The Review and Herald


August 10, 1897

Did Christ Break the Sabbath?


“And it came to pass also on another Sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the Sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him. But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the Sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?” “And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the Sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days. Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.” Here Christ settled the question he had asked. He pronounced it right to perform a work of mercy and necessity. “It is lawful,” he said, “to do well on the Sabbath days.” RH August 10, 1897, par. 1

The man might have said, “Lord, for a long time I have been unable to move that hand; how can I stretch it forth?” But Christ is the author and finisher of our faith. In bidding the man stretch forth his hand, he imbued him with faith in his word; and as the man made the attempt to obey, his will moving in harmony with the will of Christ, life and elasticity came back to the hand; it was restored whole as the other. RH August 10, 1897, par. 2

When Christ put to the people the question, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?” he met them upon their own ground. It had often been stated by the teachers of the people, and indeed was one of their maxims, that for them not to do good when they had opportunity, was to do evil,—that to refrain from saving life when it was in their power to do so, was to make themselves guilty of murder. With this question also he confronted them with their own wicked purposes. They were following upon his track to find occasion for falsely accusing him; they were hunting his life with bitter hatred and malice, while he was saving life, and bringing happiness to many hearts. Was it better to slay upon the Sabbath, as they were planning to do, than to heal the afflicted, as he had done? Was it more righteous to have murder in the heart upon God's holy day, than to have that love toward all men which finds expression in deeds of charity and mercy? RH August 10, 1897, par. 3

The opportunity to do good may be disregarded and ignored, but obligation rests upon the man who sees his opportunity, and does not improve it. This principle has been clearly defined in the instruction of Christ. He shows that in the last great day every one must stand upon the merits of what he has done or left undone. It is by these things that our characters are developed. Christ is represented as saying, in that day, to those on his right hand: “Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer, and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” RH August 10, 1897, par. 4

But to those on his left hand he will say: “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” RH August 10, 1897, par. 5

As Jesus looked upon the people, it seemed to them that he read their very souls. Divinity flashed through humanity. There was indignation and anger in his look because of their hypocrisy and the hardness of their hearts. He hated their duplicity, their ingenious methods for resisting truth and righteousness. His heart was filled with remorse on their account; and his soul was grieved that his teachings, his works, or the law of God could not impress their flinty hearts, and overcome their determined purpose to resist the light. RH August 10, 1897, par. 6

One would suppose that such an exhibition of power as the healing of the withered hand would have filled the rulers with awe, would have overcome their prejudice and unbelief, and that they would have declared, as did Nathanael, who had far less evidence, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.” But they were filled with madness that Christ had given this additional evidence of his divine character, and in so doing had confirmed the minds of those present that the rabbis were wrong in their idea of the claims and principles of the Sabbath law. He had not shown respect for their cherished views of what the law demanded, and they hated him for it. They hated him because he told them the truth; they hated him for his purity, his singleness of purpose. RH August 10, 1897, par. 7

And their madness, their envy and hatred, must find vent. The rulers communed one with another how they should rid themselves of this bold advocate of righteousness, whose words and works were drawing the people away from the teachers of Israel. Notwithstanding their counter-influence, “the world,” they declared, “is gone after him.” But they thought that might and numbers would bring things as they wished; and they took counsel together how they might destroy him. RH August 10, 1897, par. 8

We see this enacted today. Those who are themselves transgressing the law of God, making the commandments of God of none effect through their tradition, follow with reproach and accusations the servants whom God sends with a message to correct their evils. They determine to remove them, to still their voice forever, rather than forsake the sins that have called forth the rebuke of God. This was the course that Cain pursued when he slew his brother Abel. But Cain gained nothing by his evil deed. God said, “The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.” The earth that received the blood testified against the murderer. RH August 10, 1897, par. 9

Jesus knew of the snare laid for him, and he withdrew himself to a secluded place, where he spent the night in prayer. But from Jerusalem, from Idumaea, from the regions of Tyre and Sidon, came great multitudes to him “when they heard the things that he did.” People of all classes—men and women of wealth and honor, the rich and the poor, those in health and those afflicted with disease—came to him, and he healed them all. And he charged them that they should not make him known, that it might be fulfilled that was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my Spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.” RH August 10, 1897, par. 10