Jesus and the Sabbath

When taught as a unit, Seventh-day Adventists indirectly teach that Christ is the Anti-Christ little horn of Daniel 8:9-14 who defiled the sanctuary by transferring sin into it. See page one and chapter 4.

Chapter Twenty One



Edited: 8-2007

Seventh-day Adventists teach that, since Jesus honored the Sabbath of the Ten Commandment by worshiping on Saturday, then He is our example, and all Christians should observe the same Saturday-Sabbath which Jesus observed.

An important objection to this logic is Jesus’ position under the Mosaic Law. “But when the foulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4). Jesus took on humanity as a Jew, the seed of Abraham. He was “made under the law,” that is, under the jurisdiction of the Mosaic Law in order to redeem those under the law. Jesus commanded His Jewish disciples to obey those in authority who were the recognized interpreters of the Law. “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but not after their works: for they say, and do not” (Matt. 23:2, 3). “Leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:24). Jesus instructed the Jews whom He had healed (not the Gentiles) to “show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them” (Matt. 8:4). Therefore, if we accept the SDA argument that Jesus’ Sabbath-keeping was an example for all Christians to follow, then we must also follow His example and observe ALL of the Law B commandments, statutes and judgments.

Because Jesus was the perfect sinless Law-keeper, He was able to “impute,” or account, the righteousness of His law-keeping to the believer who has faith. Since Jesus was a Jew and was obligated to observe the entire Mosaic Law, the righteousness of His law-keeping included the whole Law. Jesus not only observed the weekly Sabbath, but also the monthly and seasonal Sabbaths — not because he was a human being, but because he was a Jewish human being. He did not send Gentiles to the priests after healing them.

God’s expectations for even Jews to observe the entire Old Covenant has changed. “But now the righteousness of God without the Law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ to all and upon all them that believe; for these is no difference” (Rom. 3:21-22). Although the Gentiles never observed any of the Sabbaths, never brought sacrifices to the Temple, and never stopped eating ceremonially unclean foods, they also are eligible to receive the full righteousness of Christ “without the law,” or “apart from the law.” See also Acts 15:1-20 and 21:18-28.

“Now” the righteousness of the believer does not reside in the believer=s obedience of the law, including the Sabbath; it results from the believer=s faith in Jesus (Jn. 16:9). “And be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3:9).

The following Sabbath texts are arranged in the order found in a leading harmony of the gospels.

ONE: Luke 4:15-21

Luke 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the GOSPEL to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at LIBERTY them that are bruised,

Luke 4:19 To preach the acceptable YEAR of the Lord.

Luke 4:20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.

Luke 4:21 And he began to say to them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.


As previously discussed, Jesus began His ministry on a Sabbath DAY by proclaiming that He was the fulfillment of the Jubilee Sabbath YEAR B the every day greatest Sabbath of all Sabbaths! After quoting Isaiah 61:1-2, He declared concerning the acceptable year of the Lord,’ “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:21).

Jubilee: The fiftieth year Jubilee Sabbath was the crowning glory of all other Sabbaths (compare Leviticus 23, 25 and 27). First, every seventh DAY Israel rested for one day. Second, every seventh YEAR the farmers and the land rested every day. Third, every day of the fiftieth JUBILEE year the farmers rested, the land rested, and all oppressed people rested and experienced release from debts and slavery. Thus Jesus used the Jubilee Sabbath year as a greater type of his liberating ministry than the weekly Sabbath. Jesus= presence and ministry fulfilled the Jubilee Sabbath.

TWO: John 5:1-18: Because he had healed a man on the Sabbath, Jesus was accused of breaking the law. Next, after He called God His Father, they used both the healing and the statement as reasons to plot His death.

THREE: Matthew 12:1-14; Mark 2:23 to 3:6, Luke 6:1-11: These passages are the most detailed discussions of Christ’s relationship to the Sabbath in Scripture. As His disciples plucked and sifted grain in their hands, they were accused of breaking the Sabbath by harvesting. Actually such gleaning was allowed in the Law as provision for the poor (Lev. 19:10).

However Jesus did not use the legitimate “gleaning” defense. He wanted to teach a greater truth. As He began to answer the accusation, Jesus gave two Scriptural illustrations. The first was David, God’s anointed king, who had once entered into the Holy Place of the sanctuary and ate the sacred showbread without being accused of being guilty of sin! Thus, in times of necessity, King David violated a statute/ordinance of the law without guilt (Mt. 12:3-4). Jesus’ second illustration was the priests: they must violate every Sabbath by carrying out daily duties of sacrifice (Mt. 12:5-6). Finally, Jesus gave the example of ordinary citizens who rescue animals who had fallen in the ditch on the Sabbath (Mt. 12:11).

Jesus then said “But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless” (Mt. 12:7). Jesus thus used non-Law teachings to explain the real meaning of the Sabbath commandment (Isa. 1:11-17; Hos. 6:6; Mic. 6:6-8). Again, as in Matthew 23:23, “mercy” is a more important part of the law, “a weightier matter”; yet the Ten Commandments say nothing about showing mercy to law breakers. Jesus wanted his listeners to understand that the Sabbath was primarily to be a day of showing mercy. If His accusers had been merciful, they would have provided food for his disciples on the Sabbath, and the disciples would not have been forced to glean.



Mark 2:27 The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.

Mark 2:27 (Greek) Ta sabaton dia ton anthropon egeneto, kai ouch ho anthropos dia ton sabbaton. (Literally) The sabbath for the man (singular) came to be, and not the man (singular) for the sabbath.


There are three different ways to interpret Mark 2:27.  Seventh-day Adventists insist that “man” means “man in general,” “all men” or “mankind.” Therefore, (to SDAs) the text means, “The Sabbath was made for all mankind, not all mankind for the Sabbath.”  God expects all mankind to observe the seventh-day Sabbath, or Saturday, as holy.

However, there are several things wrong with such logic. First, when  anthropos is generically translated as “man,” “mankind” or “flesh,” then no specific article “the” is required in Greek. With the article, one specific man is usually intended. Texts where “man in general” is meant do not include the definite article in the Greek (compare Mt. 4:4; Rom. 1:18; 5:12). (2) Anthropos, an extremely common New Testament word, is never translated as “mankind” in the King James Version. A different Greek word, phusei, is translated “race,” “species” or “mankind” in James 3:7.

God gave the Sabbath to national Israel as a sign of their Old Covenant relationship, “It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever” (Ex. 31:13, 17). At the same time God commanded Israel not to share their covenant and Sabbath with other nations (Ex. 23:32; Deut. 7:1-6). This is why Jesus did not command the non Israelites whom he healed to observe the Sabbath and the rest of the Law. This is also why the Jewish Christians at the first church council did not require Gentile Christians to observe the Law (Acts 15:1-20; 21:18-28). Therefore, the seventh day weekly Sabbath was not given to all mankind (Ex. 19:5, 6; 20:2; 31:13-18; Deut. 5:12-15).

second possible meaning of Mark 2:27 refers to the question it answers. The Pharisees asked, “Why do they [Jesus’ disciples] on the Sabbath day do that which is not lawful?” (Mk. 2:24; Lk. 6:2). Jesus, in turn, asked the Pharisees, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath days to do good or to do evil? to save life? Or to destroy it?” (Lk. 6:9). Since “they” were Jews, then, the question concerned only the Hebrew man who is under the Law! The Pharisees would not have asked Jesus this question if “they” were Gentiles who were not under the Law! If this is the correct logic, then the answer would be: “The sabbath was made for the Hebrew man [who is under the law], and the Hebrew man was not made for the Sabbath.” This answer would be honest both to the question and to the Greek syntax. Whether of not the Sabbath day was a day of rest since the creation is irrelevant because it had been forgotten. Beginning in Exodus 16, God clearly pointed out the day only for the observance of the Hebrews.

third possible interpretation of Mark 2:27 is that “the man” refers neither to mankind in general, nor to the Hebrews under the Law, but to Jesus Himself!  When the Greek article “the” (Strong’s 3588) and “man” (Strong’s 444) are combined in a word search, 13 of 21 times in Mark it refers to Jesus Christ as “the Son of THE man.” There is an article in front of anthropos. Jesus was THE Second Adam (which means man), THE Messiah, and THE Representative Man. He was the One who first rested on the first Sabbath and all things were created by Him and FOR Him (Col. 1:16). This would make Mark 2:27 say “The Sabbath came into existence for THE MAN [Jesus Christ] and [Jesus Christ] THE MAN did not come into existence [as a man] for the Sabbath.”

Fourth, perhaps Jesus’ concluding statement, recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke holds the key to the correct understanding of Mark 2:27. Matthew 12:8 concludes, “For the Son of man is Lord {even} of the sabbath day.” Mark 2:28 and Luke 6:5 conclude, “Therefore, the Son of man is Lord ALSO of the Sabbath” with the additional Greek word for “also.”

The Greek word for “made,” is egeneto, the passive form of “to be” and is better translated as “was being” or “came into being.” Keeping this in mind, we compare the four possible interpretations:

“Because the Sabbath was made for all mankind….

“Because the Sabbath was made for THE Hebrew man who is under the law…

Because the Sabbath was made for THE MAN, Jesus Christ...

THEREFORE, the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath!”

Since the days of Ezekiel, the phrase, “the Son of man,” had been an extremely common apocalyptic phrase for the Messiah, the second Adam, which Christ applied to Himself. From Jesus= three previous illustrations, God’s anointed King, priests, and even ordinary Hebrews could over-ride the letter of the law when performing acts of mercy on the Sabbath. Since this is true, then Jesus, the Son of man, the Messiah, could certainly do the same thing on the Sabbath. He had already declared Himself greater than the temple (Mt. 12:6) and now he declared himself greater than the Sabbath!!!

However, none of the alternative interpretations of Mark 2:27 would be acceptable to Seventh-day Adventists. All destroy their claim that Jesus was teaching that the Sabbath was made for all mankind to observe. While ministering under the jurisdiction of the Mosaic Law, Jesus performed many of His notable miracles on the Sabbath Day. In so doing, He demonstrated that He was Lord of that day, just as He was Lord of every other day (Mark 2:28). Again, the Sabbath which he chose to illustrate his gospel deliverance was the Jubilee sabbath year, and not the seventh-day Sabbath.

FIVE:  John 7:21-24: During the Feast of Tabernacles Jesus came alone into the temple and began teaching (7:2, 10, 14, 15). “If a man on the sabbath receives circumcision, that the law of Moses should  not be broken; are you angry at me, because I have made a man completely well on the sabbath day?” (7:23). Thus He pointed out their hypocrisy in Sabbath-keeping.

SIX:  Luke 13:10-17: While teaching in a synagogue Jesus healed a woman on the Sabbath. The ruler of the synagogue accused Him of working on the Sabbath because He had healed. The ruler said that healing should be done only on the other six days of the week. Jesus called him a hypocrite and reminded all of them that they untied animals to water them on the Sabbath.

SEVEN: John 9:1-16: On the Sabbath, Jesus healed a man who had been blind from birth (9:1-7, 14). The Pharisees said that Jesus was “not of God because he does not keep the sabbath day” (9:16).

EIGHT: Luke 14:1-5: Jesus was eating in the house of a Pharisee on the Sabbath day when a man sick with dropsy appeared. He then asked the scribes and Pharisees, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?” When they refused to reply, Jesus healed the man. Next, after asking if they would free their ox from a ditch on the sabbath, “they could not answer.”

NINE: Matthew 24:20: “But pray that your flight is not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day.” Seventh-day Adventists use this text to prove that the true church (SDAs) will still be keeping the Sabbath when Jesus returns. They see themselves as the only true remnant of Christians who will safely go through the wrath of God in the book of Revelation. Therefore, they apply this text prophetically to themselves as the only true church because they keep the Sabbath.

Actually, this text has a two-fold prophetic meaning. Most importantly, the immediate context of Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 refers to Jewish Christians within Jerusalem, and not to the church at large. The Epistle of Hebrews was probably written to address the problem of Jewish Christians who refused to remove themselves from all ties to the Temple and its laws. In A.D. 70 unbelieving Israel was destroyed by Roman armies. Before the final battle, a brief interlude allowed Christians to escape the city. Because of severe Sabbath restrictions, escape on that day would have been more difficult. Therefore this does not refer to worship on that day, but, instead, to escape on that day.

Dispensational futurists believe that a second greater fulfillment of Matthew 24:20 will occur in Revelation 11, 12, 13, and 17. The 144,000 are national Israelites (not sinless SDAs) who have accepted Christ and will be preaching to the rest of Israel and other nations. Antichrist will forcibly take over Jerusalem. In this context, the Jews still have their misunderstood Sabbath restrictions. And, in this context, such restrictions will still impose hardships on those fleeing in Revelation 11 and 12. Once again Matthew 24:20 is not an endorsement of Sabbath sacredness for Christians. It is merely a description of hardships caused by strict Jewish Sabbath observance.

TEN: Mt 27:52 to 28:1; Mk 15:42 to 16:1; Lk 23:54 to 24:1; Jn 19:31 to 20:1. Seventh-day Adventists use these Calvary texts to prove that the Sabbath was honored by the disciples even after Christ’s death.

Actually, (1) most Jewish Christians at that time did not realize that the veil in the temple had been destroyed when Christ died. (2) Even if they had known about the veil, they still would not have immediately realized that the Old Covenant had ended. (3) They did not immediately understand what Christ had meant about the New Covenant at the last supper. (4) It was much too early to analyze their new relationship as opposed to the Mosaic Law. Therefore, they were still habitually responding under the terms and jurisdiction of the Old Covenant Sabbath which had controlled their entire life up until that point.

It would take many years (even centuries) to fully grasp the truth of what Calvary meant. Jewish Christians had more difficulties than did Gentile Christians because they needed to first disassociate themselves from strictly Old Covenant practices. Again, the Epistle of Hebrews was needed for exactly this kind of problem among Jewish Christians. They were still going to the temple, still honoring the high priest, still offering sacrifices, still keeping the Sabbath, and still paying tithes. Unless this pattern were soon broken, their spirits would be utterly devastated when the temple was soon destroyed and temple worship made impossible. Yet this confusion about the status of the entire Law was still causing problems many years later in Acts 15, Acts 21, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians and the Epistle of Hebrews.

Summary: Since the Old Covenant was in full force during the life of Christ, the Sabbath laws were also in full force. Unfortunately, as we have just surveyed, the Sabbath was always a point of contention. Because of the open forum to Jewish men, Jesus wisely used every opportunity to enter the synagogue and teach on the Sabbath. But when he healed and proclaimed Himself equal to God, He was quickly ejected from the synagogues for breaking the Sabbath.

At Calvary the Old Covenant ended (Heb. 8:7, 13). The weekly Sabbath sign of the Old Covenant, according to Exodus 31:13-18, became meaningless. The decline of Sabbath importance is evident. In Matthew to John, under the Old Covenant period before Pentecost, it is mentioned 50 times. In the book of Acts it is only mentioned 9 times when Paul went into the synagogues to preach to the Jews and their proselytes. However, in the 22 epistles there are only 2 direct references to the Sabbath Day — neither positive. Such decline would not be evident for a doctrine that God wanted preserved for His church.