Conclusion: Gospel Texts on Sabbath-Keeping
A detailed examination of all the passages in the Gospels where Christ discusses the issue of the Sabbath will show that he never predicted its abolition, nor did he ever profane it. If fact, he could not profane it, nor advocate its profanation by others, without sinning. He was born under the law, not to profane it, but to keep it (Gal. 4:5). If Christ violated the Sabbath, then he sinned and would not be a suitable Savior for others. Instead, he advocated works of necessity (Matt. 12:1-8; Mk. 2:23-28; Lk. 6:1-5), mercy (Matt. 12:9-14; Mk. 3:1-6; Lk. 4:31-41; 6:6-11; 13:10-17; 14:1-6; Jn. 5:8-10; 7:23; 9:13-16), and piety (Matt. 12:9; Mk. 6:2; Lk. 4:16; 6:6; Jn. 7:22-23) on the Sabbath by his teaching and example. He never violated it, advocated its violation by others, or prophesied its soon demise. In fact, Mk. 2:27-28 prophesies the perpetuity of the Sabbath under his lordship as Son of Man.
Both Matt. 12:1-14 and Mk. 2:27-28 contain transcovenantal principles relating to the Sabbath. Works of mercy and necessity are lawful on the Sabbath, linking Jesus’ teaching with revelation given prior to his earthly ministry (i.e., the OT). Jesus as Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath, linking the Sabbath and its Lord with future revelation (i.e., the NT). Jesus’ teaching on the Sabbath leaves us with the expectation that he will execute his lordship over the Sabbath in the future, during the inter-advental days of the new covenant. His teaching on the Sabbath is related to antecedent revelation (explicitly) and subsequent revelation (implicitly). It establishes a basis for its basic ethical perpetuity and yet in such a way as to expect changes in application due to the redemptive-historical shift that takes place due to his entrance into glory (i.e., resurrection/ascension).
Dr. Richard Barcellos is associate professor of New Testament Studies. He received a B.S. from California State University, Fresno, an M.Div. from The Master’s Seminary, and a Th.M. and Ph.D. from Whitefield Theological Seminary. Dr. Barcellos is pastor of Grace Reformed Baptist Church, Palmdale, CA. He is author of Trinity & Creation, The Covenant of Works, and Getting the Garden Right. He has contributed articles to various journals and is a member of ETS.