What does Lord of the Sabbath mean?

Q. What does it mean when the verse says that Jesus was “lord of the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:8)

It is important to see this verse.

Matt. 12:8
8 “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

The Jews had many traditions with respect to the Sabbath and how it was to be kept. They had many regulations restricting behavior that were not found as prohibitions in the Law of Moses. They did not allow the lighting of candles on the Sabbath. They made it unlawful to throw more grain to their poultry than could be eaten lest some of it might sprout and grow and therefore they would be guilty of sowing on the Sabbath. They taught that it was unlawful to swat a fly on the Sabbath.

Jesus did not think that it was necessary to observe all of the trivial regulations that came about through the traditions of men even though it brought criticism of himself and his disciples on numerous occasions. Jesus received more criticism about what he did and did not do on the Sabbath than he got on any other matter. I think it is interesting to list some of the criticism he received.

Mark 3:1-6 – He was criticized for healing a withered arm on the Sabbath.

Mark 3:4
4 And He *said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent.

Luke 4:33-39 – Jesus cast out a demon from a man in the synagogue and then went home with Peter and healed his wife’s mother.

John 5:5-18 – Jesus heals a man who had been unable to walk in thirty-eight years. He told him to “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk., ” and the man did! Verse 10 says

John 5:10
10 So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.”

John 9:1-16 – Jesus heals a blind man, a man blind from birth.

John 9:16
16 Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” But others were saying, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And there was a division among them.

Luke 13:10-17
10 ¶ And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your sickness.” 13 And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying God. 14 But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, “There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him? 16 “And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 As He said this, all His opponents were being humiliated; and the entire crowd was rejoicing over all the glorious things being done by Him. Christian to the Sabbath?

With that as background, lets return to our verse:

Matt. 12:8
8 “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Jesus calls himself the “Son of man.” It is interesting to note that neither Mark or John calls “Jesus Son of man,” but they do record the fact that he called himself “Son of man.” The title is used in Daniel 7:13 with reference to the Messiah. It identifies the humanity of our Lord. He was Son of God and Son of Man.

As the Son of God Jesus came to earth clothed with the authority of God Himself.

John 8:28-29
28 So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. 29 “And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”

Since Jesus had authority from God, he had the authority while on earth to forgive sins. An example of this is found in Mark 2:

Mark 2
10 “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–He *said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.” 12 And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

John 5;27
27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.

The Scriptures tell us that it is the “Son of Man” who will send forth the angels to gather out of His Kingdom all stumbling blocks (Matt. 13:41) It is the “Son of Man” who will come in the glory of His Father to separate the righteous from the wicked and execute the wrath of God upon the wicked (Matt. 25:31-46. It is the “Son of Man” who is our mediator, himself man, interceding at the right hand of God for us (1 Tim. 2:5).

“The Son of Man” had the right to claim that he was lord of the Sabbath and therefore had the right to interpret the laws regulating the actions of his disciples on that day. Since Jesus was God in the Flesh (John 1:1-14) surely he had the right to understand the nature of the Sabbath and its purpose, as well as the law regulating its observance. He was, therefore, lord or master of the Sabbath.

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