1897, par. 7

He continued: “Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” RH August 3, 1897, par. 8

Christ then gave them an instance where they had departed from the principles of the law of God, and had done entirely contrary to its requirements: “For Moses said, Honor thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: but ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do aught for his father or his mother; making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.” God had given them the command, “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee;” but this, like the Sabbath command, they had made of none effect through their tradition. Christ stood as the defender of the law against their perversion of it. RH August 3, 1897, par. 9

Notwithstanding Christ's positive declaration, “I have kept my Father's commandments,” we have heard intelligent ministers of the gospel state before their congregations that Christ broke the Sabbath. But Christ distinctly proclaims himself guiltless of this charge. He who made the Sabbath, and declared himself its Lord, understood perfectly its requirements. He said: “If ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath day.” And through his prophets he had proclaimed the same word: “For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” RH August 3, 1897, par. 10

When Christ has declared himself guiltless, what can men mean by repeating the words of the Pharisees, and declaring that he and his disciples broke the Sabbath? Cannot they understand the meaning of Christ's words when he says, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love”? “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.” “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” RH August 3, 1897, par. 11