Sabbath Food: Part 8

John Plunkett
December 14, 2013

Here we are now in Part 8 of our long Bible study series on the subject of Sabbath Food.  It is a long time since we were together for Part 7 on August 8th.  I would just like to briefly recap what we covered in Part 7.

First of all, we covered the prophecies by Isaiah and Jeremiah regarding the captivities of the houses of Israel and Judah, and the causes of those captivities, notably including Sabbath-breaking.

Then we went into the book of Nehemiah and looked at his post-captivity warnings against repeating the same kind of Sabbath-breaking that sent Israel and Judah into captivity. 

We looked at the Jews’ promises to God that they would be faithful in their Sabbath-keeping.  But then we learn of their failure to keep those promises, by doing business and allowing business to be done in their cities on the Sabbaths.

Finally we looked at Nehemiah’s subsequent, God-inspired reprimands and actions to prevent further instances of Sabbath-breaking.

Today, I want to examine God’s Word again – this time through the mouth and pen of Jeremiah; but also through those of some more of the prophets – both major and minor.  Then we’ll move into the New Testament scriptures to seek the examples of Jesus and His apostles.  We will look at the examples of Jesus today and next time we will look at the examples of the apostles.  But for now, let's begin in the book of Hosea:

Hosea 2:
1: Say ye unto your brethren, Ammi; and to your sisters, Ruhamah.

“Ammi” means “people” or “my people.”  “Ruhamah” means “mercy.”

If we were to read chapter 1, we would see there that "Lo-Ammi" and "Lo-Ruhamah" were the names of two of Hosea’s children by his prostitute wife, Gomer, who represented the adulterous and idolatrous houses of Israel and Judah. 

The name “Lo-Ammi” means “not my people” and the name “Lo-Ruhamah” means “no mercy.”
But God is merciful, and in His mercy, our loving LORD (YHVH) deeply desired His estranged, immoral, wayward wife – Israel – to repent and to return to Him.  He gave them chances over and over again. 
Here is what He commands Lo-Ammi and Lo-Ruhamah to say to their mother:

2: Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband: let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts…

As long as she continued in her whoredom and her adultery, YHVH rejected her as His wife -- even though we know that He hates divorce:

Malachi 2:16: 
For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence," says the LORD of hosts. "Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously."

He was very right and justified in rejecting Israel and putting her away from Himself.  He gave her fair warning that, if she refused to repent, He would bring down some severe punishments upon her. Here, back in Hosea 2, are just a few of the many:

10: And now will I discover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of mine hand.
11: I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her Sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.

This is interesting because the Hebrew word translated here as “cease” is “shabath” (Strong’s 7673).  But why would He cause her Sabbaths etc. to cease?  Please notice Hosea’s use of the personal pronoun “her.”

Let us ask first… Were her Sabbaths the same as His Sabbaths?

It is doubtful that this immoral woman – and the nation that she symbolized – would be keeping the LORD’s Sabbaths, Feast days and New Moons, and that she would be keeping them in accordance with the way in which He instructed.  We shall see as we continue that they certainly were not doing so.  Likewise in modern-day physical Israel, very few are keeping God’s true Sabbaths.  Most of those who do profess any religious affiliation at all, are keeping false Sabbaths – either Sunday or – increasingly – Friday!  We find similar warnings from the pen of Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 7:34: 
Then will I cause to cease
{shabath} from the cities of Judah, and from the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride: for the land shall be desolate.

Jeremiah 16:9:
For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will cause to cease
{shabath} out of this place in your eyes, and in your days, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride.

And Jeremiah recorded his lament after his prophecies were fulfilled:

Lamentations 5:
14: The elders have ceased
{shabath} from the gate, the young men from their musick.
15: The joy of our heart is ceased
{shabath}; our dance is turned into mourning.

But again, why would YHVH do this?  For the answer, let’s go to the book of Ezekiel, where we see, scattered through its chapters, similar warnings from the LORD:

Ezekiel 7:24: 
Wherefore I will bring the worst of the heathen, and they shall possess their houses: I will also make the pomp of the strong to cease
{shabath}; and their holy places shall be defiled.

These could be dual and could be referring to end-time Israel, as well.

Ezekiel 16:41: 
And they shall burn thine houses with fire, and execute judgments upon thee in the sight of many women: and I will cause thee to cease
{shabath} from playing the harlot, and thou also shalt give no hire any more.

Their spiritual harlotry was continuing.  Probably physical harlotry too, as we see in our nations today.

Ezekiel 23:
27: Thus will I make thy lewdness to cease
{shabath} from thee, and thy whoredom brought from the land of Egypt: so that thou shalt not lift up thine eyes unto them, nor remember Egypt any more…

God says that He is going to cut this short and that He won’t even remember it.

Verse 48: Thus will I cause lewdness to cease {shabath} out of the land, that all women may be taught not to do after your lewdness.

There was that example of spiritual adultery and idolatry that was given to the women of the land.  They apparently thought that it was okay to do that.

Ezekiel 26:13: 
And I will cause the noise of thy songs to cease
{shabath}; and the sound of thy harps shall be no more heard.

These are very similar warnings that we read in the prophecies of Jeremiah.

Ezekiel 33:28: 
For I will lay the land most desolate, and the pomp of her strength shall cease
{shabath}; and the mountains of Israel shall be desolate, that none shall pass through.

But again, why, and what has this got to do with Sabbath Food and the proper keeping of God’s Sabbath?  And just why would YHVH do this?   Let’s back up for just a minute… to chapter 20:

Ezekiel 20:
12a:  Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them…

They were special.  They were special for a purpose.  God made them special.

12b:  ... that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them.
13a:  But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them…

Please remember the phrase “he shall even live in them.”

13b: ... and my Sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them…
16: Because they despised my judgments, and walked not in my statutes, but polluted my Sabbaths: for their heart went after their idols.
17: Nevertheless mine eye spared them from destroying them, neither did I make an end of them in the wilderness.
18: But I said unto their children in the wilderness, Walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers, neither observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols:
19: I am the LORD your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them;
20: And hallow my Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the LORD your God.

Did they obey?

21: Notwithstanding the children rebelled against me: they walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; they polluted my Sabbaths: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the wilderness.

Again, God is so merciful, and He gives so many chances.

22: Nevertheless I withdrew mine hand, and wrought for my name’s sake, that it (His name) should not be polluted in the sight of the heathen, in whose sight I brought them forth.
23: I lifted up mine hand unto them also in the wilderness, that I would scatter them among the heathen, and disperse them through the countries;
24: Because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my Sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers’ idols.

We can see how angry God was getting with them.

Ezekiel 22:
6: Behold, the princes of Israel, every one were in thee to their power to shed blood…
8: Thou hast despised mine holy things, and hast profaned my Sabbaths…
26: Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my Sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.

God Himself, the Eternal, was profaned among His own people.

Ezekiel 23:38: 
Moreover this they have done unto me: they have defiled my sanctuary in the same day, and have profaned my Sabbaths.

Please notice once again the one specific commandment of the ten – the fourth – which the LORD repeatedly identifies as the one being continually broken, polluted and profaned by the peoples of Israel and Judah.

Was the LORD serious about how His people should observe His Sabbaths?  Or is this a case where we can say, “Yeah, but that was then; but this is now”? 

Back then, at the time Ezekiel is referring to, what was the LORD’s requirement?  It was for His peoples to hallow His Sabbaths as a sign between Him and them and as a symbol of His sanctification of His peoples.  He made His Sabbaths holy and He tells us to keep those Sabbaths holy.  They were commanded to hallow them – to keep them holy – as was clearly stated back in 
Exodus 20:8.

This is what today’s sermon is all about.  It is about the sanctity of God’s Sabbaths and Holy Days. It is evident that those time periods were holy time then.  But today and next time as well, I want to concentrate on whether or not they are still holy time in our present New Testament period.

Let’s go back again to the Old Testament era – back again to the time of Ezekiel.  YHVH clearly commanded His people to observe a difference between what is holy and what is profane – between what was clean and what was unclean.  

But what did they do?  They polluted His Sabbaths.  They profaned them.  They did not separate the holy from the profane; and by not doing so, they treated what was holy as a profane thing.

The grammar here implies that polluting God’s Sabbaths was like polluting God Himself!

What about us?  Have we polluted or profaned God’s Sabbaths?  Have we neglected to separate what is holy from what is profane?  Have we in some ways treated God’s holy Sabbath days like the other six days of the week?  (We might think of them as being the "six profane days"). 

The English word “pollute” is translated from the Hebrew “chalal” – the same word that is translated as “profane.”  We examined its alternate translations last time in Part 7; but let’s just review them quickly as a reminder.  Once again, as I read through them, please apply them in your mind to our treatment of God’s holy Sabbaths:

• Defile
• Break
• Wound
• Slay
• Sorrow
• Stain
• Eat as common things
• Make common
• Treat as common
• Violate the honour of
• Dishonour
• Prostitute

Was the LORD/YHVH serious about how His people should observe His Sabbaths?  You bet He was!

As we move from what we think of as the Old Testament era into what we think of as the New Testament era, we can ask this question again: Was the LORD/YHVH serious about how His people should observe His Sabbaths?

I say "what we think of" as the Old Testament era and the New Testament era, because we need to remember that the New Testament era did not technically begin until Jesus’ death:

Hebrews 9:
15: And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
16: For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
17: For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.

Again, was the LORD/YHVH serious about how His people should observe His Sabbaths?  We can be absolutely sure, of course, from all we have learned over the past seven sermons on this topic, that the answer is “Yes!  Very much so!”

But again, some might say, "Yeah, but that was then; this is now!  That was the Old Testament; but we live in New Testament times."

I want to concentrate now on the example of Jesus, the Word of God; the One who was with God at the very beginning.  The One who came to this earth that He and God the Father had created together.  "He came to His own," as John 1 says.  He came in human form and His name was Jesus; or as some say, Yahshua. 

We ask the question, “Did He slacken or downgrade His former requirements for Sabbath-keeping?”  Some feel that He did.  So we need to burn these scriptures into our minds: 

Hebrews 13:8: 
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.

When the author of the book of Hebrews wrote “yesterday” here, I don’t believe that he was just talking about going back to the time of Jesus’ birth.  I believe that he was going all of the way back to the of eternity!

Matthew 5:18: 
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Has all been fulfilled?  No, it has not.  Then according to our Saviour who cannot lie, not one jot and not one tittle has passed from His law – including the laws He gave regarding His Sabbaths and Holy Days.

Let’s go to a passage which some claim proves that Jesus did slacken His “old” Sabbath laws:

Matthew 12:
1: At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were hungry, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat.

I find it interesting that John’s account does not include Jesus in this action.  John specifies that it was the disciples – not Jesus Himself – who were hungry and who plucked the ears of corn (it was more likely barley or wheat) and who ate them.  I’m not sure whether or not this is significant.  But the Pharisees did seem to note this detail:

2: 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.

It is evident that the Pharisees were craftily watching Jesus and His disciples, perhaps more specifically on the Sabbath days on which they thought they’d be better able to catch Him and them in what they considered to be a sin – or at least in the breaking of their “laws.” 

But look how Jesus answered them.  In this case, He didn’t tell them (as He did at other times) that their oral law – their tradition of the elders – was bogus, unscriptural and non-binding.  Rather as we see in verse 3, He went right back to scripture.  He went right back to His own written Word – to a relevant, food/hunger-based scriptural account of something that David and his men did a thousand years earlier – something which may likely have been looked upon by these Pharisees as a very unlawful action:

3: But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was hungry, and they that were with him;
4: 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?

Maybe this was why Jesus didn’t join with His disciples in this eating of the grain, because of the Aaronic High Priest being symbolic of Himself.  

The event of David and the shewbread is recorded in I Samuel 21.  Let’s take a quick look at it:

I Samuel 21:
1: Then came David to Nob to Ahimelech the priest: and Ahimelech
(he was actually the High Priest) was afraid at the meeting of David, and said unto him, Why art thou alone, and no man with thee?

We don’t really know why he was afraid.  Maybe he knew that David was on the run from Saul, and that that fact might possibly result in danger.

The town of Nob was close to Jerusalem and was one of the cities set aside for the priests and Levites.  At that time, God’s tent-tabernacle was located there.

2: And David said unto Ahimelech the priest, The king hath commanded me a business, and hath said unto me, Let no man know anything of the business whereabout I send thee, and what I have commanded thee: and I have appointed my servants to such and such a place.

This was, at best, a real stretching of the truth.  It may not have been true at all.  Perhaps David didn’t know of Ahimelech’s loyalties, and perhaps was thus trying to protect himself  because Ahimelech may have blown the whistle on him.  Otherwise, maybe he wanted to protect Ahimelech from Saul, and from any future retribution.

3: Now therefore what is under thine hand?  Give me five loaves of bread in mine hand, or what there is present.
4: And the priest answered David, and said, There is no common bread under mine hand, but there is hallowed bread; if the young men have kept themselves at least from women.
5: And David answered the priest, and said unto him, Of a truth women have been kept from us about these three days, since I came out, and the vessels of the young men are holy, and the bread is in a manner common, yea, though it were sanctified this day in the vessel.
6: So the priest gave him hallowed bread: for there was no bread there but the shewbread, that was taken from before the LORD, to put hot bread in the day when it was taken away.

This must have taken place on the Sabbath, because the hot fresh shewbread had just been put in:

Leviticus 24:
5: "And you shall take fine flour and bake twelve cakes with it.  Two-tenths of an ephah shall be in each cake.
6: "You shall set them in two rows, six in a row, on the pure gold table before the LORD.
7: "And you shall put pure frankincense on each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, an offering made by fire to the LORD.
8: "Every Sabbath he shall set it in order before the LORD continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant.
9: "And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place; for it is most holy to him from the offerings of the LORD made by fire, by a perpetual statute."

I Chronicles 9:32: 
And some of their brethren of the sons of the Kohathites were in charge of preparing the shewbread for every Sabbath.

This change-over of the shewbread took place on the Sabbath Day.  So this bread that Ahimelech gave to David was the week-old bread.  It was not the new fresh bread that had just been put in.

Here is a quote from John Gill’s commentary with regards to verse 5 of I Samuel 21 – specifically on the phrase “and is in a manner common”:

Inasmuch as it was taken off the showbread table, and was now common to the priest and his family, though not to others, yet in the case of necessity through hunger might be allowed to strangers.

Did Ahimelech the priest sin by giving the holy shewbread to David in this emergency situation?  And did David sin by asking Ahimelech for it?

Both David and Ahimelech knew the laws and rules concerning the consumption of the holy shewbread.  Please notice that Ahimelech the priest did not violently protest against David's request –  as, for example, Samuel had done after Saul made an unlawful sacrifice at Gilgal during a situation which might have been considered equally as much an emergency as David’s was here (Samuel 13:4-14).

Ahimelech’s main concern prior to allowing their removal and consumption of the "old" shewbread was whether or not David and his men had recently had relations with women (hopefully their wives).  Such relations would have made them ritually unclean with regards to things of the tabernacle.  David assured him that they had not, and that their recent forced celibacy effectively rendered their “vessels” holy; and their vessels (bodies) being brought to this level of holiness evidently put them on an equal and acceptable level of holiness with the shewbread.

It takes a lot of thought to get around this as it is somewhat complex when we are talking about various levels of holiness of men and of the showbread.  The important thing to notice, though, is that neither David nor Ahimelech were reprimanded for doing this – not by Samuel, not by the Old Testament YHVH, nor by the human Jesus a thousand years later.

Yes, it might be considered to have been something of a loophole; but a necessary one under special circumstances.  However, it evidently was not looked upon as a sin.

This loophole was an emergency; but we need to be careful not to be looking for loopholes in order to do our own pleasure on God’s Sabbath days in non-emergency activities:

Isaiah 58:13: 
If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words,

Back to Jesus' words in Matthew 12:

5: 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?

Because on the Sabbath days, the priests had a pretty heavy work load, including some very heavy work with the sacrifices, they technically profaned those Sabbath Days.   If YHVH had not given the priests permission – actually commandment – to do these duties, these activities would have constituted a sinful profaning of His holy Sabbaths.  

Also, if anyone other than the priests thought that they too could follow the priests’ example and do some of their own heavy work on the Sabbaths, they certainly would have been profaning the Sabbaths.

We’ve looked more than once in our studies at "chalal" – the Hebrew word for "profane" and "pollute."  Here we have the Greek verb "bebeloo" which, as well as "profane," can also mean "desecrate."  The verb "bebeloo" stems from the Greek adjective "bebelos" which means:

- lawful to be trodden on
- unhallowed
- common
- public place
- of men (i.e. not of God)
- ungodly

One might claim that, because God’s people today are pillars and stones of the New Covenant temple and priests in training, so, like those Aaronic priests, we too can do some work on the Sabbaths.  But No!  The Old Covenant priests’ Sabbath work was specifically directed towards the worship of God through their Sabbath services and their tabernacle/temple sacrifices.  They were not primarily cooking for themselves.  Neither were they going out to eat in local taverns or cafes to eat their Sabbath meals!

The only really valid comparison between the modern Sabbath work of spiritual Israel – God’s church – today and the physical Israel of back then is that of today’s ministers and other speakers expending the effort to give their sermons and sermonettes. (I mention this without wishing to put the ministry up on pedestals or making too much of a comparison between today’s ministers and the Old Covenant priests). 

Still in Matthew 12:

6: But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.

The Pharisees must have become pretty angry at this statement!  Jesus was obviously referring to Himself.  He was the One in that place who was greater than the temple – as of course He had been as YHVH.  The temple was His earthly house – a physical replica of His heavenly palace.  But it was the LORD Himself who was and is to be was to be worshipped – not His temple – as He inspired Jeremiah to warn His people: 

Jeremiah 7:
1: The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,
2: Stand in the gate of the LORD’S house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the LORD.
3: Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place.
4: Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these.

The accent here is that they were and we are to worship God – not the temple.  We'll come right back to Jeremiah 7; but let's go briefly back to Matthew 12:

7: But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.

Jesus was quoting directly from Hosea 6:6 here; but see how closely it relates to the continuing verses of where we were just reading in Jeremiah 7:

5: For if ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour;
6: If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt:
7: Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever.
8: Behold, ye trust in lying words that cannot profit.
9: Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not…
{just a few examples from the Ten Commandments}… 
10: And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?
11: Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes?  Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD.

The Jews of Jesus’ human lifetime treated His temple like a den of robbers, twice causing Him to become really angry and to drive out those who were carrying on business within the temple’s precincts.  Have any of us been guilty of doing something similar in our treatment of His holy Sabbath time?

Back again to Matthew 12:

8: For the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day.

Who was the Lord of the Sabbath Day?  Who did it belong to?  The Son of Man!  The Lord Jesus was the Lord of the Sabbath Day!  

Was this a change?  Was someone else the Lord of the Sabbath prior to Jesus’ birth?  No!  Fifteen times in the Old Testament, the LORD/YHVH refers to the Sabbaths as "my Sabbaths."  Seven more times we read of the Sabbaths being called "Sabbath(s) of the LORD" or the "Sabbath unto the LORD."

Is it likely then that He changed His former laws regarding the keeping of His Sabbath Days?  If so, where is such a downgrade recorded?  Certainly not here in Matthew 12.  Nor in any of the parallel scriptures in the other gospel accounts of Mark and Luke.  Mark includes one detail that Matthew omits:

Mark 2:27: 
And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:

This is, of course, very true.  But does this statement downgrade or water down the Lord’s Sabbath-keeping requirements, as some seem to think it does?  Some seem to think that, because the Sabbath was made for man, we can do whatever we want with it.  Is this true?  Of course not!  Not at all!

Jesus wasn’t saying anything new here.  So often in the Old Testament the LORD said that, if His people would only keep His laws, statutes, judgments – including His Sabbaths – they would "live in them."  The keeping of His laws were good for them and would improve their quality of physical life and, ultimately, would help bring eternal life to them!  The apostle Paul later repeated this fact to the Galatian brethren:

Galatians 3:12: 
And the law is not of faith: but, the man that doeth them shall live in them.

I’m not saying, of course, that we are saved by law-keeping.  We are saved by grace through faith.  But unrepentant law-breakers will not have a place in God’s Kingdom (I Corinthians 6:9-10).

Back to Matthew 12, and we will move out of the grain fields, and into the synagogue:

Matthew 12:
9:  And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue:
10: 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.
11: 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?
12: How much then is a man better than a sheep?  Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days. 

This is another scripture where people might feel that Jesus was downgrading Sabbath laws and Sabbath-keeping; but we can learn lots of lessons from such scriptures.  We'll go through a couple of them here.

It was and is lawful for one who has the power or the gift to heal, to do so on God’s holy Sabbath days. It is okay for a minister to anoint a sick or injured person on the Sabbath day.  It is good to do other good things too.  For example, if you have an opportunity to help hungry or homeless people, and the only opportunity available through the week is on the Sabbath day for an hour or so, go ahead and do it.  I believe that this is a good and right thing and fits in very well with what Jesus says here. 

But we have to be careful.  We cannot take this too far, as some have done.  

I remember right after Joseph Tkach Snr’s infamous 1994 video sermons in which he downgraded God’s Sabbath, various absurd wrestings of scripture (II Peter 3:16) and gross misinterpretations of supposedly "doing good things" on the Sabbath Days.  It seems that if a person wants to do some forbidden thing, he or she will eventually find a loophole that will supposedly allow it.  

But Jesus wasn’t doing a paid 8-hour shift at His local hospital here.  He was performing a miracle in which no physical effort was expended.  Christ did not expend any physical effort in the healing of this man:

13: Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.
14: Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.

Let us go briefly to John’s gospel account and read about some more accusations against Jesus for breaking the so-called “law” with His miraculous healings:

John 5:
1: After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem…

This wasn’t just a regular weekly Sabbath Day.  It was one of the Holy Days.

5: And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years…
8: Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.
9: And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the Sabbath.
10: The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the Sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed…

Not lawful?  According to what law?  Do you know of any scriptural law which states that a person may not carry his rolled-up mat-bed on God’s Sabbaths or Holy Days?  Of course not.

Verse 16: And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the Sabbath day.

This is one of those “duh” moments in scripture – one of those moments when you find yourself asking, “Were these guys totally stupid?”  Here’s Jesus, who has just performed a wonderful, powerful, miraculous healing; and yet in fear of losing some of their political power over the people, these men pull out some minor points of their bogus, unscriptural “Tradition of the Elders” with which to pick on Jesus and the healed man.  Again, Jesus didn’t criticize their oral law; but look what He did say:

17: But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.

There is a point here that we need to be careful not to misunderstand or to take too far.  Jesus says that both He and His Father were still working.  Some might try – and have tried – to twist this statement in order to try to make it appear that Jesus was saying that it was now okay for us all to do some work on His Sabbaths.

Is it really likely that He would have meant this?  Is it likely that He – the One who is the same yesterday, today and forever – the One who repeatedly commanded His people, on pain of death, not do any work (melakah) on His Sabbaths… is it really likely that He would have meant this?  No! 

There were probably two meanings for this statement.  Firstly, as Jesus clearly stated, both He and His Father were – and are – still at work.  They are still at their work of maintaining this universe – keeping this tired old earth spinning on its axis at the right speed, and many other things.  Woe betide us if they ever got tired and took a "shabath rest" from doing so.  This world would spin right off its axis and we would all be toast!

Secondly, within the context of miraculous healings, their “work” of healing on the Sabbath was a good and right expenditure of any minor effort that they may have spent on it.

18: Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

Allow me give you some caution about this verse.  Jesus did not break the Sabbath!  Jesus did not break the Sabbath according to His own true law.  Only according to the Jews’ bogus oral law – the unscriptural Tradition of the Elders – could He have been accused of breaking the Sabbath.

Referring to His previous Sabbath healings, including the one we just read in John 5, Jesus said this: 

John 7:
22: Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the Sabbath day circumcise a man.
23: If a man on the Sabbath day receive circumcision, that the Law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the Sabbath day?

As He so often did, Jesus illustrated His point here with an interesting play on words.  In the rite of circumcision, some flesh is taken away from a baby boy.  Thus a man – usually a man-child – a baby boy – is made less whole.  

The rite of circumcision does take some work and effort – more so if the poor little fellow won’t keep still and keeps wriggling around!  But that “work” was evidently acceptable to these Jewish hypocrites; yet they couldn’t understand that a no-effort, totally miraculous healing could in no way be classed as work or disallowed on the Sabbath.

Let’s look at one more example:

John 9:
14: And it was the Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. 
15: Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight.  He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see.
16: Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the Sabbath day.  Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?  And there was a division among them.

Again, was Jesus sinning by healing this blind man on the Sabbath day?  Was He breaking His own Sabbath laws?  No!  Of course He wasn’t!  Was He breaking the Pharisees’ bogus oral law and the “tradition of the elders”?  Yes, He probably was.  But let’s make it clear, once again, that the true law of God, including His Sabbath laws and the Jews’ man-made oral law were two totally different things.  The true Law of God was obviously given by God whereas the oral law was a man-made set of rules.  It is true that the Jews' oral law may have possibly been generated as a result of the captivities of Israel and Judah and to avoid the sins that caused that captivity from happening again.

These Jews should have known not to add to God’s commands.  They should have known and heeded this clear, scriptural warning from God:

Deuteronomy 4:2: 
Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.  

Do we know not to diminish from it? 

Sabbath and Holy day time is holy, sacred time.  It always was holy and sacred during man’s time on earth.  The Sabbath was made for man.  It always will be sacred for the remainder of man’s time on earth.  This is important!  The human Jesus never diminished from the sacredness of His Sabbath and Holy day time. He never diminished from any of the things which, as YHVH, He had given to His people thousands of years before.  Jesus never compromised with His own written Word.  Jesus Christ never watered down any of His commandments, specifically and notably His 4th Commandment – His Sabbath Commandment.