Divine Rest for Human Restlessness

Four of the eight chapters can be accessed by clicking their titles below:

The Sabbath: Good News of Perfect Creation

The Sabbath: Good News of Belonging

The Sabbath: Good News of Redemption

The Sabbath: Good News of Service

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Divine Rest for Human Restlessness:  
A Theological Study of the Good News of the Sabbath for Today 

Chapter 5



Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D., Andrews University

The struggle to become and to remain free from external and internal restraints has engaged humanity ever since the Fall. Much blood has been shed, countless lives have been sacrificed during mankindís history, to gain freedom from external oppression and exploitation! Perhaps an even greater investment of human resources has been made and is presently being put forth to liberate human beings from the internal tyranny of sickness, sorrow and death. Godís Good News to mankind is that this struggle for human liberation from both external and internal bondage has been won. It has been won, however, not through human efforts but through divine intervention.  

The history of salvation is the story of Godís intrusion into human time and life, to liberate His people not only from the physical bondage of Egypt or of Babylon, but also from the spiritual captivity of disobedience and death (I Cor. 15 :54-56). To accomplish this redemptive mission Christ came into this world. He came "to proclaim release to the captives . . . to set at liberty those who are oppressed" (Luke 4:18). 

The Christian mandate is to proclaim the Good News of how God has wonderfully delivered humanity from the bondage of darkness and death and led them into His marvelous light and life (1 Pet. 2:9). This Good News is to be proclaimed verbally and accepted personally. Symbols such as baptism, the Lordís Supper and the Sabbath provide vital means to appropriate and experience the Good News of Godís redemption in oneís personal life. This chapter examines how the last of these sacred symbols, the Sabbath, has been used by God both in the OT and the NT to give to His people the assurance and experience of a present and future divine redemption.1 


1. The Blessing and Sanctification of the Sabbath 

The story of creation is in a sense a redemption story: redemption from disorder into order, from chaos into cosmos.2 Within the creation event the Sabbath reveals the purpose of Godís first redemptive act. It tells us that God created this world not merely for the enjoyment of making something new and beautiful out of formless matter (Gen. 1 :2). but especially for the pleasure of sharing Himself with His creatures. Our earlier study of the divine blessings and sanctification of the Sabbath has already shown that these divine acts represent Godís assurance to His creatures of abundant life through His holy presence. 

A promise of Emmanuel. When the prospect of a joyous life at the presence of God was shattered by sin, the Sabbath became the symbol of divine commitment to restore broken relationships. From being the symbol of Godís initial cosmological accomplishments (that is, the bringing into existence of a perfect cosmos out of chaos), the Sabbath became the symbol of Godís future soteriological activities (that is, the redemption of His people from bondage into His freedom).3  

From serving as a symbol of Godís initial entrance into human time to bless and sanctify a perfect world with His divine presence, the Sabbath became a symbol of Gods future entrance into human flesh to become "EmmanuelóGod with us." The first as well a~ the second coming of Christ represent the fulfillment of Godís purpose for this world, expressed initially through the blessings and sanctification of the Sabbath.4 

To trace how the Sabbath has fulfilled this redemptive function both in the OT and in the NT is not an easy task. Why? In the first place, because the Sabbath has provided the basis for constant new reflections. Various strands of sabbatical concepts such as the "rest" theme, the cosmic week and the liberation experience of the Sabbath years, have all been used to express future (eschatological) expectations of divine deliverance. Second, the liberation message of the Sabbath has been applied, as we shall see, both to immediate national concerns for political restoration and to future expectations of divine redemption.  

This dual application to the same theme readily creates confusion in the mind of an unwarned reader. Third, the Biblical and extrabiblical sources provide us with fragmented information rather than systematic explanation of the various levels of meanings attributed to the Sabbath. We shall find that certain allusions to sabbatical themes in the OT become clearer in the light of their NT interpretation. To comply with the brevity required by the non-technical nature of the present study, attention will be given only to two additional redemptive themes of the Sabbath, namely, the Sabbath rest and the Sabbath liberation. 

2. The Sabbath Rest 

The Sabbath Rest in Hebrews. It might be helpful to trace the theme of the Sabbath rest from the NT back into the OT, rather than vice versa. This procedure is suggested by the fact that it is the NT that clarifies the Messianic implications of the Sabbath rest. The logical place to start is the fourth chapter of the book of Hebrews, where the writer on one hand reassures the Christian community that "there remains a sabbath rest for the people of God" (4:9), while on the other hand he exhorts them "to strive to enter that rest" (4:11).  

The tension between permanence and perseverance, the already and the not-yet, recurs several times in Hebrews.5 Our immediate concern, however, is not to explore the significance of this tension, but rather to ascertain the meaning and usage of the term "sabbath rest"ósabbatismos which occurs in this form only here (4:9) in the NT. Does it refer to the rest of the seventh-day Sabbath and if so, what meanings are attributed to such a rest? 

The context and the linguistic usage of sabbatismosó"Sabbath rest" indicate that the reference is indeed to the rest of the seventh day. The theme of the rest to be found in God by His people is introduced in chapter 3:7 with no apparent connection with the Sabbath rest. But as the author develops the theme of rest, he traces its origin back to Godís rest on the seventh day of creation, by quoting from Genesis 2:2, "And God rested on the seventh day from all his works" (Heb. 4:4).  

Having identified the promise of Godís rest to His people with the seventh-day creation rest in verse 4, the author feels free in verse 9 to substitute the common term "rest"ókatapausis,6 with the more specific term "Sabbath rest or Sabbathkeeping"ósabbatismos. That the latter denotes specifically the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath is further indicated by the usage of the term with such an explicit meaning in the writings of Plutarch, Justin Martyr, Epiphanius and others. 

Moreover, the cognate verb sabbatizoó"to rest" is also used several times in the Septuagint in clear reference to Sabbath observance (cf. Ex. 16:30; Lev. 23 :32; 2 Chron. 36:21). These factors strongly suggest that the "Sabbath rest"ósabbatismos that remains for the people of God (4:9) is indeed related to the rest experience of the seventh day. 

Three levels of meaning. What meaning does the writer of Hebrews attribute to the Sabbath rest? By welding together two texts, namely Psalm 95 :11 and Genesis 2:2, the writer presents what one might call three different levels of meaning of the Sabbath rest. At a first level, the Sabbath rest points to Godís creation rest, when "his works were finished from the foundation of the world" (4:3). This meaning is established by quoting Genesis 2:2.  

At a second level, the Sabbath rest symbolizes the promise of entry into the land of Canaan, which the wilderness generation "failed to enter" (4:6; cf. 3 :16-19), and which was realized later when the Israelites under Joshua did enter the land of rest (4:8). At a third and most important level, the Sabbath rest prefigures the rest of redemption which has dawned and is made available to Godís people through Christ. 

How does the author establish this last meaning? By drawing a remarkable conclusion from Psalm 95 :7, 11, which he quotes several times (Heb. 4:3, 5, 7). In Psalm 95, God invites the Israelites to enter into His rest which was denied to the rebellious wilderness generation (vv. 7-11). The fact that God should renew "again" the promise of His rest long after the actual entrance into the earthly Canaan, namely at the time of David by saying "today" (Heb. 4:7), is interpreted by the author of Hebrews to mean two things: first, that Godís "Sabbath rest" was not exhausted when the Israelites under Joshua found a resting place in the land, but that it still "remains for the people of God" (4:9).  

Second, that such rest has dawned with the coming of Christ (4:3, 7). The phrase "Today, when you hear his voice" (4 :7) has a clear reference to Christ.8 The readers had heard Godís voice in the "last days" (1:2) as it spoke through Christ and had received the promise of the Sabbath rest. In the light of the Christ event, then, ceasing from oneís labor on the Sabbath (4:10) signifies both a present experience of redemption (4:3) and a hope of future fellowship with God (4:11). For the author of Hebrews, as Gerhard von Rad correctly points out, "the whole purpose of creation and the whole purpose of redemption are reunited" in the fulfillment of Godís original Sabbath rest.9 

The Sabbath rest in the Old Testament. One wonders, on what basis does the author of Hebrews interpret the Sabbath as the consummation of Godís purpose for creation, accomplished through Christís redemption? Is this to be regarded entirely as his own innovative interpretation or is he giving a fresh approach to existing eschatological notions of the Sabbath rest? A study of the theme of the Sabbath rest in the OT and in contemporary Jewish literature indicates the latter to be the case.  

The concept of the Sabbath restómenahahó"to the biblical mind," as Abraham Joshua Heschel explains, "is the same as happiness and stillness, as peace and harmony."10 The notion was utilized in the OT to describe not only the weekly Sabbath rest experience, but also the national aspiration for a peaceful life in a land at rest (Deut. 12:9; 25:19; Is. 14:3), where the king would give to the people "rest from all enemies" (2 Sam. 7:1; cf. 1 Kings 8:5), and where God would find His "resting place" among His people and especially in His sanctuary at Zion (2 Chron. 6:41; 1 Chron. 23:25; Ps. 132:8, 13, 14; Is. 66:1). 

The rest and peace of the Sabbath, which as a political aspiration remained largely unfulfilled, became the symbol of the Messianic age, often known as the "end of days" or the "world to come."11 Theodore Friedman notes, for example, that "two of the three passages in which Isaiah refers to the Sabbath are linked by the prophet with the end of days (Is. 56:4-7; 58:13, 14; 66:22-24). . . It is no mere coincidence that Isaiah employs the words Ďdelightí (oneg) and Ďhonorí (kavod) in his descriptions of both the Sabbath and the end of days (58 : 13óíAnd you shall call the Sabbath delight . . . and honor ití; 66:1 1óíAnd you shall delight in the glow of its honorí). The implication is clear. The delight and joy that will mark the end of days is made available here and now by the Sabbath."12 

The Sabbath rest in Jewish literature. Later rabbinic and apocalyptic literature provide more explicit examples where the Sabbath is understood as the anticipation and foretaste of the world-to-come.13 For example, Pirke Rabbi Eliezer 18 describes the structure of history as follows: "Seven aeons has God created, and of them all He has chosen only the seventh aeon. Six are for the coming and going [of men] and one [the seventh] is wholly sabbath and rest in eternal life." This seventh sabbatical age is frequently associated with the coming of the Messiah. "Our Rabbis taught," says the Babylonian Talmud, "at the conclusion of the septennate the son of David will come. R. Joseph demurred: But so many sevenths have passed, yet has he not come!"14 

In the apocalyptic work known as The Book of Adam and Eve (about first century A.D.), the archangel ĎMichael admonishes Seth, saying: "Man of God, mourn not for thy dead more than six days, for on the seventh day is a sign of the resurrection and the rest of the age to come."15 How did the Sabbath come to be regarded as the symbol of the resurrection and rest in the world to come? Apparently the harsh experiences of the desert wandering first, and of the exile later, encouraged the viewing of the Edenic Sabbath as the paradigm of the future new age. In fact, the new age which is generally equated with the Messianic age16 is characterized by material abundance (Amos 9:13-14; Joel 4:19; Is. 30 :23-25; Jer. 31:12), social justice (Is. 61:1-9), harmony between persons and animals (Hos 2:20; Is. 65 :25; 11:6), extraordinary longevity (Is. 65 :20; Zech 8:4), refulgent light (Is. 30:26; Zech 14:6, 7) and absence of death and sorrow (Is. 25 :8).  

These various characteristics of the Messianic age are grouped together in 2 Baruch, another Jewish apocalyptic work of the latter half of the first century A.D. Its author describes "the time of My Messiah," saying: "And it shall come to pass, when He has brought low everything that is in the world, and has sat down in peace for the age on the throne of His kingdom, that joy shall then be revealed, and rest shall appear."17 The description of the Messianic age continues and includes the familiar themes of the absence of death and sorrow, of social justice, of harmony in nature, etc. 

This brief survey indicates that after the Fall the Sabbath rest was understood, both in the OT and in later Jewish literature, as the consummation of Godís purpose for His creation. The weekly experience of the Sabbath rest epitomized the national aspirations for a resting place in the land of Canaan and in the sanctuary of Jerusalem. But all of this in turn pointed forward to the future order of peace and rest to be established by the Messiah. "The time of salvation" came to be viewed as "wholly sabbath and rest."18  

The existence of this Messianic/eschatological interpretation of the Sabbath rest provides the basis for understanding why the author of Hebrews identifies Christís redemption with the Sabbath rest. With the coming of Christ "the good news" of the Sabbath rest has been realized and is being experienced by all those "who have believed" (Heb. 4:2, 3, 7). This redemptive understanding of the Sabbath rest is not a unique conception of the author of Hebrews. Christ Himself, as will be shown later in this chapter, viewed His redemptive mission as the realization of that rest promised by the Sabbath (Matt. 11:28; 12:7; Luke 4:18-21; John 5 :17; 9 :4). For the present it suffices to notice that in the OT, the experience of the Sabbath rest both at a personal and national level served to nourish the hope of a future Messianic redemption.19 

3. The Sabbath Liberation 

The Sabbath and redemption. The theme of Sabbath freedom or liberation is another significant redemptive motif which appears in various forms both in the OT and in later Jewish literature. Being a day of rest, the Sabbath is uniquely equipped to function as a symbol and agent of both physical and spiritual liberation. The release from the pressure of work provided by the Sabbath could effectively epitomize both past and future divine deliverance.  

This may explain the reason for the frequent association of the Sabbath with the theme of redemption. Both in the Exodus and in the Deuteronomic version of the Decalogue, God introduces Himself as the merciful Redeemer: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage (Ex. 20:2; Deut. 5:6). To guarantee this newly given freedom to every member of the Hebrew society, God enjoins through the Fourth Commandment that freedom from work must be granted to "you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates" (Ex. 20:10; cf. Deut. 5:14). 

The link between the Exodus liberation and the Sabbath is implicitly suggested in the Exodus version of the Fourth Commandment by the preface where God introduces Himself as Israelís Liberator (Ex. 20:2). However, in the Deuteronomic version, the link between the Sabbath and the Exodus liberation is established explicitly by means of the "remembrance clause "You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out thence with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day" (Deut. 5: 15).20  

"Here," writes Hans Walter Wolff, "the reason for observing the day of rest is that affirmation which was absolutely fundamental for Israel, namely, that Yahweh had liberated Israel from Egypt. On every sabbath Israel is to remember that her God is a liberator." 21 This motif of redemption constitutes an addition to that of creation given in Exodus 20:11. The fact that the theological scope of the Sabbath is enlarged in Deuteronomy to include the remembrance of the Exodus indicates that this institution is not static but dynamic. Its meaning and function increase with the unfolding of salvation history. 

Remembering deliverance. Why is Israel called upon to remember on and through the Sabbath her past liberation from Egypt? A first reason is that by recalling vividly the divine benefits received, a person can meaningfully experience and express indebtedness and commitment to God. To remember God as oneís Creator means to acknowledge the ground for oneís existence. Nevertheless, creation remains a distant past act that does not easily touch the immediate concerns and needs of a person.  

Redemption, on the other hand, is Godís constant intervention in history and thus speaks more directly to immediate human needs. In a sense there is a deliverance from Egyptian bondage which is not limited to a particular country or century, but which may recur in every country, in every age and in every soul. 

A second reason for the summons to remember the Exodus deliverance was to motivate the Israelites to be compassionate toward dependent workers. Niels-Erik Andreasen emphasizes that "the real purpose of this Ďremembrance clauseí in Deuteronomy 5 :15 is to provide a strong motive for all Israelites who remember their own deliverance from servitude, to extend such a deliverance from servitude on the Sabbath to those in their midst who are not free to observe it." 22 In other words, as the same author explains, "every seventh day the heads of the households in Israel are called upon to provide the dependents in a small but real way with the kind of freedom which they received from God at the exodus." 23 Thus the call to remember the Exodus deliverance through the Sabbath was for the Israelites a concrete experience which involved showing consideration toward the less fortunate.  

This implies a fundamental principle, namely that the blessings of redemption evoked by the Sabbath are to be enjoyed not at the expense or neglect of others, but rather by manifesting a genuine concern for the human rights and needs of others. We shall find that this essential principle, which unfortunately in the course of time was largely ignored, was clarified and emphasized by the Saviorís Sabbath teaching and ministry. 

Sabbath years. The temporary weekly release from the hardship of life and social inequalities assumed a heightened and more permanent nature at the time of the sabbatical year (every seventh yearóLev. 25:8) and in the jubilee year (every "seven sabbaths of years"óLev. 25 :8). Both of these annual institutions were closely linked to the weekly Sabbath. This is indicated not only by their dependency upon the cycle of seven (reflective of the week ending in a Sabbath), but also by the fact that they were to be kept as "a sabbath to the Lord ... a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the Lord" (Lev. 25 :2, 4)24  

At these annual institutions, the Sabbath truly became the liberator of the oppressed in Hebrew society. The land was to lie fallow, to provide free produce for the dispossed and animals. The slaves were emancipated if they so desired and debts owed by fellow citizens were remitted. The jubilee year also required the restoration of property to the original owner. If no kinsman (goel) offered to redeem his fellow Jew who on account of financial distress had sold himself to servitude, God Himself became his Redeemer (goel) from bondage by means of the sabbatical legislation (Lev. 25 :54-55). 

Though seldom observed, these annual Sabbath institutions by promising a national restoration to the people and to the land became the symbol of the future restoration to be accomplished by the Messiah25 As the rest of the Sabbath served to epitomize the future rest, harmony and peace of the Messianic age, so the restoration of these annual Sabbaths served to announce the future restoration and liberation to be brought about by the Messiah. Before mentioning specific examples of Messianic usages of the Sabbath-years themes, it may be helpful to note why the latter were uniquely well-suited for such a purpose. 

Redemptive features of Sabbath years. Several features of the Sabbath years had a clear eschatological import. First, the theme of release of debts, slaves and property provided an effective imagery to illustrate the expected Messianic liberation. It is noteworthy that the sabbatical years are technically referred to as "the release, the Lordís release, the year of release" (Deut. 15:1, 2, 9; 31:10; Lev. 25:10). The term "release"óaphesis is commonly used in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT) to translate the Hebrew designations for the sabbatical and jubilee year (shamat, shemittah, yobel, deror).26  

The same term "aphesis" is used in the NT almost always with the meaning of "forgiveness."27 This suggests that the vision of the sabbatical release from social injustices functioned as the prefiguration of the future Saviorís release from the bondage of sin. Such a Messianic typological usage of the Sabbath release is clarified and corroborated, as we shall soon see, by the redemptive meaning attributed to the Sabbath in the NT. 

A second eschatological feature can be seen in the trumpet blast by means of a ramís horn (yobelófrom which the term "jubilee" derives) which ushered in the jubilee year. The imagery of this trumpet blast was apparently used by Isaiah to describe the inauguration of the Messianic age (Is. 27:13). 28 Possibly, it is to the same imagery of the jubilee that the NT refers when it speaks of the trumpet announcing the return of Christ (1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16; Matt. 24:31).  

Related to the trumpet blast there is a third eschatological motif, namely, the date of the tenth day of the seventh monthóAtonement Dayóon which the ramís horn was blown to inaugurate the year of jubilee (Lev. 25:9). Is it not significant that the sabbatical restoration of the year of jubilee was inaugurated by the cleansing (Lev. 16:18-19) and new moral beginning offered by God to the people on the Day of Atonement? 29 

The significance of this fact is noticed, for example, by Rousas John Rushdoony, who writes: "Because the jubilee began on the evening of the Day of Atonement, it made clear the foundation of the new creation, atonement through the blood of the Lamb of the Covenant. Creation and recreation were thus basic to the Sabbath: man rests in Godís finished work of redemption proclaimed before time. By faith, man, anticipating the final victory and rejoicing in the present deliverance, lives by faith in the sufficiency of God."30  

The jubilee year, then, by pointing to the covenant God who restores the land and the people to new beginnings, could encourage faith in the future deliverance of the Messiah. The infrequency of these Sabbath years may well have contributed to heighten the expectancy and hope for the Messiahís future deliverance. 

Sabbath years and the Messiah in the Old Testament. The vision of the sabbatical and jubilee years was actually utilized to represent the expectation of the Messianic redemption. A few examples will suffice to substantiate this statement. Daniel 9 provides an interesting instance of the double use of the sabbatical and jubilee year time periods. The chapter opens describing Daniel seeking to understand the time of the end of the captivity in the light of Jeremiahís prophecy of 70 years (Jer. 29:10). This prophetic period is explicitly explained in 2 Chronides 36:21 as representing a prolonged "Sabbath" (ten sabbatical cycles) of desolation that the land would experience as a result of Israelís disobedience (cf. Lev. 26:34-35). 

In the light of this prophecy, Daniel prays to understand the time when the predicted repatriation would occur (9:3-19). In response, the angel Gabriel appears to make known to him Godís plan for a greater Messianic restoration to take place not after seventy years but after "seventy weeks of years" (9 :24). 31 As the 70 years of Jeremiah, which predicted the end of national captivity, consisted of 10 sabbatical years (l0x 7), so the 490 years (70 x 7) of Daniel, which predict the end of spiritual bondage, contain 10 jubilee years (10 x 49). That this jubilary division of time points directly to the coming of the Messiah is indicated both by the specific reference to "Messiah Prince ómashia nagîd (v. 25) and by the description of His mission ("to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity . . ." óv. 24). As the theme of the Sabbath rest is used to epitomize both political and Messianic expectations, so the vision of the release of the Sabbath years is here utilized to announce the time of both the national and Messianic restoration.32 

Isaiah 61:1-3 provides another example where the theme of the jubilee year is applied to the mission of Yahwehís Anointed Servant (61 :1). While the original identity of this figure is disputed, there is no question that at Qumran and in the NT, the personage described in this text was understood to be the Messiah who ushers in the end-time restoration. His mission is presented as being "to proclaim the year of the Lordís favor" (61 :2), a clear reference to the proclamation of the year of jubilee (Lev. 25 :10). The latter is indicated also by the use of the designation "release"óderor (v. 1), which is the technical term employed to designate the year of jubilee (Lev. 25 :10; Jer. 34:8, 15, 17; Ezek. 46:17).  

The "good tidings" (Is. 61:1) proclaimed by Yahwehís Anointed (Messiah) by means of the delightful jubilee imagery is the promise of amnesty and release from captivity. Christ, as we shall soon see, utilized the same imagery to announce and explain the nature of ĎHis redemptive mission. 

Sabbath years and the Messiah in Jewish literature. There are indications that the language and imagery of the Sabbath year found in Isaiah 61: if. was used both in rabbinical and sectarian Judaism, to describe the work, of the expected Messiah.33 For example, a fragmentary text discovered in 1956 in Qumran Cave 11 (known as 11Q Melchizedek) utilizes the very theme of the sabbatical restoration of Isaiah 61: 1f. to explain the work of the Messianic figure known as "Melchizedek" (lines 5, 8, 9, 13) 34 He ushers in the year of jubilee (line 2), proclaiming "remission"óshemittah (line 3), and "release"óderor (line 6) to the "captives" (line 4).  

The reference is clearly to Isaiah 61:1, the very text quoted by Christ in His opening address in Nazareth to announce His mission (Luke 4:18-19). The seventh line, unfortunately very fragmentary, seems to refer to the "seventy weeks of years" of Daniel 9:24, since it speaks of "the year of the la[st] jubilee" as being "the [t]enth [ju]bilee" (10x49=490 which is the same as Danielís 70x 7=490).35 Moreover, like Daniel 9:24, this last year of jubilee involves atonement for iniquity ("to atone for all sons of [light and] men "óline 8).  

The existence of this Messianic interpretation of the jubilee is confirmed also by rabbinical sayings. Elijah, for example, is reported to have said to Rabbi Judah, "The world has no less than 85 jubilee cycles and in the last jubileecycle the Son of David will come."36 

This brief survey of sabbatical themes such as the Sabbath blessing/sanctification, the Sabbath rest and the Sabbath liberation, suffices to show that the Sabbath served in OT times not only to provide personal rest and liberation from social injustices, but also to epitomize the hopes for future political and Messianic restoration of peace and prosperity.  

We have found that the Sabbath has been understood as representing the very goal of human history. In fact, the sabbatical-septenary structure of time was used by some to measure the waiting time to the coming of the Messiah. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel captures vividly the OT redemptive understanding of the Sabbath, when he writes: "Zion is in ruins, Jerusalem lies in the dust. All week there is only hope of redemption. But when the Sabbath is entering the world, man is touched by a moment of actual redemption; as if for a moment the spirit of the Messiah moved over the face of the earth."37 


The existence of this Messianic/redemptive understanding of the Sabbath in OT times, poses important questions: How does the Sabbath in the NT fulfill such OT redemptive expectations? What is the relationship between Christís redemptive mission and the Messianic restoration contemplated by the Sabbath in the OT? Did Christ fulfill the eschatological expectations inherent in the Sabbath, by bringing to an end its function as in the case of the Templeís services (Heb. 8 :13; 9:23-28), or by enriching its meaning and function through His redemptive mission? To answer these questions it is necessary herewith to examine some significant testimonies reported in the Gospels regarding the Saviorís Sabbath teaching and ministry. 

1. The Nazareth Address 

A model of Sabbathkeeping? Lukeís account of the opening scene of Christís ministry provides a suitable starting point for our inquiry into the relationship between the Savior and the Sabbath. According to Luke, it was "on a Sabbath day" that Jesus officially inaugurated His ministry in the synagogue of Nazareth, by making a programmatic speech.38 It is noteworthy, first of all, that Luke introduces Christ as an habitual observer of the Sabbath ("as his custom was"ó4 :16) 39 Does he intend by this to set Christ before his readers as a model of Sabbathkeeping?  

M. M. B. Turner maintains that it is "Jesusí more recently acquired habit of teaching in the synagogues that is primarily in view," especially since Luke uses the same expression in "Acts 17 :2 in respect of Paulís (Sabbath) synagogue ministry." 40 Without denying the possibility that Luke may have thought also of Christís custom of teaching on the Sabbath, it hardly seems justifiable to conclude that the phrase "provides no worthwhile evidence of any theological commitment on behalf of Jesus or Paul to Sabbath worship."41  

Why? In the first place because Luke speaks of Christís customary Sabbathkeeping in the immediate context of His upbringing in Nazareth ("where he had been brought up"óv. 16). This suggests that the allusion is especially to the custom of Sabbath observance during Christís earlier life.42 Second, even if the phrase referred exclusively to Christís habitual Sabbath teaching in the synagogue, would not this also provide a theological model? Has not the Christian Church adopted the teaching model of the Sabbath (whether it be Saturday or Sunday) by reading and expounding the Scripture during the divine service?43 

Third, the word "Sabbath" occurs in Lukeís Gospel 21 times and 8 times in Acts,44 that is, approximately twice as often as in any of the other three Gospels. This surely suggests that Luke attaches significance to the day. Fourth, Luke not only begins but also closes the account of Christís earthly ministry on a Sabbath, by mentioning that His entombment took place on "the day of Preparation and the sabbath was beginning" (23 :54). 45 Lastly, Luke expands his brief account of Christís burial by stating positively that the women "rested on the sabbath in obedience to the commandment" (23 :56bóNIV).  

Why does Luke present not only Christ but also His followers as habitual Sabbathkeepers These references can hardly be construed as insignificant or incidental. The many examples and situations of Sabbathkeeping reported, strongly suggest that Lukeís intention indeed may well have been to set before his readers "a model of reverence for the Sabbath."46 To understand such a "model," however, it is necessary to study how Luke and the other Evangelists relate the Sabbath to the coming of Christ. 

Messianic fulfillment of Sabbath liberation. In His inaugural Nazareth address, Christ read and commented upon a passage drawn mostly from Isaiah 61:1-2 (also 58:6) which says: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:18).47  

The vital function of this passage has been noticed by many. Hans Conzelmann correctly views it as a nutshell summary of the "Messianic program."48 The original passage of Isaiah, as noted earlier, describes by means of the imagery of the Sabbath year the liberation from captivity that the Servant of the Lord would bring to His people. The fact that the language and imagery of the Sabbath years found in Isaiah 61:1-3 (and 58:6) were utilized by sectarian and mainstream Jews to describe the work of the expected Messiah makes Christís use of this passage all the more significant. This means that Christ presented Himself to the people as the very fulfillment of their Messianic expectations which had been nourished by the vision of the Sabbath years."49 

This conclusion is supported by what may be regarded as a brief summary of Jesusí exposition of the Isaianic passage, which is recorded in Luke 4:21: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." In other words, the Messianic redemption promised by Isaiah through the Sabbath year, is "now" being fulfilled. As Paul K. Jewett aptly comments, "the great Jubilee Sabbath has become a reality for those who have been loosed from their sins by the coming of the Messiah and have found inheritance in Him."50 The theme of promise and fulf illment is recurrent in all the Gospels. Many aspects of Christís life and ministry are repeatedly presented as the fulfillment of OT prophecies. The risen Christ Himself, according to Luke, explained to His disciples that His teaching and mission represented the fulfillment of "everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms" (Luke 24:44; cf. 24 :26-27).51 

How does the Sabbath fit into this theme of promise and fulfillment? What did Christ mean when He announced His mission to be the fulfillment of the sabbatical promises of liberation? Did He intend to explain, perhaps in a veiled fashion, that the institution of the Sabbath was a type which had found its fulfillment in Himself, the Antitype, and therefore its obligations had ceased?52 

(In such a case Christ would have paved the way for the replacement of the Sabbath with a new day of worship.) Or did Christ through His redemptive mission fulfill the promised sabbatical rest and release, in order to make the day a fitting vehicle to experience His blessings of salvation? To answer this question it is necessary to examine the Sabbath teaching and ministry of Christ reported in the Gospels. So far we have noticed that, according to Luke, Christ delivered His programmatic speech on a Sabbath claiming to be the fulfillment of the Messianic restoration announced by means of the  Sabbath years (Is. 61:1-3; 58 :6). 

Annual or weekly Sabbath? Is the Messianic fulfillment of the redemption promised by the annual Sabbath equally applicable to the weekly Sabbath? M. M. B. Turnerís answer is negative, basically for three reasons. First, because Isaiah 61 and 11Q Melchizedek) does not "actually mention the weekly Sabbath." Second, because Jesus utilizes the language of Isaiah 61 also on days other than the Sabbath. Third, because "Luke gives no editorial hint that the OT passage was particularly appropriate to a Sabbath (the Ďtodayí of v. 21 is much broader in content than this)."53 

Are these objections really valid? Turnerís first argument fails to recognize the close conceptual link that existed between the annual and the weekly Sabbaths. The former basically represented an intensification and actualization of the temporary Ďrelease" offered by the weekly Sabbath to all the members of the Hebrew society. Consequently the Sabbath years were also regarded as "a sabbath to the Lord" (Lev. 25 :4; 2 Chron. 36:21). Moreover, we have found that not only the annual but also the weekly Sabbath rest was viewed as pointing forward to the Messianic rest and restoration. This suggests that mentioning of the former would not preclude, but would most probably include, the latter. 

With regard to the second objection, why would Christ have to confine the use of "Messianic jubilee motifs" only to His Sabbath ministry, when such a motif represented the totality of His redemptive mission? The third objection also is hardly justifiable. Is it really true that "Luke gives no editorial hint that the OT passage chosen was particularly appropriate to a Sabbath"?54 What about his emphatic use of "today" (v. 21)? Is this not related to His mention of the Sabbath?  

Such a possibility is recognized, for instance, by Howard Marshall, who points out that the today "refers primarily to the actual day on which Jesus spoke as being the day when prophecy began to be fulfilled."55 This is not to deny that the "today" has also a broader scope, being part of the inbreaking of the Messianic age, "the acceptable year of the Lord" (v. 19). Moreover, does not Luke provide another noteworthy "hint" by placing Christís initial announcement of His fulfillment of the sabbatical year (Luke 4:16-21) in the immediate context of two Sabbath healing episodes (Luke 4:31-38)? Such a sequence suggests that Christís proclamation of His fulfillment of the expected sabbatical liberation is followed by a demonstration of how its realization was being accomplished. 

Sabbath release and Saviorís redemption. It has been convincingly shown that the determinative catchword that "binds Isaiah 61:1-2 and 58 :6 together in Luke 4 is the small word aphesis,"56 which is used twice in Luke and is translated the first time as "release" for the captives and the second time as "liberty" for the oppressed (Luke 4:18). Is this promised sabbatical "release" realized through the physical and spiritual healing that Jesus provided to needy persons especially on the Sabbath? Note that both Mark and Luke place Christís first miracle, the release of the demon-possessed man, on a Sabbath (Mark 1:21-28; Luke 4:31-37), presumably to set "the stage for the Sabbath works and healings which follow later."57  

Obviously, Christís saving ministry was not confined to the Sabbath but continued irrespective of days. However, His daily ministry also, as we noted earlier, had a sabbatical significance since it represented the realization of the expected Sabbath liberation. But, one must not overlook the fact that a considerable coverage is given in the Gospels to His Sabbath saving ministry. No less than seven Sabbath healing episodes are reported, besides several controversies about Sabbathkeeping.58 More important still is the redemptive significance which is often attributed to Christís acts of healing performed on the Sabbath. A study of the latter will help to clarify how the Sabbath is related to Christís redemptive mission. 

2. Early Sabbath Healings 

According to both Mark and Luke, the very first two healing episodes occurred on a Sabbath (Mark 1:21-31; Luke 4:31-39). Luke, in fact, places them immediately after the Nazareth address. The first took place in the synagogue of Capernaum during a Sabbath service and resulted in the spiritual healing of a demon-possessed man (Luke 4:31-37; Mark 1:21-28).  

The second was accomplished immediately after that service in Simonís house, and brought about the physical restoration of Simonís mother-in-law (Luke 4:38-39; Mark 1:29-31). The result of the latter was rejoicing for the whole family and service: "immediately she rose and served them" (Luke 4:39). The themes of liberation, joy, and service which are present in an embryonic form in these first healing acts are more explicitly associated with the meaning of the Sabbath in the subsequent ministry of Christ. 

3. The Crippled Woman 

Freedom on the Sabbath. The episode of the healing of the crippled woman, reported only by Luke, brings out rather clearly the relationship between the Sabbath and the Saviorís saving ministry (Luke 13 :10-17). It is noteworthy that in the brief narrative the verb "to free"óluein is used by the Lord three times. In the English RSV translation, the verb is rendered each time with a different synonym, namely "to free, to untie, to loose" (13 :12, 15, 16). This threefold repetition suggests that the verb is used not accidentally but intentionally. The verb is employed by Christ first in addressing the woman, "you are freed from your infirmity" (v. 12) At the words of the Lord that woman, who for 18 years had been "bent over, was made straight" (vv. 11, 13).  

The ruler of the synagogue became indignant over Christís healing act. His reaction brings into focus the contrast between the prevailing perversion of the Sabbath on the one hand, and Christís effort to restore to the day its true meaning on the other. For the ruler the Sabbath means rules to be obeyed, while for Christ it is a day in which to love and to save needy human beings. 

To clarify the function of the Sabbath, Christ twice again uses the verb "to free." First, by referring to a customary concession: "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger, and lead it away to water it?" (Luke 13:15). Then, building upon the concept of untying an animal, again Christ uses the same verb in the form of a rhetorical question in order to draw the obvious conclusion: "And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day"? (Luke 13:16).  

Arguing from a minor to a major case, Christ shows how the Sabbath had been paradoxically distorted. An ox or an ass could be legitimately untied on the Sabbath for drinking purposes (possibly because a day without water could have resulted in loss of weight and consequently in less market value), but a suffering woman could not be released on such a day from the shackles of her physical and spiritual infirmity.  

It was necessary on the Sabbath, therefore, for Christ to act deliberately against prevailing misconceptions in order to restore the day to Godís intended purpose. It should be noticed that in this as well as in all other instances, Christ is not questioning the binding obligations of the Sabbath commandment, but rather He argues for its true values which had been largely obscured by the accumulation of traditions and countless regulations.59 

Sabbath release and Saviorís redemption. The imagery of loosing on the Sabbath a victim bound by Satanís bonds (Luke 13:16) recalls Christís announcement of His mission "to proclaim release to the captives . . . to set at liberty those who are oppressed" (Luke 4:18). Does not Jesusí act of freeing on the Sabbath a daughter of Abraham from physical and spiritual bonds exemplify how the liberation of the Messianic Sabbath was being fulfilled (Luke 4:21)? The connection between the two is recognized by a number of scholars. Harald Riesenfeld, for example, correctly points out that the "deeds of healing on Sabbath days must be interpreted as signs that in the person of Jesus was being realized something of what the Sabbath had pointed forward to in the eschatological expectations of the Jewish people."60 

"The work of liberating the victims of Satanís tyranny," aptly comments George Bradford Caird, "must go on seven days a week. So far from being the wrong day, the sabbath was actually the best day for such works of mercy. For the sabbathóthe day which God had given to Israel as a weekly release from the bondage of labourówas also a weekly foretaste of the rest which awaited the people of God in the kingdom, the final release from all bondage. To liberate men and women from the reign of Satan and to bring them under the gracious reign of God was therefore to fulfill the purpose of the sabbath, not to profane it."61 

Paul K. Jewett perspicaciously remarks: "We have in Jesusí healings on the Sabbath, not only acts of love, compassion and mercy, but true Ďsabbatical acts,í acts which show that the Messianic Sabbath, the fulfillment of the Sabbath rest of the Old Testament, has broken into our world. Therefore the Sabbath, of all days, is the most appropriate for healing."62  

Similarly C. F. Evans points out that Christ "went out of His way to heal on the Sabbath . . . In reply to the ruler of the synagogue who states the Pharisaic ruling that healing is only permissible on the Sabbath if it is to save life, Jesus claims the Sabbath as the necessary day for that healing which is the rescue of a member of the chosen race from the bondage of Satan (Luke 13 :14-16). The Sabbath, being a memorial of the peace and rest which is Godís, is pre-eminently the day for the performance of those works which constitute its fulfillment, inasmuch as they are signs of the advent of the Messianic order of peace."63 

Some scholars reject this interpretation, arguing that the comparison between the loosing on the Sabbath of oxen and donkeys from their cribs for drinking purposes and the freeing of a woman from Satanís bond suggest that the Sabbath was not a particularly appropriate day for Christís works of mercy. Why? Basically because they reason that as the untying and watering of animals took place daily, irrespective of the Sabbath, so Christís saving acts are performed, not because it is Sabbath but in spite of it. 64  

Such an argument comes short on at least two counts. First, the animals are explicitly included among the beneficiaries of the Sabbath commandment ("your ox, or your ass, or any of your cattle," Deut. 5 :14; cf. Ex. 20:10). Thus showing kindness even to dumb beasts was especially appropriate on the Sabbath.65 Second, Christ challenges the contention of the ruler of the synagogue that healing ought to take place only during the "six days" rather than "on the sabbath day" (Luke 13:14), by affirming exactly the contrary, namely, that the woman ought to be loosed from her bond "on the sabbath day" (v. 16). This implies then that Christ chose to heal her not in spite of the Sabbath but rather because the day provided a most fitting occasion.66 

The physical and spiritual freedom that the Savior offered to that sick woman on the Sabbath represents a token manifestation of Christís proclaimed fulfillment of the Sabbath liberation (Luke 4:18-21) which had dawned with His coming. This redemptive meaning of the Sabbath is further clarified in other incidents now to be examined. But, before leaving this episode, one may ask, How did the woman and the people who witnessed Christís saving intervention come to view the Sabbath? Luke reports that while Christís "adversaries were put to shame the people rejoiced" (13:17), and the woman "praised God" (13:13). Undoubtedly for the healed woman and for all the people blessed by Christís Sabbath ministry the day became the memorial of the healing of their bodies and souls, of the exodus from the bonds of Satan into the freedom of the Savior. 

4. The Paralytic and the Blind Man 

Similarities. Two Sabbath miracles reported by John further exemplify the relationship between the Sabbath and Christís work of salvation (John 5:1-18; 9:1-41). The two episodes can be examined together since they show substantial similarity. Both healed men had been chronically ill: one an invalid for 38 years (5 :5) and the other blind from birth (9 :2). In both instances Christ told the men to act. To the paralyzed man He said, "Rise, take up your pallet, and walk" (5 :8); to the blind man, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (9:7).  

Both of these actions represent the breaking of rabbinical Sabbath laws, and thus both are used by Pharisees to charge Christ with Sabbath-breaking (John 5 :10, 16; 9:14-16). In both instances Christ repudiated such a charge by arguing that His works of salvation are not precluded but rather contemplated by the Sabbath commandment (5 :17; 7:23; 9:4). Christís justification is expressed especially through a memorable statement: "My Father is working until now and I am working" (John 5 :17; cf. 9:4). 

Negation or clarification of tile Sabbath? What did Christ actually mean when He formally defended Himself against the charge of Sabbath-breaking by appealing to the "working until now of His Father? Did He use the example of His Father to rescind the obligation of Sabbath keeping both for Himself and for His followers, or to clarify its true nature and meaning? To put it bluntly, does Christís statement represent a negation or a clarification of the Sabbath law? In a previous study we have shown that the "working until now" of the Father and of the Son has historically received three basic interpretations, namely, (1) continuous creation, (2) continuous care, (3) redemptive activities.67 The exponents of these three views basically agree in regarding Christís pronouncement as an implicit (for some, explicit) annulment of the Sabbath commandment.  

Does such a conclusion reflect the legitimate meaning of the passage, or rather arbitrary assumptions which have been read into the passage? To answer this question and, it is hoped, to understand the significance of Christís saying, we shall briefly examine the role of the adverb "until now"óheos arti, the meaning of the verb "is working"óergazetai and the theological implications of the passage. 

The meaning of the adverb "until now." Traditionally the adverb "until now" has been interpreted as the continuous working of God (whether it be in creation, preservation or redemption) which allegedly overrides or rescinds the Sabbath law. But does the adverbial phrase "until now" suggest that God is constantly working without respect to the Sabbath? The adverb itself, especially as used in its emphatic position before the verb (in Greek), presupposes not constancy but culmination. The latter is brought out by some translators through the use of the emphatic form "even until now."68  

This adverbial phrase presupposes a beginning (terminus a quo) and a conclusion (terminus ad quem). The former is apparently the initial creation Sabbath (Gen. 2:2-3) and the latter the final Sabbath rest, which is envisaged in the similar Sabbath pronouncement as the "night . . . when no one can work" (9:4). What Jesus is saying, then, is that though God established the Sabbath at the completion of creation, because of sin He has been "working until now" to bring the promised Sabbath rest to fruition. 

The meaning of the verb "working." What is the nature of the "working until now" of the Father? In the Gospel of John the working and works of God are repeatedly and explicitly identified, not with a continuous divine creation nor with a constant maintenance of the universe, but with the saving mission of Christ. For example, Jesus explicitly states: "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent" (6:29). And again, "If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father" (10 :37, 38; cf. 4:34; 14:11; 15:24).69  

The redemptive nature of the works of God is especially clear in the healing of the blind man since the act is explicitly described as the manifestation of "the works of God" (John 9:3). This means then that God ended on the Sabbath His works of creation but not His working in general. Because of sin, He has been engaged in the work of redemption "until now." Or to use the words of A. T. Lincoln, one might say, "As regards the work of creation Godís rest was final, but as that rest was meant for humanity to enjoy, when it was disturbed by sin, God worked in history to accomplish his original purpose."70 

Theological implications. What are the theological implications of Christís defense? Does He appeal to the "working" of His Father to nullify or clarify the function of the Sabbath? To understand the implications of Christís defense, one needs to remember that the Sabbath is linked both to the cosmos through creation (Gen. 2:2-3; Ex. 20:11), and to the exodus through redemption (Deut. 5:15). While by interrupting all secular activities the Israelite was remembering the Creator-God, by acting mercifully toward fellow-beings he was imitating the Redeemer-God.  

This was true, not only in the life of the people in general who on the Sabbath were to be compassionate toward the less fortunate, but especially in the service of the temple. There, as we shall soon see, the priests could legitimately perform on the Sabbath works forbidden to the Israelites, because such works had a redemptive function. On the basis of this theology of the Sabbath admitted by the Jews, Christ defends the legality of the "working" that He and His Father perform on the Sabbath.71 

This is in fact the line of defense that Christ uses when He appeals to the example of circumcision, to silence the echo of the controversy over the healing of the paralytic (John 7 :22-24). The Lord argues that if it is legitimate on the Sabbath for the priests to care for one small part of manís body (according to rabbinic reckoning circumcision involved one of manís 248 members) in order to extend to the newborn child the salvation of the covenant, there is no reason to be "angry" with Him for restoring on that day the "whole body of man" (7:23).  

The Sabbath is for Christ the day to work for the redemption of the whole man.72 This is borne out by the fact that in both healings, Christ looked for the healed men on the same day, and having found them, He ministered to their spiritual needs (5 :14; 9:35-38). His opponents cannot perceive the redemptive nature of Christís Sabbath ministry because they "judge by appearances (7:24). For them the pallet and the clay are more important than the social reunification (5 :10) and the restoration of sight (9 :14) which those objects symbolized. It was therefore necessary for Christ to act against prevailing misconceptions in order to restore the Sabbath to its positive function. 

In another Sabbath pronouncement recorded in John 9:4, Christ extends to His followers the invitation to become links of the same redemptive chain, saying: "We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work." The "night" apparently refers to the conclusion of the history of salvation, a conclusion which we found implied in the adverbial phrase "until now." Such a conclusion of divine and human redemptive activity would usher in the final Sabbath of which the creation Sabbath was a prototype.  

To bring about that final Sabbath, the Godhead "is working" for our salvation (John 5:17) but also "we must work" to extend it to others (9:4). The foregoing considerations indicate that the two Sabbath healings reported by John substantiate the redemptive meaning of the Sabbath we found earlier in Luke, namely, a time to experience and share the blessings of salvation accomplished by Christ. 

5. The Disciplesí Plucking Ears of Corn 

The episode of the disciplesí plucking ears of corn on a Sabbath (Mark 2:23-28; Matt. 12:1-8; Luke 6:1-5) provides an additional indication of the relationship between the Sabbath and the redemptive ministry of Christ. Jesus and the disciples were walking along a path that went through the fields. The disciples "were hungry, and they began to pluck ears of grain and to eat" (Matt. 12:1). The Pharisees, who somehow (!) were also in the field on that day, regarded such an action as an outright desecration of the Sabbath and complained to Christ, saying: "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?" (Mark 2:24).  

One wonders, Why were the disciples assuaging their hunger by eating raw ears of grain in the first place? The presence of the Pharisees among them suggests that possibly they all had attended together the Sabbath service at the synagogue, and, having received no dinner invitation, the disciples were picking and eating raw ears of grain as they were making their way along the fields to find a place to rest.73 If this were the case, then Christís reply to the Pharisees, particularly His quotation from Hosea, "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice" (Matt. 12 :7), could well contain a veiled rebuke of their lack of Sabbath hospitality. 

Davidís example. To defend the conduct of His disciples against the charge of Sabbath-breaking, Christ advanced two basic arguments. First, He reasoned that if it was right for David and his men to allay their hunger by eating the holy bread which was reserved exclusively for the priests (1 Sam. 21:1-7), then it was equally legitimate for the disciples to provide for their needs by plucking ears of grain during the holy time of the Sabbath.74  

The principle involved here is not, as some mistakenly assume, that people of authority such as David and Christ "transcend the law"75 because of the special position they enjoy. Are Godís laws binding only on ordinary creatures? To say the least, such a notion would make God guilty of governing with a double standard, one for common persons and one for privileged individuals. Such a preposterous view of God is totally unwarranted because the justification given in the text for Davidís action is not that he was king David, but rather that "he and those who were with him" were "in need and... hungry" (Mark 2:25). In other words, it is human need and not position that takes prior claim over the law. Do not ordinary citizens exceed the speed limit with impunity when taking a very sick person to a hospital? 

Some argue that this principle is not applicable to the disciples, because their hunger was not as acute as that of David.76 Such a rabbinical reasoning is absent in the OT and in the teachings of Jesus. The Scripture provides no graduated scale of human needs to determine when action is justified. The principle enunciated by Christ is, "the Sabbath was made on account of (dia) man" (Mark 2 :27), that is, to ensure his physical and spiritual well-being. This means that the welfare of human beings is not restricted but guaranteed by proper Sabbath observance. To require that the disciples deny their physical needs in order to keep the Sabbath would mean to pervert its intended function, namely, to be a day of delight and not one of privation.77 This human function of the Sabbath will be considered further in the next chapter, entitled "The Sabbath: Good News of Service." 

The priestís example. The second argument used by the Lord is more directly related to our immediate inquiry into the relationship between Christís saving ministry and the Sabbath. According to Matthew, Jesus appealed not only to the prophetic section of the OT (i.e., the example of Davidól Sam. 21:1-7), but also to the Torah (Law) proper, by citing the example of the priests, who "in the temple profane the sabbath, and are guiltless" (Matt. 12:5; cf. Num. 28:9-10; Lev. 24:8-9).  

A host of activities, illegal for the ordinary person, were performed by the priests on the Sabbath. On that day the regular daily sacrifices were augmented by two additional flawless yearling male lambs, together with flour and oil (Num. 28:9-10). Though working more intensely on the Sabbath, the priests were "guiltless" (Matt. 12:5). Why? Was it perhaps because they took a day off at another time during the week? No, the OT does not offer or contemplate any such special provision for the priests. The absence of the latter constitutes a most direct challenge to those who uphold the one day-in-seven principle.  

Donald Carson wisely acknowledges this fact when he writes, "If the OT principle were really Ďone day in seven for worship and rest,í we might have expected OT legislation to prescribe some other day off for the priests. The lack of such confirms the importance in OT thought of the seventh day, as opposed to the mere one-in-seven principle so greatly relied upon by those who wish to see in Sunday the precise NT equivalent of the OT Sabbath."78 

Why, then, were the priests "guiltless"? The answer is to be found in the redemptive nature of their Sabbath work. We noted already that Christ alluded to the latter, when citing the example of circumcision which the priests could lawfully perform on the Sabbath because of the redemptive significance of the rite (John 7:22-23). Similarly in this instance Christ appeals to the various services and sacrifices which the priests legitimately offered on the Sabbath, because these represented Godís provision of forgiveness and salvation for His people (Heb. 7:27, 9:12, 22).79 

We have found that a vital function of the weekly and annual Sabbaths was to provide "release"óaphesis to the oppressed. The intensification of the Temple services and sacrifices on the Sabbath (four lambs were sacrificed instead of the daily twoóNum. 28 :8-9) points to the special release from the burden of sin and guilt that God offered to the people on that day. The Sabbath is the time to experience in a special way the rest of Godís forgivenessóand a fresh new beginning.80 

Christ and the temple. Christ finds in this redemptive work performed by the priests on the Sabbath a valid basis to justify His own Sabbath ministry as well as that of His disciples. Why? Because He rightly views His own ministry as "something greater than the temple" (Matt. 12 :6). In other words, the redemption offered typologically by the temple through its serving priests is now being provided realistically through Christís saving mission. Therefore, just as the priests could legitimately "profane" the Sabbath in order to perform their redemptive service in the temple, so could Jesusí disciples in order to serve the One who is greater than the temple.  

Being the fulfillment of the redemption promised through the templeís services and sacrifices, Christís ministry must continue on the Sabbath, even preferably on that day. What He does His followers, the new priesthood, must likewise do. "The priests," aptly writes Ellen White, "were performing those rites that pointed to the redeeming power of Christ, and their labor was in harmony with the object of the Sabbath. But now Christ Himself had come. The disciples, in doing the work of Christ, were engaged in Godís service, and that which was necessary for the accomplishment of this work it was right to do on the Sabbath day."81 

Some object to this parallelism between the priests and the disciples because in their view, the latter were not engaged in a religious activity while plucking grain.82 What is it that makes an act religious? Is it not when its intended function is directly to serve God? Baking bread, for example, was a common work which no Israelite was to do on the Sabbath at home (Ex. 16:23). Yet in the Temple baking was a religious activity, which the priests lawfully performed on the Sabbath because it was part of their service to God (1 Sam. 21:3-6; Lev. 24:8).  

Had not the disciples left all to serve the One greater than the temple? Was not then the caring for their personal needs on the Sabbath while serving their Lord in His itinerant ministry a religious activity? To reduce religious activities only to rituals performed within the confines of a sacred place, thus neglecting the aspect of service to human needs, means, as pointed out by Christ, to fail to understand Hoseaís statement, "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice" (Matt. 12 :7; Hos. 6 :6). 

Authority or legality? Does Christís use of the example of David and of the priests suggest that He justified the conduct of His disciples by asserting His authority to transcend the Sabbath law, or by proving the legality of their action within that law? A number of scholars argue for the former view. For them "it is a question of authority rather than legality" that is at stake.83 The comparison between David and the priests on the one hand, and Christ on the other hand, is allegedly supposed to show that "persons with authority" can override the Sabbath. Consequently it is Christís "authority which shields the disciples from guilt."84 The ultimate conclusion drawn from such reasoning is that Christís authoritative teaching supposedly anticipates the change in the day of worship which however did not actually occur until after the resurrection85 What can be said of such reasoning? ĎObviously, it reveals a genuine desire to find a ground for Sunday observance in Christís teaching. But, can such a conclusion be drawn legitimately from Jesusí arguments? I think not. 

Did Christ appeal to the example of David and of the priests to show that persons of authority have the right to supersede the Sabbath law? Can human authority per se be regarded as a valid criterion to transcend Godís law? If this were true, there would be a constant conflict between human authority and divine precepts. Such a conflict, however, does not exist in Jesusí reasoning. What He tells the Pharisees is not that the law does not apply to important persons such as David or the priests, but on the contrary that their exceptional conduct, like that of the disciples, is contemplated by the law.  

This is clearly indicated by the counter-question that Christ asks twice, "Have you not read in the law . . .?" (Matt. 12:5; cf. v. 3). Note that it is within the law (not outside of it) that Jesus finds precedents to defend the legality of the disciplesí conduct. The disciples were "guiltless" then, not because their authority (6r that of Christ) transcended the law, but because their action fell within the intention of the law itself.86 

Christ, the Interpreter of the law. ĎAll laws must be interpreted. The case of the priests provides a fitting example. The law ordered them to work on the Sabbath (Num. 28:9; Lev. 24:8), thus causing them to break another lawóthat of the Sabbath rest (Ex. 20:8-10). What does this mean? Simply that the letter of the law cannot be applied indiscriminately, but must be interpreted discriminately when applied to specific cases. In American society the Supreme Court acts as the final interpreter of the intent of the laws of the land. This is the authority that Christ claims by proclaiming Himself "Lord of the Sabbath" (Matt. 12 :8; Mark 2 :28). It is not the authority to abrogate or substitute the Sabbath commandment but rather to reveal its true divine intention. 87 

Christ demonstrates this authority as Interpreter of the true meaning of the fourth commandment by presenting five significant arguments in defending the innocence of His disciples. First, the Lord refers to David to validate the general principle that law admits exceptions (Matt. 12:3; Mark 2:25). Second, Christ provides a specific example of exceptional use of the Sabbath by the priests, to prove that the commandment does not preclude but contemplates ministering to the spiritual needs of people (Matt. 12:5).  

Third, Christ claims for Himself and His disciples the same Sabbath privileges of the priests, because as the superior Antitype of the Temple and its priesthood (Matt. 12 :6), He and His followers also, like the priests, must provide a ministry of salvation to needy sinners. Fourth, by citing Hoseaís statement, "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice" (Matt. 12 :7), Jesus explains that the order of priorities in the observance of the Sabbath is first a loving service to needy persons and then the fulfillment of ritual prescriptions. Lastly, Jesus asserts His lordship over the Sabbath, that is, His prerogative to interpret its meaning, by reaffirming the fundamental principle that the Sabbath was instituted to insure human well-being (Mark 2:28). Consequently, to deny human needs on account of the Sabbath commandment is a perversion of its original purpose. 

6. The Saviorís Rest 

The Saviorís rest and the Sabbath. In the light of this authoritative interpretation of the meaning of the Sabbath, it is well to consider the meaning of Christís summons which Matthew placed just prior to the episode we have just examined. The Savior says, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30).  

Twice in this invitation Christ promises rest to those who come to Him and learn from Him. Is the rest that Christ offers related to the Sabbath rest? The possible connection between the two has been noted by several commentators.88 Such a link is suggested by Matthewís setting of Christís invitation to receive His rest (Matt. 11:28-30), in the immediate context of two Sabbath episodes (Matt. 12:1-14). 

In addition to this structural link, Matthew suggests also a temporal connection by carefully noting that the two Sabbath conflicts occurred "at that time" (Matt. 12 :1), "presumably at or near the time when Jesus had spoken of His rest."89 The possibility exists, therefore, that the rest promised by Christ is that of tl~ie true Sabbath. Earlier in this chapter we noted that the Sabbath rest in OT times was viewed as typifying the future Messianic rest. By offering rest, then, Christ could well have claimed to fulfill the expected Sabbath rest. As Christ in Luke 4:18-21 proclaims to be the Messianic fulfillment of the expected sabbatical liberation, so in Matthew 11:28-29 He claims to realize the expected Messianic Sabbath rest.90 

The Nature of Christís rest. What is the nature of the "Sabbath rest" that Christ offers to those "heavy-laden"? How is such a "rest" to be experienced? To a modern reader, the formula offered by Christ sounds most paradoxical. Said He, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me . . . and you will find rest for your souls" (Matt. 11:29). How can rest be found by taking a yoke upon oneself? Such a formula sounds like a clear contradiction of terms.  

The contradiction, however, is resolved when the significance of the imagery of the "yoke" is understood. The term "yoke" was used both by the Jews and by the early Christians to designate the law? 91 A few examples will suffice to bear this out. Jeremiah speaks of the leaders of the people who though "they know . . . the law of their God . . . they . . . had broken the yoke, they had burst the bonds" (Jer. 5 :5). In the following chapter the same prophet says to the people, "find rest for your souls" by learning anew obedience to Godís law (Jer. 6:16; cf. Num. 25:3).  

The invitation to take upon oneself the yoke of the law occurs frequently also in rabbinical literature. Rabbi Nehunya b. Kanah (c. A.D. 100), supposedly said, "He that takes upon himself the yoke of the law, from him shall be taken away the yoke of the kingdom and the yoke of worldly care." 92 This notion of the law as a yoke was familiar to the early Christians. The Jerusalem Council, for example, decided not to put "a yoke upon the neck" (Acts 15 :10) of the Gentiles by requiring them to fulfill the law of circumcision.93 

This imagery of the law as a yoke could deceive us into thinking that the law was viewed as a jurdensome straitjacket. The truth of the matter is much different. To the devout believer the law expressed not slavery but the basis of a special covenant relationship with God. It expressed, as M. Maher aptly explains, "the desire to place oneself under the direct rule of God and to devote oneself entirely to performing his revealed will."94 Thus the Psalmist declares "blessed" the person whose "delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night" (Ps. 1:1,2; cf. 112:1; 119:18, 105).  

The conflict between Judaism and early Christianity has unfortunately obscured the fact that there were indeed noble Jews who gave attention not merely to external legal piety but also to the internal intention of Godís precepts. These persons genuinely loved God and their fellow beings and later accepted the Messiah as their personal Savior by the "thousands" (Acts. 21:20; cf. 2:41; 4:4). 95 The fact remains, however, that there were also Scribes and Pharisees who expounded the law in terms of minute legal requirements which weighed as a heavy yoke upon the people. "They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear" (Matt. 23 :4). Such a teaching encouraged a form of petty legalism that offered not rest but restlessness to burdened souls. 

Christ, as the new Moses, claims the authority to refute such a misleading understanding and practice of the will of God, and to reveal through His teaching and ministry the true meaning of Godís precepts. "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me" (Matt. 11:29). The "yoke" of Christís teaching is not "heavy" as that of the Pharisees but "easy~~ and "light" (Matt. 11:30). Why? Basically because the Savior invites His followers to commit themselves not to a new set of rules, but to Himself, the true Interpreter and Fulfiller of Godís law ("Come to me . . . learn from me"óMatt. 11:28-29). Since the Law and the prophets pointed to Christ (Luke 23 :27; John 5 :39), it is in relationship to His mission that He interprets their meaning and function. The "yoke" of Christís teaching brings rest because it leads a person to experience the rest of His salvation. 

New rules or new rest? Does this mean that Christ supersedes and annuls the Sabbath commandment by offering His own rest instead? No. Rather Christ explains the meaning of the Sabbath rest in the light of His redemptive rest: The various Sabbath episodes analyzed so far support this view. We have found that Jesus on a Sabbath announced His mission to be the fulfillment of the expected sabbatical redemption (Luke 4:16-21).  

During His ministry Christ made good such a claim by intentionally working on the Sabbath for the salvation of needy sinners (John 5 :17; 9:4), so that souls whom "Satan bound" would experience and remember the Sabbath as the day of their liberation (Luke 13 :16). Moreover, it was on a Friday afternoon that Christ completed His earthly redemptive mission, saying "it is finished" (John 19 :30), and then resting on the Sabbath in the tomb (Mark 15 :42, 46; Luke 23 :53-54). Like the completion of creation, so now that of redemption is marked by the Sabbath rest.96 

This meaning of the Sabbath is supported also by the two Sabbath episodes (Matt. 12:1-14) that Matthew links with Christís offer of His rest (Matt. 11 :28-29).97 The question raised in both episodes is, "What is lawful on the Sabbath?" (Matt. 12:2, 10). The two stories show that the Pharisees had reduced the Sabbath rest to an oppressive burden. Christ, as Lord of the Sabbath (12:8), interprets the commandment in terms of mercy rather than legalistic religiosity (12 :7). 

In the first episode (plucking off ears of corn), we found that Christ identifies His ministry as well as that of His disciples with the redemptive service performed by the priests on the Sabbath in the Temple (12:6). In the second incident (man with a withered hand), to be examined in the next chapter, Christ clarifies the "value" of the Sabbath as a day "to do good" (12:12-13) and "to save (Mark 3:4).  

In a sense, these two episodes bring out two related dimensions of Christís view of the Sabbath: the first, that the Sabbath is a time to experience His gracious salvation; second, that it is a time to share blessings received by responding to human needs. The "Sabbath rest" that Christ offers to those who labor in vain to procure rest for themselves by fulfilling demanding regulations, is not a newer or simpler set of rules on how to keep the day, but an experience of the peace and rest of salvation on and through His Holy Day. 

7. The Sabbath in Hebrews 

The redemptive meaning of the Sabbath which we have found in the Gospels is reflected in the book of Hebrews. We noted earlier that the author of this book, drawing upon existing eschatological understandings of the Sabbath rest, relates Godís rest on the seventh day of creation (Heb. 4:4) to all the rest and peace God intends to confer on His people. By linking together two passages, 98 namely Genesis 2:2 and Psalm 95 :7, 11, the author explains that the divine rest promised at creation was not exhausted when the Israelites under Joshua found a resting place in Canaan, since God again offered His rest "long afterwards" through David (Heb. 4:7; cf. Ps. 95 :7). Consequently, Godís promised Sabbath rest still awaited a fuller realization which has dawned with the coming of Christ (Heb. 4:9). It is by believing in Jesus Christ that Godís people can at last experience ("enter"ó4 :3, 10, 11) the "good news" of Godís rest promised on the "seventh day" of creation (4:4). 

Literal or figurative Sabbathkeeping? What inference can be legitimately drawn from this passage regarding the actual observance and understanding of the Sabbath among the recipients of Hebrews? The position of the majority of commentators is that this passage provides no indication that these Christian "Hebrews" actually observed the Sabbath or that the author intended to give a Christian interpretation to such an observance.  

What are the reasons advanced for such a position? Basically three. First, it is argued that since the author discusses not the actual observance of the Sabbath but the permanence and the fulfillment of its rest through the Christ-event, no inference can be drawn regarding its literal observance. Second, it is pointed out that since "the Sabbath rest that remains for the people of God" (4:9) is a future realization,99 the exhortation to enter Godís rest (4:10, 11) has no implication for the present observance of the day. Thirdly, it is assumed that since the author in a number of places indicates that with the coming of Christ, certain old covenant institutions were made "obsolete" (8:13; 7:11-9:28), the Sabbath also was presumably viewed as belonging to the past?100 

In our view these reasons come short on several counts. The first argument fails to recognize that the recipients of the Epistle (whether Gentiles or Jewish-Christians)101 were so attracted to Jewish liturgy 102 (of which the Sabbath was fundamental) that it was unnecessary for the author to discuss or encourage its actual observance. What those Christians actually needed, tempted as they were to turn back to Judaism, was to understand the meaning of its observance in the light of Christís coming. It is this meaning that the author endeavors to bring out.  

George Wesley Buchanan finds the passage so steeped in the OT concept of the "sabbath and jubilees releases," understood as quiet and peaceful existence in the promised land, that he claims both the author and the recipients of the Hebrews possibly still hoped to see in their own day the fulfillment of the promised Sabbath rest in terms of a concrete national independence from the Romans. 103  

Though such a view is hardly defensible in the light of the writerís exhortation to enter Godís rest (4:9-10) and not that of the land, it still serves to illustrate that some scholars recognize what an important role the Sabbath theology played in the thinking of the community. Moreover, the fact that the author is not engaged in a polemical defense of the validity of Sabbath observance but rather in an exhortation to experience its blessings which are still outstanding for the people of God (4:9), makes his testimony all the more valuable, since it takes its observance for granted. Additional indications will soon be offered. 

Present or future? With regard to the second argument, it can hardly be said that in Hebrews the Sabbath rest is viewed primarily as a future benefit, unrelated to the present observance of the day. Some scholars have identified in Hebrews the model of the church as a company of wanderers, journeying to a future heavenly resting place.104  

Without denying the presence of the pilgrimage motif in Hebrews, it must be pointed out that the "sabbath rest" that "remains for the people of God" (4:9) is presented primarily not as a future but as a present experience into which those "who have believed are entering" (4:3). The latter verb is in the present tense, and in Greek is placed first in the sentence to stress the present reality of this "rest" experience.105  

The same is true of the verb "remains" (4 :9), which if taken out of context could imply a future prospect, but in its context the verb refers back to the time of Joshua (4:8), in order to emphasize the present permanence of the Sabbath rest for Godís people. What the author of Hebrews is saying, as well stated by A. T. Lincoln, is "that since the time of Joshua an observance of the Sabbath has been outstanding."106 The use of both verbs in the present tense emphasizes the present permanence of the Sabbath rest rather than its future consummation. It must be said, nonetheless, that the future dimension of this rest is also contemplated in the passage, as we shall soon see. 

Obsolete or remaining? This leads us to the third argument which maintains that the Sabbath is an OT shadow or type of that final rest which Christ has made available to His people and consequently its function terminated with His coming.107 Is this what Hebrews or the rest of the NT teaches? Did the Sabbath, like the temple and its services, live out its function with the coming of Christ? Or did the Sabbath acquire fresh meaning and function with His coming? Our study of the Sabbath material of the Gospels has shown that Christ fulfilled the typological and eschatological Messianic Sabbath rest and release, not by annulling the actual observance of the day but by making it a time to experience and share with others His accomplished salvation. 

Let us look now at what Hebrews has to say on this point. There is no question that the author of this book clearly teaches that Christís coming has brought about "a decisive discontinuity" with the sacrifical system of the Old Covenant. In chapters 7 to 10, the writer explains at great length how Christís atoning sacrifice and subsequent heavenly ministry have replaced completely the typological ("copy and shadow"ó8 :5) function of the levitical priesthood and its Temple. These services Christ "abolished" (10:9) and thus they are "obsolete" and "ready to vanish away" (8 :13). But, does he place the Sabbath in the same category, viewing it as one of the "obsolete" old-covenant institution This is indeed the conclusion that some have drawn,108 but, in our view, it is based on gratuitous assumptions rather than on what the document actually says. 

The "Sabbath rest" is explicitly and emphatically presented not as being "obsolete" like the temple and its services, but as a divine benefit that still "remains" (4:9). The verb "remainsó apoleipetai," literally means "to leave behind" and is used here in the present passive tense. If literally translated verse 9 reads: "So then a Sabbath rest is left behind for the people of God." The contrast between the Sabbath and the sanctuary services is obvious. While the latter are "obsolete," the former is "left behind," and therefore still relevant.  

A similar contrast is found in the Gospel of Matthew. There the rending of the Templeís curtain in conjunction with Christís death (Matt. 27:51) indicates the termination of the Templeís services. On the other hand, Christís warning about the possibility that the future flight out of the city might occur on a Sabbath (Matt. 24:20) takes for granted the permanence of its observance. 

The exhortation given in verse 11 to "strive to enter that rest" provides an additional indication of the permanence of the Sabbath. The fact that one must make efforts "to enter that rest" implies that the "rest" experience of the Sabbath is not exhausted in the present but has a future realization also. This Christian view of the Sabbath rest as representing not only a present but also a future "rest" experience reflects to a large extent what we have already found in the OT and in later Jewish literature. There we saw that the Sabbath was understood not only as a present experience of personal rest and liberation from social injustices, but also as the anticipation of the future rest and peace to be realized by the Messiah. Thus in his own way the author of Hebrews reaffirms the OT understanding of the Sabbath in a fresh Christian setting, namely, a day to experience the present rest of salvation while looking forward to the future and final rest in the heavenly Canaan. 

An unresolved contradiction. It is unfortunate that the happy tension between the two dimensionsópresent and futureóof the Sabbath which we have found in Hebrews (and in the Gospels) was soon overlooked and even rejected by many Christians. For what reasons? We have shown in From Sabbath to Sunday that as a result of an interplay of social, political, pagan-religious and Christian factors, it became expedient to change the day of worship from Sabbath to Sunday. Those who adopted this change found it necessary to empty the Sabbath of all its validity and meaning for the present life and to reduce it exclusively to a symbol of the future eternal rest.  

Such a view has enjoyed general support throughout Christian history. It appears for the first time in the so-called Epistle of Barnabas (ca. 135), where the author argues that "it is not the present sabbaths that are acceptable to me [God]" (15 :8) but the future Sabbath that God will establish in the seventh millennium (15 :4-5). At that time the Lord will bring everything to rest and "then we shall be able to treat it [the Sabbath] as holy" (15:7) 109 This millenarian (chiliastic) view of the Sabbath has been held by such early Christian writers as Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Cyprian, Augustine (for a time), Victorinus and Lactantius.110 

Others such as Origen, Eusebius of Caesarea, Jerome, Augustine, Chrysostom, Bede, Rabanus Maurus, Peter Lombard, Calvin and some contemporary scholars, however, choosing to retain the notion of the Sabbath rest as a symbol of the endtime rest,111 have rejected all millenarian connotations.  

The historical survival of these eschatological interpretations of the Sabbath raises some very crucial theological questions: How can the typological-symbolic function of the Sabbath have terminated with the coming of Christ, when the final rest, to which the present weekly Sabbath points, still lies in the future? To retain the Sabbath as the symbol of the future and final rest that awaits Godís people, while denying the basis of such a symbol, namely, the present Sabbath rest experience, is a clear contradiction of terms.  

How can the Sabbath nourish in the believer the hope of the future rest, when its present celebration, which is a foretaste and anticipation of that future rest, is renounced or even denounced? Moreover, this unilateral interpretation of the Sabbath as an exclusively future reality destroys the organic unity that we have found in both the OT and NT between the temporal and eschatological functions of the Sabbath. These unresolved contradictions illustrate what happens when the permanency of a divine percept such as the Fourth Commandipent is tampered with. 

The nature of the Sabbath rest. This brief digression has taken us some distance away from Hebrews 4. We now return to it in order to ascertain the nature of the Sabbath rest that Christians must observe. The author explains the Christian understanding of the "Sabbath rest" that is still outstanding for Godís NT people (4:9), by referring to its basic characteristic, namely, cessation from work: "for whoever enters Godís rest also ceases from his labors as God did from his" (4 :10). Is the author thinking here of cessation from work in a literal or a figurative sense?  

Historically, the majority of Christian writers have interpreted this figuratively, as "abstention from servile work," that is, evil deeds, sinful activities. According to this common interpretation, which has found supporters in practically every age, Christian Sabbathkeeping means not the interruption of the daily work on the seventh day, but the abstention from sinful acts at all times (perpetual Sabbath).112 

Advocates of this interpretation often appeal to the references in Hebrews about "dead works" (6:1; 9:14) 113 Such a concept, however, can hardly be read back into Hebrews 4:10, where the comparison is made between the divine and the human cessation from "works"óerga. If by "works" were meant "sinful deeds," the analogy would require that God also has ceased from these. Such an absured concept is of course totally foreign to Hebrews (and to the rest of the Scriptures) where it is explicitly stated that God "rested" (v. 4) and "ceased" (v. 10óin Greek, the verb is identical in both instances) "on the seventh day from all his works" (4 :4).  

The analogy then is made in terms of manís imitation of Godís ceasing or resting from works of creation. In other words, as God ceased on the seventh day from His creation work so believeós are to cease on the same day from their labors. This is a simple statement of the nature of the Sabbath which essentially involves cessation from work. 

Is the author of Hebrews merely encouraging his readers to interrupt their secular activities on the Sabbath? Considering the concern of the writer to counteract the tendency of his readers to adopt Jewish liturgical customs as a means to gain access to God, he could hardly have emphasized solely the physical "cessation" aspect of Sabbathkeeping. This aspect yields only a negative idea of rest, one which would only serve to encourage existing Judaizing tendencies.  

Obviously then, the author attributes a deeper meaning to the resting on the Sabbath. This can be seen in the antithesis he makes between those who failed to enter into its rest because of "unbelief"óapeitheias (4 :6, 11)óthat is, faithlessness which results in disobedienceóand those who enter it by "faith"ópistei (4:2, 3), that is, faithfulness that results in obedience. The act of resting on the Sabbath for the author of Hebrews is not merely a routine ritual (cf. "sacrifice"óMatt. 12 :7), but rather a faith-response to God. Such a response entails not the hardening of oneís heart (4:7) but the making of oneself available to "hear his voice" (4:7). It means to experience Godís salvation rest not by works. but by faith, not by doing but by being saved through faith (4:2, 3, 11). On the Sabbath, as John Calvin aptly expresses it, believers are "to cease from their work to allow God to work in them."114 

The Sabbath rest that remains for the people of God (4:9) is for the author of Hebrews not a mere day of idleness, but rather an opportunity renewed every week to enter Godís rest, that is, to make oneself free from the cares of work in order to experience freely by faith Godís creation and redemptionrest.115 Moreover, we noted that this Sabbath experience of the blessings of salvation is not exhausted in the present, since the author exhorts to "strive to enter that rest" (4 :11).  

This dimension of the future Sabbath rest shows that Sabbathkeeping in Hebrews expresses the tension between the "already" and the "not yet," between the present experience of salvation and its eschatological consummation in the heavenly Canaan. This expanded interpretation of Sabbathkeeping in the light of the Christ event was apparently designed to wean Christians away from a too materialistic understanding of its observance.  

To achieve this objective, the author on the one hand reassures his readers of the permanence of the blessings contemplated by the Sabbath rest and on the other hand explains that the nature of these blessings consists in experiencing both a present salvation-rest and future restoration rest which God offers to those "who have believed" (4 :3). 

Good news of redemption. One can hardly fail to perceive that Hebrewsí interpretation of the Sabbath rest reflects to a large extent the redemptive understanding of the day we found in the Gospels. Christís great promise to have come to offer the expected sabbatical "release" (Luke 4:18) and "rest" (Matt. 11:28) represents the core of the "Sabbath rest" available "today" to Godís people (Heb. 4 :7, 9). Similarly, Christís assurance that He and His Father are "working until now" (John 5:17) to realize the final Sabbath rest is reflected in Hebrewsí exhortation to "strive to enter that rest" (4:1).116 The fact that Hebrews 4 reflects the Gospelís understanding of the Sabbath as a time to experience the blessings of salvation, which will be fully realized at the end of our earthly pilgrimage, shows that NT Christians (at least some) viewed the Sabbath as Good News of Redemption. 

In an age when the forces of chaos and disorder increasingly appear to prevail, when injustice, greed, violence, corruption, crime, suffering and death seem to dominate, God through the Sabbath reassures His people that these destructive forces will not triumph, because "there remains a sabbath rest for the people of God" (4:9). Through the Sabbath God reassures us that He is in control of this world, working out His ultimate purpose. God tells us that He conquered chaos at creation, that He has liberated His people from the bonds of sin and death through the saving mission of His Son, and that He "is working until now" (John 5 :17) in order to establish a New World where "from sabbath to sabbath all flesh shall come to worship before God" (Is. 66 :23). In that final Sabbath, as eloquently expressed by Augustine, "we shall rest and see, see and love, love and praise." 117 How are we to celebrate on our present seventh-day Sabbath such wonderful Good News? To answer this question, the following chapter will examine various aspects of what our response should be, especially on The Sabbath, to the Good News of Redemption. 


I. Karl Barth has recognized and emphasized the redemptive meaning and function of the Sabbath. James Brown summarizes Barthís view, saying: "The fundamental meaning of the Sabbath is thus that it is a sign of salvation altogether, first and last, of God, in His covenant relation with His creature" ("The Doctrine of the Sabbath in Karl Barthís Church Dogmatics," Scottish Journal of Theology, 20 (1967): 7. 

2. See Gerhard von Rad, "Das theologische Problem des alttestamentlichen Schöpfungsglaubens," in Gesammelte Studien zum Alten Testament, 1958, pp. 136-147. 

3. A. T. Lincoln notes this double function of the Sabbath. He writes: "As regards the work of creation Godís rest was final, but as that rest was meant for humanity to enjoy, when it was disturbed by sin, God worked in history to accomplish his original purpose" ("Sabbath, Rest and Eschatology in the New Testament," in From Sabbath to Lordís Day: A Biblical, Historical and Theological Investigation, D. A. Carson, ed., 1982, p. 205). 

4. Herbert W. Richardson rightly emphasizes the connection between the sanctification of the creation Sabbath and the incarnation of Christ. He writes, for example, "God created the world so that the Sabbath guest, Jesus Christ, might come and dwell therein. That is, the world was created for the sake of ĎEmmanuel, God with us.í The incarnation is, therefore, not a rescue operation, decided upon only after sin had entered into the world. Rather, the coming of Christ fulfills the purpose of God in creating the world. Sanctification, not redemption, is the chief work of Jesus ChristóíGod with usí rather than ĎGod for usí" (Toward an American Theology, 1967, p. 139). Richardson is right in emphasizing the sanctification function of the Sabbath but wrong in doing so at the expense of redemption. To be a symbol of a divine-human relationship the Sabbath does not have to cease being a symbol of redemption. Sanctification and redemption are not mutually exclusive but equally included, both in the meaning of the Sabbath and in the work of Christ. A valuable critique to Richardsonís book is offered by Roy Branson, Fritz Guy and Earle Hilgert, "Toward an American Theology: A Symposium on an Important Book," Andrews University Seminary Studies 7 (1969): 1-16. 

5. See C. K. Barrett, in "The Eschatology of the Epistle to the Hebrews," in The Background of the New Testament and its Eschatology, D. Daube and W. D. Davies, eds., 1956, p. 365. The tension can be seen, for example, in the description of the church as living "at the end of the age" (9:26; 1:2) and yet "eagerly waiting for him [Christ]" (9:28; 2:10). 

6. Note that the term katapausis is used in the Septuagint to designate the rest of the Sabbath. Cf. Ex. 35:2; II Macc. 15:1. 

7. Plutarch, De Superstitione 3 and Moralia 166a; Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 23, 3; Epiphanius, Adversus haereses 30, 2, 2; Martyrium Petri et Pauli 1; Constitutions of the Holy Apostles 2, 36, 2. For a treatment of the question, see 0. Hofius, Katapausis, Tiibingen, 1970, pp. 103-105. 

8. W. Rordorf emphasizes the Christological implication of "Today": "We shall misunderstand the burden of the passage if we do not hear in it the decisive significance of the ĎToday.í The new day of the ĎTodayí has dawn in Christ (v. 7). On this new day it is possible to enter into the rest, and yet more: on this new day this rest has become a reality for those who believe" (Sunday, 1968, p. 112). Note also the similarity with the "Today" of Luke 4:21 and John 9:4. 

9. Gerhard von Rad, "There Remains Still a Rest for the People of God," in The Problem of the Hexateuch and Other Essays, 1965, p. 102. A similar view is expressed by Karl Barth: "From creationópreceding and superseding every human decision of obedience or disobedienceó there remains (apoleipetai) for the people of God the Sabbath rest (sabbatismos), the divinely willed and ordered fellowship, relationship and agreement between His own and human freedom as the goal and determination of the way to which this people continually have to be recalled, to which God never wearies to recall them, and to which, at the end and climax of that intercourse, He has definitively recalled them in His Son (Heb. 4:9)" (Church Dogmatics ET, 1958, III, part 1, p. 227). 

10. Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man, 1952, p. 23. 

11. Gerhard von Rad traces the development of the theme of "rest" in the OT from national-political to personal-spiritual experience (see n. 9, pp. 94-102). Ernst Jenni maintains that the Sabbath contributed to the development of the theme of Israelís rest (Die theologische Begriindung des Sabbatgebotes im Alten Testament, 1956, p. 282). 

12. Theodore Friedman, "The Sabbath: Anticipation of Redemption," Judaism 16 (1967): 445. Friedman notes that "at the end of the Mishnah Tamid (Rosh Hashanah 31a) we read: ĎA Psalm, a song for the Sabbath dayóa song for the time-to-come, for the day that is all Sabbath rest in the eternal life.í The Sabbath, the Gemara asserts, is one-sixtieth of the world to come" (ibid., p. 443). 

13. For examples, see Theodore Friedman (n. 12): cf. Rosh Hashanah 31a; Mekilta Ex. 31:13; Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 19; A both de R. Nathan I. 

14. Sanhedrin 97a. 

15. Vita Adae et Evae 51:1, 2, in The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, R. H. Charles, ed., 1913, II, p. 153. Cf. Apocalypsis of Mosis 43 :3. A similar view is found in Genesis Rabbah 17:5: "There are three antitypes: the antitype of death is sleep, the antitype of prophecy is dream, the antitype of the age to come is the Sabbath." Cf. Genesis Rabbah 44:17. 

16. R. Longenecker points out that in the OT "greater emphasis is given to a description of the Age itself than to Godís anointed instrument who will usher in that Age. While sections and chapters are devoted to the former (e.g., Is. 26-29; 40ff.; Ezek. 40-48; Dan. 12; Joel 2:28-3:21), definite references to the latter are confined, in the main, to a few specific verses (e.g., Is. 9:6f; Micah 5:2; Zech. 9:9)" (The Christology of Early Jewish Christianity, 1970, pp. 63-64). 

17. II Baruch 29:3, in Charles (n. 15), p. 497, emphasis supplied. Similarly in IV Ezra 8:52, the seer is assured: "For you is opened Paradise, planted the Tree of life; the future Age prepared, plenteousness made ready; a City builded, a Rest appointed" in Charles (n. 15), p. 598, emphasis supplied. See also references above, n. 13. 

18. Mishna Tamid 7:4. The viewing of the Sabbath as the symbol and anticipation of the Messianic age gave to the celebration of the weekly Sabbath a note of gladness and hope for the future. Cf. Genesis Rabbat 17; 44; Baba Berakot 57f. Theodore Friedman shows how certain Sabbath regulations established by the school of Shammai were designed to offer a foretaste of the Messianic age (n. 12, pp. 447-452). 

19. Harold H. P. Dressler aptly remarks: "Trained by the regular recurrence of this gracious gift, Israel was able to stand in freedom, responsibility, trust and gratitude before her Creator on the Sabbath day, worshipping him, the Lord of the Sabbath, and looking forward with joy and anticipation to the coming of the final rest" ("The Sabbath in the Old Testament," [n. 3], p. 32). 

20. Niels-Erik Andreasen argues that the "remembrance clause" ("you shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt"óDeut. 5:15a) does not constitute the real reason for Sabbathkeeping since structurally the sentence is not preceded by the preposition "for" (as in Ex. 20:lla) but is placed in parallelism with the previous sentence of vv. 13-14 (Rest and Redemption, 1978), pp. 49-50). Nicola Negretti, though he recognizes the "parallelistic arrangement," shows in his structural analysis that the "conclusion Ďthereforeíó Ďal kení does represent "the conscious effort to link the Sabbath to the theme of the exodus" (Il Settimo Giorno, Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1973, p. 132). Negrettiís conclusion is supported by the fact that the same "remembrance clause" is explicitly given in Deuteronomy as the reason for emancipating slaves in the sabbatical year (15:15), for celebrating the feast of weeks (16:12), and for doing justice to the underprivileged (24:17-18, 21-22). 

21. Hans Walter Wolff, "The Day of Rest in the Old Testament," Concordia Theological Monthly, 43 (1972): 500. 

22. Niels-Erik Andreasen (n. 20), p. 52. 

23. Ibid. 

24. In a passage of the Talmud, the seventh day, the seventh year and the seventh millennium are interrelated as follows: "R. Kattina said: "Six thousand years shall the world exist, and one [thousand, the seventh], it shall be desolate, as it is written, And the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day . . . Just as the seventh year is one year of release in seven, so is the world: one thousand years out of seven shall be fallow, as it is written, A Psalm and a song for the Sabbath day [Ps. 92:1], meaning the day that is altogether Sabbath" (Sanhedrin 976, trans. by H. Freedman, 1935, II, p. 657). 

25. II Chronicles 36:21 mentions the non-observance of the sabbatical years. There are, however, some historical allusions to the keeping of the annual sabbaths (Josephus, Antiquities 11, 86; 14, 10, 6; 15, 1, 2; I Macc. 6:49-53; Tacitus, Histories 5, 2, 4). Cf. Jer. 34; Neh. 10:32; 2 King 19:29; Is. 37:30. 5. W. Baron argues in favor of the existence and influence of the Sabbath and jubilee legislation (A Social and Religious History of the Jews, 1952, I, pp. 332-333). Similarly, Edward Neufeld, "Socio-economic background of Yobel and Shemitta," Rivista degli Studi Orientali 38 (1958): 119-124; J. H. Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 1972, pp. 69-70. We concur with Robert B. Sloanís statement: "The popular clamor, prophetic remonstrances, and eschatological appeal surrounding this ordinance serve to illustrate both its continuing fecundity throughout the history of Israel and its apparently simultaneous lack of regular, consistent enforcement" (The Favorable Year of the Lord. A Study of Jubilary Theology in the Gospel of Luke, 1977, p. 27). 

26. Robert B. Sloan (n. 25), p. 37 notes that "of the approximately fifty instances of aphesis in the LXX, 22 are found in Lev. 25 and 27 where it translates in most cases the Hebrew yobel Ďyear of jubileeí and in other cases, most notably Lev. 25 :10, it is used to translate deror Ďrelease.í" 

27. See, Rudolf Bultmann, "aphesis," Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 1974, I, p. 511: "The noun aphesis almost always means Ďforgiveness.í" 

28. Julian Morgenstern maintains that "In all likelihood the Ďgreat trumpetí (Is. 27:13), a blast from which would inaugurate a new and happier era for conquered and dispersed Israel, was a yobel. All this suggests cogently that the ramís-horn trumpet was of unusual character, used only upon extraordinary occasions and for some particular purpose (cf. Ex. 19:136). . . This year acquired its name just because this unique, fiftieth year was ushered in by this blast upon the yobel whereas the commencement of ordinary years was signalized by a blast upon only a shophar (II Sam. 15:10; cf. Lev. 23 :24)" (The Interpreterís Dictionary of the Bible, 1962, s.v. "Jubilee, Year of," II, p. 1001). 

29. C. D. Ginsburg notes the connection between the Day of Atonement and the inauguration of the jubilee year. In his comment on Leviticus 25:9, he writes: "On the close of the great Day of Atonement, when the Hebrews realized that they had peace of mind, that their heavenly Father had annulled their sins, and that they had become re-united to Him through His forgiving mercy, every Israelite was called upon to proclaim throughout the land, by nine blasts of the cornet, that he too had given to soil rest, that he had freed every encumbered family estate, and that he had given liberty to every slave, who was now to rejoin his kindred. Inasmuch as God has forgiven his debts, he also is to forgive others" (Leviticus, in Ellicottís Commentary on the Whole Bible, I, p. 454). Cf. Robert B. Sloan (n. 25), p. 15. 

30. Rousas John Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, 1973, p. 141. 

31. Even if one takes the "seven weeks" of Daniel 9:25 as an independent unit, it would still consist of one jubilee. It is more feasible, however, to take v. 24 as a summary of the whole time period. See Andre Lacocque, The Book of Daniel, 1979, p. 191. 

32. For an excellent exegetical analysis of Daniel 9:24-27, bringing out the Messianic eschatology of the passage, see Jacques Doukhan, "The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9: An Exegetical Study," Andrews University Seminary Studies 17 (1979): 1-22. 

33. On the rabbinic and Qumranic eschatological interpretation of Isaiah 61:1-3, see James A. Sanders, "From Isaiah 61 to Luke 4," in Christianity, Judaism and Other Greco-Roman Cults, Jacob Neusner, ed., 1975, pp. 82-92. Further examples and discussions are provided by I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, 1978, p. 182. 

34. The text is translated and analyzed by Joseph A. Fitzmyer, in "Further Light on Melchizedek from Qumran Cave 11," Journal of Biblical Literature 86 (1967): 25-41. See also M. Miller, "The Function of Isa. 61:1-2 in 11Q Melchizedek," Journal of Biblical Literature 88 (1969): 467-469. 

35. The translation is by Fitzmyer (n. 34), p. 28. The dependency upon Daniel 9:25 is explicit in line 18 which reads "and the herald i[s] [th]at [An]ointed One (about) whom Dani[iel] said . . ." 

36. Sanhedrin 97b. For other references and discussion, see George Wesley Buchanan, "Sabbatical Eschatology," Christian News From Israel, 18 (December 1967): 51-54. 

37. Abraham Joshua Heschel (n. 10), p. 68. Similarly Jacob Fichman writes "When the hour of the Sabbath-welcome arrives, there is felt a kind of foretaste of the promised Redemption, even as with every out-going of the Sabbath there is a feeling of the renewal of the enslavement, of the gloom ahead," (quoted by Abraham E. Millgram, Sabbath. The Day of Delight, 1944, p. 391). 

38. The fundamental role of the passage has been recognized by many scholars. Hans Conzelmann affirms: "Luke 4:18 is one of the programmatic passages which describe the ministry of Jesus in the words of the Septuagint" (The Theology of St. Luke, 1960, p. 221). Similarly Gunther Bornkamm says: "The evangelist Luke has expressly set down the relevant word of the prophet as the governing text of all Jesusí works" (Jesus of Nazareth, 1940, p. 75). 

39. Most scholars view Lukeís account of the Nazareth address as being a Lucan redaction of Mark 6:1-6. For examples, see I. Howard Marshall (n. 33), p. 179. Thus Christís speech would have been delivered not at the beginning but sometime later in His ministry. W. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark, 1974, p. 201, n. 2, however, argues in favor of two different visits to Nazareth. The latter appears plausible espeially since the Sabbath healings of the demon-possessed in the synagogue of Capernaum and of Simonís mother-in-law, which in Luke follow the Nazareth visit, are placed by Mark at the outset of Christís ministry (Mark 1:21-31). 

40. M. M. B. Turner, "The Sabbath, Sunday and the Law in Luke-Acts," (n. 3), p. 147 manuscript. Cf. I. H. Marshall (n. 33), p. 181. 

41. Ibid. 

42. See W. Grundmann, Das Evangelium nach Lukas, 1961, p. 120; K. H. Rengstorf, Das Evangelium nach Lukas, 1969, p. 67. 

43. On the influence of the synagogue upon the Christian divine service, see C. W. Dugmore, The Influence of the Synagogue upon the Divine Office, 1964; A. Allan McArthur, The Evolution of the Christian Year, 1953; Dom Benedict Steuart, The Development of Christian Worship, 1953. 

44. Luke 4:16, 31; 6:1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 9; 13:10, 14, 15, 16; 14:1, 3, 5; 23:54, 56; Acts 1:12; 13:14, 27, 42, 44; 15:21; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4. 

45. A number of scholars recognize in this text Lukeís concern to show that the community observed the Sabbath. Cf. I. H. Marshall (n. 33), p. 883; F. Godet, A Commentary on the Gospel of Saint Luke, 1870, II, p. 343; A. R. Leaney, A Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Luke, 1966, p. 288. The same view is implied by the translators of the New International Version: "Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment" (Luke 23:56). 

46. See above n. 39. 

47. The two crucial terms of the passage are "to proclaim" and "release." Both of these terms, which recur twice, are technical terms for the Sabbath years. For an informative treatment of this question, see Robert B. Sloan (n. 25), pp. 3242. P. Miller rightly notes: "The tie that binds Isaiah 61:1-2 and 58:6 together in Luke 4 is the small word aphesis, the word translated "release" for the captives and "liberty" for the oppressed . ... it is the catchword binding the two quotations together. Out of the four sentences in Isaiah 58:6 that all say essentially the same thing, the one chosen here in the gospel quotation is the one that in the Greek translation uses aphesis" ("Luke 4:16-21," Interpretation 29 [October, 1975]: 419). 

48. H. Conzelmann (n. 38), p. 180. See also n. 38; Robert B. Sloan (n. 25), p. 49. Similarly G. B. Caird points out that Luke "places the incident at the beginning of his story of the Galilean ministry, because it announces the pattern which the ministry is to follow" (Saint Luke, 1963, p. 86). Robert C. Tannehill also writes: "These words and acts (Luke 4:16-30) have typical programmatic significance for the whole of Jesusí ministry as Luke understands it . . . Luke chose to make this quotation [Luke 4:18-19] the title under which the whole ministry of Jesus is placed. He did so because it expresses clearly certain important aspects of his own understanding of Jesus and his ministry" ("The Mission of Jesus according to Lukc 4:16-30," in Jesus in Nazareth, 1972, pp. 51, 72). 

49. A. Strobel argues that behind Christís quotation lay an actual historical jubilee year which is dated in A.D. 26-27 (Kerygma und Apokalyptik, 1967, p. 105-111). If this were the case, then Christís speech would have added significance since it would have been delivered in the context of an actual jubilee year. 

50. P. K. Jewett, The Lordís Day, 1072, p. 27. W. Rordorf similarly comments: "By means of this quotation from the prophet, Lukeís Gospel does therefore describe the effect of Jesusí coming as the inauguration of the sabbath year" (Sunday, 1968, p. 110). Cf. W. J. Harrington, A Commentary, The Gospel according to St. Luke, 1967, p. 134. 

51. R. J. Banks maintains that "the theme of his Gospel, that is announced at Nazareth in Luke 4: 16f. and is reiterated during the Resurrection appearances in 24 :44ff., ... fashions the material related to the Law. In these passages the saving ministry of Jesus is presented as the Ďfulfilmentí of all that was promised to Israel and this is the thrust of the legal material in Luke as well" (Jesus and the Law in the Synoptic Tradition, 1975, p. 248). 

52. Roger T. Beckwith correctly points out that "if Jesus regarded the sabbath as purely ceremonial and purely temporary, it is remarkable that in all he teaches about it he never mentions its temporary character. This is even more remarkable when one remembers that he emphasizes the temporary character of other parts of the Old Testament ceremonialóthe laws of purity in Mark 7:14-23 and Luke 11:39-41, and the temple (with its sacrifices) in Mark 13:2 and John 4:21. By contrast, as we have already seen, he seems in Mark 2:27 to speak of the sabbath as one of the unchanging ordinances for all mankind" (This is the Day, 1978, p. 26). 

53. M. M. B. Turner (n. 40), p. 147-148 manuscript. 

54. Ibid., p. 148. 

55. I. H. Marshall (n. 33), p. 185. P. K. Jewett also remarks, "Jesus commented on this Scripture, which speaks of the age of the Messiah in the language of the Sabbatical Year, telling the people that on that day the prophetís words were fulfilled in their ears (Luke 4:17-21)" (n. 49, p. 27, emphasis supplied). 

56. P. Miller, see quotation in n. 47. 

57. D. A. Carson, "Jesus and the Sabbath in the Four Gospels," (n. 3), p. 74. 

58. Matt. 12:1-8, 9-14; 24:20; Mark 1:21-28; 2:23-28; 3:1-6; Luke 4: 16-30, 31-37, 38-39; 6:1-5, 6-11; 13:10-17; 14:1-6; John 5:2-18; 7:21-24; 9:1-41. 

59. In From Sabbath to Sunday, 1977, p. 35, I wrote: "This work of clarifying the intent behind the commandments was a dire necessity, since with the accumulation of traditions in many cases their original function had been obscured. As Christ put it, ĎYou have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition Ií (Mark 7:9). The fifth commandment, for instance, which enjoins to Ďhonor your father and your mother,í according to Christ, had been made void through the tradition of the Corban (Mark 7:12-13). This apparently consisted of translating a service or obligation to be rendered to oneís parents, into a gift to be given to the temple. The Sabbath command- 

ment was no exception and, unless liberated from many senseless casuistic restrictions, would have remained a system for self-righteousness rather than a time for loving the Creator-Redeemer and oneís fellow beings." 

60. Harald Riesenfeld, The Gospel Tradition, 1970, p. 118. 

61. G. B. Caird, Saint Luke, 1963, p. 171. Cf. also W. Grundmann, Das Evangelium nach Lukas, 1961, pp. 278-281. 

62. P. K. Jewett (n. 50), p. 42. 

63. C. F. Evans, "Sabbath," A Theological Word Book of the Bible, 

1959, p. 205. 

64. This view is expressed, for example, by M. M. B. Turner who writes: "There is no question here of the Sabbath being particularly appropriate for such healing, any more than it is particularly appropriate on that day to loose oxen and donkey from their crib and to water them. The argument, in other words, is not that the Sabbath is a special day, in this respect, but precisely that it is not. The inbreaking kingdom, the loosing of Satanís captives, is no respecter of days" (n. 40, p. 107). The same view is held by D. A. Carson (n. 58), p. 72. Carsonís argument that Jesus healed the woman not because it was appropriate to the Sabbath, but because of "His concern to be getting on with His mission" creates an unjustifiable tension between Christís mission and the meaning of the Sabbath. Luke gives no hint that Christ is impatient to get on with His ministry in spite of the Sabbath but rather that He acted intentionally ("ought not"óv. 16) because it was Sabbath. Note that Christ postponed "mass" healings until after the Sabbath (Luke 4:40-41; Mark 1:32). He healed some specific chronic individuals to challenge prevailing misconceptions and thus to clarify the meaning of the Sabbath and of His mission. 

65. Nathan A. Barack correctly affirms: "The Sabbath inspires its beneficiaries to feel that the universe is the work of a purposeful Creator, that human life has meaning and sanctity, that all life must be preserved, and that even animals must be provided with their necessary rest" (A History of the Sabbath, 1965, p. XII). 

66. Robert Banks (n. 51), p. 131 comments in this regard: "Luke desires to highlight those works of Jesus which bring salvation and healing to men, which as v. 16 makes clear, especially occur on that day." Similarly I. H. Marshall (n. 33), p. 559, writes: Hence it was necessary for her to be released immediately, even though it was Sabbath, perhaps indeed all the more fitting on the Sabbath," Cf. also above ns. 61, 62, 63. 

67. Samuele Bacchiocchi, "John 5 :17: Negation or Clarification of the Sabbath?," in The Sabbath in the New Testament (1995), pp.280-296. See also my treatment in From Sabbath to Sunday, 1967, pp. 38-48. 

68. See, for example, George Allen Turner, Julius R. Mantey, 0. Cullmann, E. C. Hoskyns, and F. Godet in loco. 

69. Emphasis supplied. 

70. A. T. Lincoln, "Sabbath, Rest and Eschatology in the New Testament," (n. 3), p. 204. 

71. A. Corell emphasizes the connection between the nature of the divine works and the meaning of the Sabbath, saying: "Indeed, it was by an appeal to the nature of his works that Jesus refuted the Jews when they accused him of breaking the SabbathóíMy Father worketh even until now and I workí (v. 17). Thus he pointed out that, while the Law of Moses forbade that men should do their own work on the Sabbath, it could in no wise forbid or prevent the accomplishment of Godís work on that day. He, himself, had come to do the works of God . . . which, being of eschatological significance, belonged to the Sabbath in a very special way . . . Indeed, his very doing of these things was a sure sign that the real Sabbath of fulfilment had come" (Consummatum Est, 1957, p. 63). Cf. John Murray, Principles of Conduct, 1957, p. 33. 

72. D. A. Carson fails to recognize the redemptive function of the Sabbath brought out by Christ in this (John 7:23) and similar statements (Matt. 12:5-6; Luke 13:16), and consequently, he disclaims any link between the Sabbath and Jesusí redemptive mission (n. 57, p. 82). He further concludes that "John, by taking the discussion into Christological and eschatological realms, does not deal explicitly with the question of whether or not Christians are to observe the weekly Sabbath" (ibid.). Such a conclusion fails to note that the discussion of "Christological and eschatological realms" takes place not without but within the intended meaning of the Sabbath. Moreover, is not Jesusí example of Sabbathkeeping paradigmatic for Christians? 0. Cullmann ably shows that "John reveals a tendency in accounts of all events of Christís life to trace the line from the Jesus of history to the Christ of the community and his chief interest is in connection with early Christian worship" (Early Christian Worship, 1966, p. 91; cf. p. 59). This suggests that the sabbatical sayings of 5 :17 and 9:4 were reported by John to justify the understanding and practice of the Sabbath rest of the community: a day to experience Godís redemptive working by ministering to the needs of others. This conclusion is indirectly supported by a number of recent studies which argue convincingly for a Palestinian provenance of Johnís Gospel. The numerous linguistic and conceptual similarities which have been established between Johnís interpretation of Christ and the Old Testament portrayal of Moses are taken as evidence of Johnís effort to present Christ to Palestinian Jewish communities, in terms of their expectations of the Messiah as a "Prophet-like-Moses." (A valuable survey of studies is provided by F. Lamar Cribbs, in "The ĎProphet-like-Mosesí Import of the Johannine ĎEgo Eimií Sayings," a paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, New Orleans, Louisiana, November 21, 1978). If John utilizes the accepted figure and authority of Moses to prove Christís true Messiahship to Palestinian Jews, then he could hardly have intended to negate Mosaic instructions regarding the Sabbath when he reported what Jesus said and did on such a day. This is further borne out by the fact that to justify the Sabbath works and words of Christ, appeal is made in John 5 specifically to the authority of the "Scriptures" (v. 39) and of Moses himself: "It is Moses who accuses you, . . . If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me" (vv. 45-46). For a treatment on the Palestinian Christiansí attachment to Sabbathkeeping, see my study From Sabbath to Sunday, pp. 132-164. 

73. Ellen White expresses this view, saying: "Upon one Sabbath day, as the Savior and His disciples returned from the place of worship, they passed through a field of ripening grain" (The Desire of Ages, 1940, p. 284). D. A. Carson interprets the episode as "a leisurely Sabbath afternoon stroll" (n. 57, p. 67). This interpretation reflects contemporary customs but hardly harmonizes with the travel restrictions (Sabbath dayís journey of 2/3 of a mile) existing at that time. 

74. This argument is well stated by Ellen White: "If it was right for David to satisfy his hunger by eating of the bread that had been set apart to a holy use then it was right for the disciples to supply their need by plucking the grain upon the sacred hours of the Sabbath" (n. 73, p. 285). 

75. M. M. B. Turner (n. 40), p. 150. Cf. Robert Banks (n. 51), pp. 115-116; M. D. Hooker, The Son of Man in Mark, 1967, p. 97, similarly argues on the basis of the "special position" enjoyed by David and Christ. 

76. See Willy Rordorf (n. 8), p. 61. My response to Rordorfís argument is given in From Sabbath to Sunday, pp. 50-61. 

77. Note that later the Church of Rome did turn the Sabbath from a day of feasting into a day of fasting in order to put an end to its festive and religious significance. The question is treated at length in my study (n. 76), pp. 185-198. 

78. D. A. Carson (n. 57), pp. 66-67. 

79. Willy Rordorf frankly admits: "Subsequent reflection leads us to notice that all the scriptural passages which the Church adduced in order to justify Jesusí infringements of the sabbath refer to priestly functions which have precedence over the sabbath. In the story of David eating the shewbread (in I Sam 21:1-7) it is, in fact, the priest who, above all, does something forbidden when, in answer to Davidís request, he gives him the shewbread to eat" (n. 8, p. 114). 

80. Rousas John Rushdoony observes that "forgiveness is a basic aspect of the sabbath." He argues that the petition of the Lordís Prayer "forgive our debts" derives from the cancellation of debts of the Sabbath years (n. 30, pp. 140-141). Several scholars share the same view. See, for example, Robert B. Sloan (n. 26), pp. 139-140; Ernst Lohmeyer, Das Vater-unser, 1946, p. 112 f.; F. Charles Fensham, "The Legal Background of Mt. 6: 12," Novum Testamentum 4 (1960): 1-2. 

81. Ellen White (n. 73), p. 285. 

82. See, for example, D. M. Cohn-Sherbok, "An Analysis of Jesusí Arguments Concerning the Plucking of Grain on the Sabbath," Journal for the Study of the New Testament 2 (1979): 31-41 Cf. D. A. Carson (n. 56), p. 126 manuscript. 

83. Robert Banks (n. 51), p. 117. Cf. Morna D. Hooker, The Son of Man in Mark, 1967, p. 98; P. K. Jewett (n. 49), p. 37; Niels-Erik Andreasen (n. 20), p. 99. 

84. D. A. Carson (n. 57), p. 67. 

85. Ibid., p. 66. Cf. W. Rordorf (n. 8), pp. 70, 296. 

86. David Hill stresses this function of Christís question reported in Matthew 12:5: "The verse provides a precedent for the action of the disciples within the Law itself, and therefore places Jesus securely within the Law" (The Gospel of Matthew, 1972, p. 211). 

87. This view is emphatically stated by Etan Levine: "The Pharisees are not being told that the Sabbath injunctions should be abrogated; rather, within their own realm of discourse they are being reminded that plucking grain on the Sabbath is legitimate for sacred purposes. Thus, Jesus does not abrogate the Torah, but exercises his prerogative to interpret it, in this case defining the Ďsacredí in term other than the Temple ritual, as the text explicitly states" ("The Sabbath Controversy According to Matthew," New Testament Studies 22 [1976]: 482). Similarly William L. Lane writes: "The divine intention was in no way infringed by the plucking of heads of grain on the part of Jesusí disciples" (The Gospel according to Mark, 1974, p. 120). 

88. The connection is recognized by W. Rordorf (n. 8), p. 109; J. Daniélou, Bible and Liturgy, 1956, p. 226; David Hill (n. 85), pp. 209-210. 

89. D. A. Carson (n. 57), p. 59. 

90. J. C. Fenton links Christís rest with the Sabbath rest of the expected Messianic age: "By those who labour and are heavy-laden is probably meant those who find the Law, as it was expounded by the Scribes and Pharisees, too difficult to keep. I will give you rest: The weekly Sabbath rest was thought of as an anticipation of the final rest of the messianic age" (The Gospel of Matthew, 1963, p. 187). 

91. M. Maher provides examples and a helpful treatment in "Take My Yoke Upon YouóMatt. 11:29," New Testament Studies 22 (1976): 97-103. 

92. Pirke Aboth 3:5; cf. 6:2; Sirach 51:26. 

93. Cf. Galatians 5:1: "yoke of slavery." Later Christians used the term "yoke" to refer to Christís new Law, grace or word. See, for example, Epistles of Barnabas 2, 6; I Clement 16, 17; Justin Martyrís, Dialogue with Trypho 53, 1. 

94. M. Maher (n. 90), p. 99. 

95. Jacob Jervell convincingly shows that Lukeís references to the mass conversions which are distributed "carefully throughout his account" are intended to show that the Christian mission to the Jews was successful (Luke and the People of God. A New Look at Luke-Acts, 1972, pp. 41-69). 

96. Hans Walter Wolff notes the connection between the divine rest of creation and of redemption. Commenting on Godís creation rest, Wolff writes: "We are able to comprehend this fully only in the light of Jesus Christís exhaustion in His work of redemption, as it is expressed in His cry: ĎIt is finished.í In offering up Himself, God gave us everything" (n. 21, p. 501). 

97. D. A. Carson keenly notes that "Matthew does not introduce any Sabbath controversy until almost half way through his Gospel; but when he suddenly inserts two Sabbath pericopae (Matt. 12:1-14), he places them immediately after Jesusí invitation to the burdened and weary to find rest in his easy yoke. As if such a justaposition were not enough, Matthew then carefully points out that the Sabbath conflicts occurred Ďat that timeíópresumably at or near the time when Jesus had spoken of his rest. This is as much as to say that the rest he offers infinitely surpasses the rest which the Pharisees wanted the people to observe" (n. 57, p. 74). 

98. A. T. Lincoln rightly explains, "The linking of katapausis [rest] in LXX Ps. 94:11 with the divine rest at creation is facilitated by the fact that the cognate verb is used in the LXX of Gen. 2:2 (and God restedó katepausen . . .) and that katapausis itself is used of Sabbath rest in Ex. 35:2; II Macc. 15:1" (n. 70, p. 209). 

99. Among the commentators who view the fulfilment of the Sabbath rest to be exclusively future are: E. Knsemann, 0. Michel, H. Windisch, W. Manson, F. F. Bruce, F. Delitzsch, R. C. H. Lenski, in loco; cf. also G. von Rad (n. 9), pp. l01f. 

100. See, A. T. Lincoln (n. 70), p. 212. 

101. The question of whether the recipients of Hebrews were Gentile or Jewish Christians is still debated. For a discussion of this problem see W. G. Kummel, Introduction to the New Testament, 1975, pp. 398-401. 

102. H. C. Kee, F. W. Young and K. Froehlich note: "The entire doctrinal part of the Letter (chapter 1:1-10:18) could be seen as arguing against Christian tendencies to make the Jewish sacrificial cult respectable again as a tool to gain access to God in the wake of the new interest in cult, liturgy, sacrament, and effective forms of worship" (Understanding the New Testament, 1973, p. 300). Similarly Bruce M. Metzger remarks: "Many of them felt themselves drawn to Jewish liturgy, and were on the point of renouncing Christianity and returning to their ancestral Jewish faith" (The New Testament. Its Background, Growth, and Content, 1965, p. 249). 

103. George Wesley Buchanan, To the Hebrews, 1972, pp. 72-75. 

104. The pre-eminent study is by E. Kasemann, Das wandernde Gottesyolk, 1938. For a recent treatment of this question, see W. G. Johnsson, "The Pilgrimage Motif in the Book of Hebrews." Journal of Biblical Literature 97 (1978): 239-251. In my view, A. T. Lincoln offers a valid criticism of the application of the pilgrimage motif to the "rest" of Hebrews. He writes: "The model of the church as a company of wanderers on a journey to a distant heavenly resting place, reflected in the title of Kasemannís study of Hebrews, Das wandernde Gottesyolk, when it has been applied to this passage, has misled too many commentr irs into supposing the rest is entirely future. Whatever truth there may be to this model, it does not reflect accurately the situation of the people of God depicted in our passage. As 3:16-19 make clear, the setting which the writer has in mind for Israel in the wilderness is that recorded in Num.14 and the Numbers passage influences his interpretation throughout. In Num. 14 the wilderness generation are not in the midst of their wandering but stand right on the verge of entry into the promised land, having arrived at the goal of their pilgrimage. It is this which provides the comparison with the NT people of God. Both groups stand directly before the fulfilment of Godís promise" (n. 70, p. 211). 

105. S. Kistemaker emphasizes the significance of the use of the present tense, saying: "The author does not employ the future tense, nor does he say, Ďwe are sure to enter.í By placing eiserkometha [Ďwe enterí] emphatically first in the sentence, he wishes to affirm that Godís promise has become reality in accordance with His plan and purpose" (The Psalm Citations in the Epistle to the Hebrews, 1961, p. 109). Hugh Montefiore offers a similar comment: "The Greek text means neither that they are certain to enter, nor that they will enter, but that they are already in the process of entering" (The Epistle to the Hebrews, 1964, p. 83). Cf. C. K. Barret (n. 5), p. 372. This interpretation clarifies, as noted by W. Rordorf, "the decisive significance of ĎToday.í The new day of the ĎTodayí has dawned in Christ (v. 7). On this new day it is possible to enter into the rest, and yet more: on this new day this rest has become a reality for those who believe" (n. 8, p. 112). Note the similarity with the "today" of Luke 4:19 and John 9:4. 

106. A. T. Lincoln (n. 70), pp. 209-212. 

107. Harald Riesenfeld expresses this view. Speaking of the Sabbath, he writes: "Jesus made it appear that that same law had completed its function and belonged to the pastóto be succeeded by a higher and better reality" (The Gospel Tradition, 1970, p. 121). 

108. This argument is developed especially by A. T. Lincoln (n. 70), pp. 333-334 manuscript. 

109. Translation by E. J. Goodspeed, The Apostolic Fathers, 1950, pp. 4041. 

110. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 80, 81; Tertullian, Against Marcion 3, 24; Hippolytus, Commentary on Daniel IV, 23, 4-6; Cyprian, Ad Fortunatum 2; Augustine, Sermons 259, 2 and City of God 20, 7, 1; Victorinus, On the Creation of the World 6; Lactantius, Divine Ins titutions 7. 

111. V Ezra 2 :24, 34; Origen, Against Celsus 6, 61; also Sermon on Numbers 23, 4; Eusebius, Commentary on Psalms 91; Jerome, Commentary on Ezekiel VI (on 20:10); Chrysostom, Sermons on Hebrews 6, 1 (on ch. 4); Augustine, Epistle 55; City of God 22, 30; Sermons 9. 3; Bede, Commentary on Genesis 2:3 (CCL 118A, 35); Rabanus Maurus, Commentary on Genesis 1:9 (PL 107, 465); Peter Lombard, Sentences 3, 37, 2 (PL 192, 831); a similar eschatological interpretation is found in Otto of Lucca, Sentences 4, 3 (PL 176, 122); Martin of Leon, Sermons 15 (PL 208, 782). Cf. John Calvin, Commentary on Hebrews 4:10 and Institutes of Christian Religion 2, 8, 30. P. K. Jewett (n. 50, p. 83: "The fulfilment of the Sabbath rest which we have in Christ is not only a present reality, but also a future hope . . . The principle of the Sabbath, then, is both an Old Testament ceremonialism which has been fulfilled and done away in Christ and at the same time a permanent interpretive category of redemptive history, having definite eschatological implications"; cf. Harald Riesenfeld (n. 60), p. 133; 0. Cullmann, "Sabbat und Sonntag nach dem Johannes-Evangelium," In Memoriam Ernst Lohmeyer, 1951, pp. 127-131; especially J. Daniélou, "La typologie millenariste de la semain dans le christianisme primitif," Vigiliae Christianae 2 (1948):1-16; recently, R. T. Beckwith (n. 52), p. 12. 

112 For examples and discussion of the spiritual interpretation of the Sabbath Commandment, see W. Rordorf (n. 8), pp. 100-108; Franz X. Pettirsch also notes: "The early fathers of the Church applied the law of Sabbath rest only allegorically to abstention from sin; a literal application to work was foreign to their thinking" ("A Theology of Sunday Rest," Theology Digest 6 [1958]: 116). The author explains how during the Middle Ages the formula "servile work" was interpreted in a literal sense as meaning "field work, any heavy work" (p. 117). The spiritual interpretation of the Sabbath rest as "self-renunciation" is advocated also by John Calvin, in Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses, C.W. Bingham, trans. 1950, p. 436. 

113. A. T. Lincoln, for example, argues that "the new covenant people of God discharge their duty of Sabbath observance, according to this writer [Hebrews], by exercising faith. Thereby they participate in Godís gift of eschatological salvation and cease from their own works which now have not a physical reference but as elsewhere in the NT a salvation connotation, that which this writer in 6:1 (Ďrepentance from dead worksí) and 9:14 (Ďfrom dead worksí) calls dead works" (n. 70, p. 213). 

114. John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, 1972, II, p. 339. 

115. By resting on the Sabbath after the similitude of God (Heb. 4:10), the believer, as Karl Barth puts it, "participates consciously in the salvation provided by him [God]" (Church Dogmatics, ET 1958, III, part 2, p. 50). 

115. F. F. Bruce acknowledges that the redemptive meaning of the Sabbath rest found in Hebrews 4 "is implied by our Lordís words in John 5:17" (The Epistle to the Hebrews, 1974, p. 74). 

116. Augustine, City of God XXII, 30.

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