Did Jesus break the Sabbath according to John 5:18? 

Author: BibleAsk Team


In the story of the man healed at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5), we read, that after healing the sick man, Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.”  And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked” (John 5:8,9). Then, the Jews accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath (John 5:18). 

Jesus didn’t break the Sabbath. He only broke the traditions of the religious leaders, which forbade the carrying of burdens on the Sabbath. The Jews seemed to be concerned, not that the man was healed on the Sabbath, but that he was carrying his bed, on that day. The Mishnah lists 39 types of work that cannot be conducted on Sabbath, the last one of which is “carrying out from one domain to another” (Mishnah Shabbath 7, Soncinco ed. of the Talmud, p. 349).  

Jesus Upheld the Law 

In truth, Jesus kept the law of the Ten Commandments (which includes the Sabbath commandment) in every way (Exodus 2-:2-17). And He confirmed the binding nature of the moral law when He said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17, 18). In addition, Jesus also recognized the validity of the ritual law of Moses as applicable to the Jews (Matthew 23:3). 

During His ministry, Jesus was in conflict with the Jewish leaders over the validity of man-made laws and traditions (Mark 7:2-3, 8). Many regarded these traditions more important than the laws of Moses and the Ten Commandments. The Pharisees legalistically taught that salvation was to be obtained through an outward observance of these rules. A pious Jew’s life was one endless effort to avoid ceremonial uncleanness. This system of righteousness by works was in complete opposition with righteousness by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). 

Jesus did not have a disregard for God’s law in his dealing with the Pharisees. He actually demonstrated that He required more (Matthew 23:25-26). He showed that obedience must be  from the heart. He taught, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19-20). 

God has always desired His people to delight in His law (Psalms 119:174), especially the commandment of keeping His Sabbath day (Isaiah 58:13-14). However, the Pharisees had made the law into a system of drudgery and excessive rule keeping. They were more interested in controlling others through their rituals and appearing righteous than genuine obedience (Matthew 23:4-7, 27-28). 

The Lord of the Sabbath 

Christ, our example, kept the Sabbath day holy as it was his custom to worship in that day (Luke 4:16). He lived out in His life what true observance of the Sabbath commandment looks like. He said, “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 looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other” (Luke 6:9-10).  

The example of Christ shows that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. The son of God created all things (John 1:1-3) including the seventh day Sabbath. It was given at creation as a gift to people to rest and fellowship with the Creator (Genesis 2:2-3). And He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He calls Himself the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28). If He is Lord of the Sabbath, it would only make sense that His holy day would remain for all time (Hebrews 4:9; Isaiah 66:22-23;). 

For more on the Sabbath, please check (Lessons 91-102) of the Bible Lessons. 

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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