The Sabbath Laws of the Rabbis
The Jewish Rabbis set many man-made Sabbath laws and traditions that were a burden to the worshipers (Mark 7:2, 3, 8). Christ was in constant conflict with them regarding the legitimacy of these laws. He rejected that salvation was to be obtained through the observance of these laws. This system of righteousness by works was in clear opposition to righteousness by faith that is taught in the Scriptures (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38).
The Mishnah and the Sabbath
The Mishnah listed 39 major types of labors forbidden on the Sabbath day (Shabbath 7. 2, Soncino ed. of the Talmud, pp. 348, 349). The first 11 of these were steps in the preparation of bread: sowing, plowing, reaping, binding sheaves, threshing, winnowing, selecting, grinding, sifting, kneading, and baking.
The next 12 apply to the preparation of clothing, from the shearing of sheep to sewing of cloth. These laws are followed by 7 steps in preparing the corpse of a deer for use as food or for leather. The remaining items deal with writing, building, kindling and putting out of fires, and carriage of things from one location to another.
In addition to these major regulations, there were countless other provisions concerning the observance of the Sabbath. The most known is the “sabbath day’s journey” of 2,000 cu.— somewhat less than 2/3 mi. It was also counted as Sabbath breaking to look in a mirror fixed to the wall (Shabbath 149a, Soncino ed. of the Talmud, p. 759), or even to light a candle. In addition, it was not permissible to carry a handkerchief on the Sabbath, unless one end of it be sewed to one’s garment.
Breaking the Spirit of the Sabbath
Sadly, these same man-made laws of the Rabbis allowed an egg laid on the Sabbath to be sold to a Gentile. And it also allowed a Gentile to be paid to light a candle or built a fire. Thus, the Rabbis were continually employing the letter of man-made Sabbath laws to destroy the spirit of Sabbath. They even regarded their laws more important than the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17) and the law of Moses.
Christ sought to place all God’s revealed instructions to their rightful place in the heart and life of His children. He tried to give the words of God preeminence over the words of men. He tried to do away with mere external forms of religion and to promote the true spirit of religion in the heart. For this reason, He rebuked the Rabbis saying that they made “the word of God of no effect” through their tradition (Mark 7:13). Their actions revealed that they were the enemies of God and man. And He added, “in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9).
In His service,