On the Sabbath, Jesus and His disciples were at the grain field and His disciples were found to be picking grain. Upon seeing this, the Pharisees criticised Jesus and questioned Him, asking why His disciples were working on the Sabbath.
Matthew 12:1-2 At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”
In the Old Testament times, the Israelites were not allowed to work on the Sabbath day because it was a regulation of the old covenant (Exodus 20:8-11). Because of this, many Christians claim that we no longer need to keep the Sabbath day since Jesus’ disciples broke the regulations of the Sabbath.
However, is their insistence valid?
In the Bible, there are two laws. There exists the law of the old covenant which was established in the Old Testament times and the law of the new covenant which was established in the New Testament times. When Jesus came 2,000 years ago, He changed the law of the old covenant into the law of the new covenant, in accordance with the Bible’s prophecies.
The apostles explained this further in detail.
Hebrews 8:7-10 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said: “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.
The first covenant refers to the old covenant.
Hebrews 8:13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.
Hebrews 7:11-12 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also.
There exists a changed law, which is the new covenant.
In the New Testament times, Jesus set an example for us by keeping the Sabbath of the new covenant.
Luke 4:16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.
Following the example of Jesus, the Early Church kept the Sabbath of the new covenant, in the New Testament times.
Acts 17:2-3 As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said.
Even after Jesus’ crucifixion and ascension, Apostle Paul followed the example of Jesus and kept the Sabbath day as was his custom. This is to set an example for us that the Sabbath of the new covenant has to be kept in this age too.
According to the teachings of Jesus, the Sabbath must be kept until the end of the age.
Matthew 24:20-21 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.
Why do you think Jesus said to pray that our flight will not take place on the Sabbath and distinguished it from other days? This was because the Sabbath has to be kept until the end of the age.
Then why did Jesus allow his disciples to do physical work on the Sabbath? Let’s read on further!
Matthew 12:5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent?
Why did Jesus bring up the point of the priests working on the Sabbath day in his defence? During the Old Testament time, ordinary people were not allowed to work on the Sabbath. However, there were a special group of people who had to work on the Sabbath; they were the priests who offered holy sacrifices to God on the Sabbath day.
In the New Testament time, God’s people are referred to as the royal priesthood.
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
As members of the royal priesthood, the saints of God offer sacrifices to God on days of worship. In the Old Testament times, priests offer animal sacrifices to God on the Sabbath day (Numbers 28:9-10). In the New Testament times however, God’s people no longer offer animal sacrifices to God. Instead, Jesus taught us to worship God in Spirit and in truth.
John 4:23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
Following the footsteps of Jesus, let us keep the Sabbath day holy and receive abundant blessings from God!