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Sabbath Days

Jews under the jurisdiction of Moses' Law are required to observe the Sabbath; and it is not optional.

Ex 31:12-18 …Speak to the Israelite people and say: Nevertheless, you must keep My sabbaths, for this is a sign between Me and you throughout the ages, that you may know that I the Lord have consecrated you. You shall keep the sabbath, for it is holy for you. He who profanes it shall be put to death: whoever does work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his kin. Six days may work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does work on the sabbath day shall be put to death.

...The Israelite people shall keep the sabbath, observing the sabbath throughout the ages as a covenant for all time: it shall be a sign for all time between Me and the people of Israel. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased from work and was refreshed. When He finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the Pact, stone tablets inscribed with the finger of God. (1985 JPS Tanakh)

Working on the Sabbath is a sin for which there is neither pardon nor atonement for those who under the jurisdiction of Moses' Law— it mandates the death penalty for offenders; no exceptions.

New Testament Christians, both Jew and Gentile, may ignore the Sabbath if they choose.

Col 2:13-16 ...When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. (NIV)

Moses' covenant does not have jurisdiction over Jesus' followers because it has no jurisdiction over dead people; which in fact, Jesus' followers are. They are quite dead, born again, and the people of a totally new Genesis, wherein they are under the jurisdiction of  Christ's Law; not Moses' Law.

Rom 6:3 ...Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (NIV)

Rom 7:1-4 ...Do you not know, brothers— for I am speaking to men who know the lawthat the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man. So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. (NIV)

The traditional Sabbath is a very significant part of Jewish culture and it is their Scriptural right, and their cultural right, to continue observing it even after they buy into the new covenant. The Jewish festivals and ceremonies are very sacred— like Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Bar and Bat Mitzvah, Passover, Sukkot, Purim, and Hanukkah. Many of their holy days commemorate very important events in Jewish history so I see nothing wrong in a Christian Jew observing those days out of respect for their tradition and heritage; and especially out of respect for their special relationship with Moses' God.

We also know, from within the fourteenth chapter of Romans, that it is positively not wrong to observe holy days like the traditional Sabbath. Although observance of the seventh day Sabbath is not a requirement for New Testament beneficiaries, neither is it a taboo. So no one should ever be guilty of scolding another for doing it. We know from Romans 14 everyone has the individual right to regard some days as more holy than other days and I think the rest of us can probably go along with that alright.

We are free to observe any holy day, and any ceremony we like as long as we understand that none of them are mandated for Christians, and that whether we observe them or not won't make the slightest difference in our destiny, whether heaven or hell or Messiah's kingdom. But no one has the right to insist that New Testament Christians have an obligation to observe any particular holy day, including the Sabbath.

Christ's apostles were given the authority to define what New Testament Christians are to believe and practice in matters of faith and everyday life. So beware. No individual Christian has the right to take it upon themselves to usurp the apostles' authority and go beyond and reinvent the rules for Christian conduct. They become their own God when they do that. And they become every other believer's God too. If anyone chooses to ignore the apostles, then they will be practicing a Christianity foreign to the one those men preached in the first century; and those kinds of Christians will very definitely be out on their own.

1John 1:3-6 …We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth." (NIV)

Sabbath Discussion                           

Matt 12:1-7 …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." He answered, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread— which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven't you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent. (NIV)

Why were the Pharisees upset?

Because the act of reaping/harvesting is forbidden on the Sabbath. This is easily illustrated from the Tanakh concerning the manna. It did not fall on the Sabbath (the people were required to gather a double portion on the sixth day of the week). Picking grain off the stalk, or fruit from a tree, etc is therefore forbidden.

I really don't think Jesus' men can be accused of reaping, nor harvesting, nor even of gleaning on the Sabbath because this incident falls under the jurisdiction of the Freeloader's law. Here's how it reads.

Deut 23:25-26 ...When you enter another man's vineyard, you may eat as many grapes as you want, until you are full, but you must not put any in your vessel. When you enter another man's field of standing grain, you may pluck ears with your hand; but you must not put a sickle to your neighbor’s grain. (1985 JPS Tanakh)

The use of a sickle and a container would imply harvesting; which is illegal. If we apply a biblical principle— humane considerations take priority over religious law —then I don't see why those men couldn't take advantage of the Freeloader's law to meet their needs for nourishment just so long as they didn't overdo it and begin using a sickle or filling a container.

Try to put yourself in Jesus' place. He was responsible for the welfare of those men. If you yourself were a transient, had no means of support, and your family was hungry, wouldn't you take advantage of the Freeloader's law to nourish your loved ones on the Sabbath? Well…I hope that you would anyway.

They should have gathered it on Fri before the sundown. And you can't just eat wheat without processing it.

The Freeloader's law does not permit stockpiling. You cannot take anything out of the field, nor gather more than you can eat while passing through another's farm. And how do you know it was wheat? The precise identity of the produce growing in that field is entirely unknown.

If these men were lying on the side of the road with death from hunger imminent, then yes, a PASSERBY would be OBLIGATED to get him food by any means available. That was NOT the case. These men were well enough to gather for themselves, and as another mentioned, one must process wheat before eating it.

If these men were hungry and destitute, they just as well could have knocked on a few doors asking for food, and doing so would not have violated any Sabbath prohibitions.

In general, if a negative commandment (Shall not work on Sabbath) temporarily limits a positive commandment (your freeloaders example) the negative commandment takes precedence. It is worse to violate a prohibition than not to perform a positive commandment. Exceptions to this rule: when one needs to violate the prohibition to prevent imminent death (except in the cases of idolatry, murder or sexual immorality) or when another positive commandment overrides the negative, for example, it is prohibited for one to kindle or increase a flame or slaughter an animal for food on the Sabbath. Yet, there are specific positive commandments requiring the Temple Service w/ additional sacrifices to be perform on the Sabbath. Obviously, as the commandments for the Temple service are specific, they override the general Sabbath prohibitions in this case, and only in this case. One cannot use this to roast a cow on Sabbath.

Cliff, I myself have went a day without food when I had too. You don't think I was relating not eating for a day or even less with saving a life. I would go even a step further and say you could save a beast from death (stuck in a ditch in life threatening manner) on the Sabbath, as we are taught to respect all life. I would think it O.K. to pick a fruit from the tree and eat it then, if one could not carry a bundle on the Sabbath. Quite different from food one must prepare. The distance from home again is another matter, for to take a trip on the Sabbath again would be a double violation. It seems the group was way out of line to begin with before pillaging the field. I say pillaging because as pointed out by another they could have stopped at the door of the owner of the field and partaken in the Sabbath meal and for the owner of the field a commandment would have been fulfilled.

Re: Cliff, I myself have went a day without food when I had too.

Do we really know how long those men had been without food? And does the Freeloader's law specifically require people to be starving first before they should be allowed to freeload? Aren't you taking it upon yourself to legislate; and to construe the meaning of an ancient law written many years before you were even born?

Re: The distance from home again is another matter, for to take a trip on the Sabbath again would be a double violation

Well… then wouldn't Jesus' Pharisee opponents be in violation? They were out in the field too.

Re: I say pillaging because……

The Freeloader's law does not stipulate a requirement to obtain permission first before eating the produce in another's field, nor does it stipulate a requirement to even so much as tell the owner you are on their property, nor to seek food in their house first before going out to eat the produce growing in their fields— as if that were a last resort. Again, you are legislating and construing in an area where you have no authority to.

The  Pharisees were in their own area on the Sabbath, while Jesus and his followers were traveling. Big difference.

Some of you insist that Jesus' men picked wheat. But the New Testament record does not say that they picked wheat. It only says they picked grain.

Some of you are emphasizing the aspect of prepared food. But Luke says they only triturated the kernels in their hands before eating them.

And someone else said The Pharisees were in their own area on the Sabbath, while Jesus and his followers were traveling. The NT record does not say his opponents were in their own area. For all we know they hounded him day and night like Paparazzi; following him everywhere, just waiting for him to trip up.

Be careful guys. Don't go overboard and create a fictitious scenario in a desperate effort to prove your point. Try to work with the facts.

The Pharisees did not travel on the Sabbath. Since the Pharisees were everywhere and in their own territory, why would you think that it was the same ones following him everywhere. Sounds like every time he saw a Pharisee he did something to challenge their authority. Healing on the Sabbath right in front of them and exhorting someone to carry on the Sabbath- he was doing things and daring them to question it, which they were enjoined by G-d to do. It was their job to rebuke those who were breaking the Law, especially in public.

Now you might think that "in public" means only for appearances since that's how the NT seems to interpret those things. But the truth is, what you do in public is more of a violation because it sets an example for others.

What they picked and what they did with it may or may not be relevant. The fact is, they were apparently able-bodied men (they were able to walk to/through the field) and they PICKED something edible. The ACT of PICKING, ie HARVESTING/REAPING is forbidden on the Sabbath. PERIOD.

They violated the Sabbath. In Public. Plain and Simple. And that they did so at the direction of jc... makes him (jc) doubly culpable.

Cliff, I say pillage because even though one is not required by law to do a thing, does not mean the honorable thing should not be done. I would think if one was an honorable person why not project it. Then to avoid a Sabbath meal? I don't know but seems very unjewish to me. I question who the book was written for.

What are you saying? That the Freeloader's law, as it is written in the sacred Scriptural book of Deuteronomy, is dishonorable? Would the Bible's God enact a dishonorable law? Think about it.

The Pharisees did not travel on the Sabbath? Since the Pharisees are not said to be the landowners in Matthew’s account, then what were they doing out there in the grain fields with Jesus and his men?

Isn't there a Jewish tradition known as a Sabbath day's journey? How far had Jesus and his men traveled that day? How far had the Paparazzi traveled that day? Why did not they, who were actually there, accuse Jesus of traveling on the Sabbath as you modern Jews have seen fit to do; after all, wasn't it their duty to publicly rebuke those who break the law?

From where were Jesus and his men coming? Where were they going? Well, I can tell you where they were going. According to the text, his very next stop was synagogue. Isn't it permissible to travel on foot to synagogue on the Sabbath? Are you guys really positive that Jesus exceeded the distance allowed in a Sabbath day's journey? How do you know he wasn't camped just outside of town and walked in to synagogue through somebody's grain field in order to take advantage of the Freeloader's law and have breakfast on the way?

Cliff is picking arguments in his virtual field of grain...

Since Cliff believes his hero went out to provoke the Pharisees, it stands to reason that he would follow that perceived example. That's why he's here on the Judaism boards picking arguments. He doesn't really care about the issues, just the experience of confrontation. Clearly, the actual issues don't matter for Cliff.

Did Jesus' students violate the Torah when they picked grain on the Sabbath? According to the story in the NT, Jesus thought so, since his defense was not that the elders had invented a rule, but rather that his personal sanctity created a kind of legal warp-field similar to the special rules of the Temple. Jesus saw no need to grant special dispensation for rabbinical laws, as we see from his angry reaction to the Pharisaic criticism that his disciples were not washing their hands before bread. So if picking grain on the Sabbath were perceived by Jesus as a rabbinical invention, no doubt he would have said as much—or more accurately, been recorded as saying as much.

Cliff, if you had known what this means, "For I desire kindness and not sacrifice", you would not have sought to provoke arguments.

Forcing issues with Jews is a practice begun by Old Testament prophets well before the days of Jesus. His followers got into the same routine after he was gone.

Acts 18:27-28 ...When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. (NIV)

Acts 19:8 ...Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. (NIV)

I feel it is very significant that no less than three gospel authors included that grain field incident in their reports. That tells me Jesus did not want anyone to miss his clash with the Pharisees over the principles of human need as related to the Sabbath.

Matt 12:7 …If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent. (NIV)

For the second time in Matthew, Jesus confronted Pharisees with that issue. The other is Matthew 9:10-13.

The Aaronic qorbanot system, even though God-given, God-ordained and God-mandated, is just no substitute for the milk of human kindness. Even if those Pharisees were to offer every single sacrifice mandated in Moses' Law, pay every tithe, give to every charity, pray twice a day, attend synagogue and Temple regularly, and yet lack compassion for their fellow man, they are, in God's sight, really no more righteous than a witch. Those Pharisees were so zealous in their strict observance of the Sabbath that they had become cold and indifferent towards the needs of their fellow man.

Mic 6:6-9 ...With what shall I approach the Lord, do homage to God on high? Shall I approach Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Would the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with myriads of streams of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for my sins? "He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk modestly with your God; then will your name achieve wisdom." (1985 JPS Tanakh)

The Sabbath is a humane provision for mankind. It was never meant to be put up on a pedestal and worshipped. It makes perfect sense why Jesus allowed his men to pluck and eat grain on the Sabbath— they needed nourishment. In the past, Ahimelech set a precedent when he fed David the consecrated bread in 1Sam 21:1-10. Ahimelech was a very practical man. He could see that David and his men were desperate and needed nourishment; so fed them the only food he then had in the house: the consecrated bread; which is unlawful for anyone but the priests to eat. Now there was a man who knew how to put religion in perspective.

[It is a very bad reflection upon Israel's spiritual condition during King Saul's administration that Ahimelech had no other food to offer David than the consecrated bread. By Divine statutes, stipulated in Num 18:19-24, Deut 14:27-29, and Deut 26:1-15, officiating priests are supposed to be sustained by the tithes that the people are required to give by law. The tithes had a dual purpose. They were intended not only to support the Levites, but also the poor and misfortunate.]

Even the Levitical priests violate the Sabbath law by kindling fires on the Sabbath day for the perpetual morning and evening burnt offerings. So the Sabbath is not as iron clad as some would like to think.

Jesus merely followed Ahimelech's example and was sensitive to his men's needs rather than demanding a strict observance of the Sabbath. But those Pharisees were callous; preferring that people worship their religion than care for the needs of their fellow men. Their blatant indifference to humanity is even more glaring and shameful at Matthew 15:3-6.

...Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, Honor your father and mother and Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death. But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God.' So he is not to honor his parents with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition." (WHV)

"your tradition" refers to a Jewish code called The Oral Law. It is a man-made set of rules guiding Jewish life. The Pharisees gave the Oral Law priority over Scriptural law to the point that it annulled a child's duty to support their needy parents. Let's say your dad was out of work and your parents' electric bill was way overdue and the power company threatened to shut them off. You have money to pay the bill, but previously dedicated it to God in a faith promise. Well, Pharisaic logic says you have to make good on the faith promise and let your parents go without.

To cap it all off, Jesus claimed to be a higher authority than Ahimelech by saying: "I tell you that one greater than the temple is here." So if Ahimelech could overrule the Sabbath in the interests of humanity, then Messiah, who is much higher in rank than any of the Aaronic priests, can certainly overrule it too.

Related References

Answering Jewish Objections To Jesus
by Michael L. Brown
Volume 1 ISBN 0-8010-6063-X
Volume 2 ISBN 0-8010-6334-5
Volume 3 ISBN 0-8010-6423-6


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