<< Matthew XII: Keeping the Sabbath >>

Whd373_500_692 "REMEMBER the Sabbath day to keep it holy."   This is one of the Ten Commandments which the Lord gave to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai.   Sabbath means   rest. We ought on that day to lay aside our everyday work, and to learn about the Lord about heaven,and to make the day as heavenly as we can. Then it will be a help towards the true heavenly rest when there is no more hard effort in putting away wrong thoughts and feelings, and in doing right.

The Jews forgot that the Sabbath ought to he a heavenly day, that they ought to think about the Lord and heaven, and that they ought to do good, kind things which would make the day like heaven. They said that people must keep the day by not doing the least thing that was useful. They must not walk but a little way; they must carry only the least little thing. They must do almost nothing to help those that were sick. There were large books full of rules about what could be and could not be done. If one kept them he would surely not make the day at all like heaven. Did the Lord keep the Sabbath so? He healed the sick and did works of kindness on that day more than on other days. On that day He taught the people in the synagogue.

It was a Sabbath day. The Lord was walking with the disciples in one of the beaten paths through the wheat fields. There were no walls or fences. As they walked the Lord was teaching, and the disciples as they listened picked some of the ears of wheat which overhung the path, and rubbed out the grains in their hands and ate them. There were some who found fault, not because they had taken the grain, for it was the law among the Jews that a traveller might pick what he wanted to eat; but they found fault because the disciples had done this work on the Sabbath. But the Lord said that they did no wrong. Indeed the disciples eating as they walked was a picture of what we all do on the Sabbath day if we listen to the Lord's teaching and are strengthened by it in heavenly life.

At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, 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 hungred, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, 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. ---Matthew XII. 1-8.

Read what happened on another Sabbath.

And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue: And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. 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.Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.---Matthew XII. 9-14.

Author: William L. Worcester 1904

Spiritual Correspondences

      Sabbath >> Heaven and of all things of religion and worship

      Sabbath of the Pharisees >> Mere forms filled with selfish sanctity and pride

      Pharisees' anger >> The Lord was showing the true nature of their spiritual state

      Disciples eating the ears of corn >> The Lord was giving the disciples spiritual food or instruction for their spirits as they walked

      David eating the shewbread >> Holiness

      Healing on the Sabbath day >> Love and service, all things of religion and heaven

       Man in the synagogue with the withered hand >> The religion of the Jews lacking in good works

Spiritual Meaning


WE have followed the beneficent effects of the truth of the Lord's love with the good, the preparation for their instruction and gathering together, the teaching to those in more literal states. Now we come to the teaching of those who are in the evils of the church. The test comes here, as both before and after at Jerusalem, in the keeping of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was instituted as a representative of the peacefulness of the love of God in men, when the labors of conflict with evil are over. The right keeping of the Sabbath was emphasized both by Moses and by the prophets as the evidence of faithfulness to God. The emphasis of the law was naturally placed upon the refraining from labor the ceasing to do evil, in order that they might learn to do well. And yet there were not wanting suggestions of the happy life from the Spirit of the Lord, which is the true purpose of the Sabbath as in the beautiful passage in Isaiah:" If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day ; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of Jehovah, honorable ; and shalt honor Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words ; then shalt thou delight thyself in Jehovah ; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father ; for the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken it." (lviii. 13, 14.)

The Jews had hedged about the keeping of the Sabbath with vexatious guards which no one could fully know, but in keeping which they had the sense of supreme holiness and self-satisfaction. The Lord came, keeping it as the day for the special revealing of the Heavenly Father's love. He led His disciples through the wheat-fields. He was teaching them of heavenly uses, and doing these before their eyes ; and as their minds were fed, they plucked also the ears of the grain, which corresponded to such uses, and did eat. The Pharisees reproved Him for permitting what was not lawful. But the Lord replied that David, whose representative life He was fulfilling, took of the bread of the Divine Presence, and gave to his followers ; and He was doing the same.

In their synagogue there was a man whose hand was withered. Their own teaching withered the hand that would do good from God. They asked Him, " Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath days? that they might accuse Him." He answered, "It is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days," and with the Father's own love of doing good He restored the withered hand.

This brought the issue plainly to view. With them their own pride of holiness was the good of the Sabbath, and the purpose of the church. To Him the revelation of the Father's love and a fuller life from it was the good of the Sabbath, and the purpose of the church. With the issue thus stated, the Pharisees immediately " held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him ; " while He withdrew Himself from thence that He might show judgment to the Gentiles, who would trust in His name. To the Pharisees now He was as Beelzebub, the prince of the devils ; while truly His work was of the Spirit of God. It was not now against human imperfections that they were speaking, but against the Spirit of God. And they who so spoke were evil from the roots, and could never be restored. An evil and adulterous generation they were, like Jonas refusing the truth of God to the suffering world ; but He, meeting and overcoming the depths of their evil, would fulfil the mission which they had refused.

The Gentiles would receive the truth reasonably presented, and would repent ; but the Jews would not. Among the Gentiles was affection for the truth of heaven ; but not with them.

They had the Word of God, and professed to know it ; but they had perverted it to confirm worse evils than those who had it not. Yet there were those who would be brother, and sister, and mother to Him sharing His end of good, His affection for truth, His love of doing the will of the Father in heaven. (Author: John Worchester, 1898. Matthew's Gospel.)

Pictures: James Tissot ----Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum 

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