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Christ and the Sabbath (part 4) July 13, 2008

Posted by Jeremy in Christ and Sabbath, Thoughts and Theology.
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This is the fourth post in a series. If you want to catch up check out previous post on past Sunday’s…if you haven’t read them, you should check it out before reading this one. These posts are in reference to the passage in Leviticus 23:3.  I am taking them from an article written by Ken Puls over at Founders Ministries.

How has Christ fulfilled the Sabbath?

Christ fulfilled the Sabbath in at least 3 ways. First, Christ perfectly obeyed the Sabbath Commandment. Jesus was perfect in His keeping of the law. He did what we could not do. Down to every jot and tittle, in every minute detail, He never failed to do His Father’s will. Though the legalists of His day accused Him of breaking this law, He demonstrated perfect righteousness and obedience. In John 5 Jesus healed a man at the Pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath. The Jews accused Him breaking the Sabbath. Yet He never failed in doing His Father’s will. Jesus said in verse 19, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” Christ alone lived under the law without sin. He and He alone has perfect righteousness.

Second, Christ declared Himself Lord of the Sabbath. In Matthew 12:1–14 Jesus and His disciples went through some grainfields on the Sabbath. When the disciples began plucking heads of grain to eat, the Pharisees complained to Jesus: “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”

The Pharisees had wrongly interpreted and applied the law. Jesus, as the great Law-Giver clarified the meaning of law and declared Himself to be Lord of the Sabbath. He is the One with all authority. He is the One with the infinite insight and all understanding of the depth and breadth and full intention and implications of the law.

Was Jesus breaking God’s law by plucking heads of grain to eat and healing on the Sabbath? No! He is the perfect Law-Keeper. He says in verse 7 (quoting from Hosea 6:6), “But if you had known what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.” Christ was guiltless before the law. He knew no sin.

In Deuteronomy 23:24–25, the law teaches:

When you come into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes at your pleasure, but you shall not put any in your container. When you come into your neighbor’s standing grain, you may pluck the heads with your hand, but you shall not use a sickle on your neighbor’s standing grain.

Against the harsh, legalistic interpretation of the Pharisees, Jesus reminded all who heard Him that God never intended His law to usurp mercy and compassion. There was never a time when God said, “enough of mercy, enough of grace, I’ve tried it already—now let’s see how they do under the law.” No, God gave us the law to drive us to mercy, as a tutor to bring us to Christ—to show us the glories and beauty of His character and to plumb the depth and wretchedness of our sin so that in Christ He might lift us out of the pit of condemnation and seat us in the heavenlies with our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.

In Christ we see the law fulfilled and lived out in perfect obedience, proper application and abundant mercy. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath and He commands us, “Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:12).

Third, Christ is our Sabbath rest! We are sinful and fall short of God’s glory. Outside of Christ, the law of God can only condemn us. It is a heavy yoke we cannot bear (Acts 15:10). And so Christ graciously calls us to Himself to rest in Him:

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).

The book of Hebrews also points us to Christ as our Sabbath rest. Throughout this book the writer of Hebrews demonstrates the superiority of Christ and the New Covenant over the types and shadows of the Old Covenant. Chapter 1 begins:

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they (Hebrews 1:1–4).

In contrast to the priests of the Old Testament, whose work was never finished, who could never sit down—Christ, “when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High.” We see this theme throughout the book:

Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens (Hebrews 8:1).

But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool (Hebrews 10:12–13).

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).

Christ completed His works of righteousness and redemption. He declared on the cross “It is finished” and has now sat down at the right hand of the Most High.

Hebrews 4 draws an interesting parallel between God’s rest after His work at creation and Christ’s rest after His work of redemption. This passage calls us to heed the gospel that we might enter God’s rest. It warns us not to miss the rest that God has provided for us Christ, as so many did in the Old Testament because of disobedience and hardness of heart.

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