“And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. 24 And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? 25 And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? 26 How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? 27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: 28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath” (Mark 2: 23- 28). “And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. 2 And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. 3 And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. 4 And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. 5 And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. 6 And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him” (Mark 3: 1-6)
Jesus went further and made a general statement concerning the purpose of the Sabbath which is very important and which we should always remember in thinking of the observance of the day. “He said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” The Sabbath is part of God’s plan of love for man. It was not made for him merely as an arbitrary law, without a reason. It is as much a law of his nature, or in harmony with his nature—as is the night, which bids him cease from toil and seek rest and sleep. It was made for his physical nature. Then it was made also for his spiritual good—to give him opportunity, not for physical rest alone—but for communion with God when the noise of business and of toil has ceased. It was made for man, to promote his highest welfare in every regard.
Jesus clearly showed, both by His own example and by His teaching that the Sabbath is never meant to be a burden or to work oppressively. Though work is forbidden on the Sabbath, it is not a violation to prepare food sufficient to meet the hunger of our bodies, to lift a beast out of a pit, or to heal a sick man. Not many people are now disposed, however, to make the Sabbath a heavy burden or a cruel yoke. The tendency is the other way. At the same time it is well to understand just what our Lord taught on this subject. Works of necessity are allowed, even though they may seem to violate the letter of the law. So also are works of mercy, works of benevolence. It will be hard, however, to get out of this great saying of our Lord’s—any excuse for the hundredth part of the secular activities, which men want to bring in under the shield of Christ’s teaching.
Jesus went still further, and asserted His own authority over the day. “The Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.” Therefore He had a right to interpret the laws for its observance. He does not intimate any intention of abolishing the Sabbath. He had just said, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Because the Sabbath was made for man—it came under the Lordship of the Son of man. As Mediator, He had all the interest of humanity committed to His hands. The Sabbath was not to be abolished, for it was part of the very divine constitution which the loving God had ordained for His children. Christ came not to destroy—but to fulfil. He took the Sabbath, therefore, and stripped off the temporary ceremonial regulations, and set aside all the burdensome traditional rules—and then put into it its true spiritual meaning, just as He did to the other commandments in the Sermon on the Mount. Under His touch the Sabbath was made “new” in a sense. The bondage of the letter—gave way to the liberty of the Spirit. He liberated His Church from the oppressive burdens of a rabbinic Sabbath, and made the day one of joy and gladness, a type and foretaste of heaven.
“And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?” In the account of this incident in Matthew’s Gospel (12: 11, 12), we learn that Jesus gave an illustration: “What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? 12 How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.” He appealed to simple common sense. The Jews could not but admit that a man should lift his sheep out of the pit on the Sabbath. Whatever their traditions said about such a case, the practice of the people would be on the merciful line. Now Jesus asked: “How much then is a man better than a sheep?” If it is right to help a sheep out of a pit on the Sabbath—then it surely is right to relieve a human sufferer from his malady on that day.
So we get the lesson that it is right to do good on the Sabbath. It is right for physicians to attend to their patients on that day. It is right for those whose duty it naturally is, to nurse the sick and care for them on the Sabbath. It is right to visit the sick—when we can carry blessing or cheer to them; to visit the afflicted—when we can carry comfort to them; to visit the poor—when we can minister to their needs or relieve their distress; to go out among the unsaved—when we can do anything to bring them to Christ and save their souls; to gather neglected children from the streets and from Christian homes—and bring them to the Sunday school and the Church. Jesus here gives us warrant for many works of mercy on His own holy day.
When Jesus entered the synagogue, there was a man there with a withered hand. The scribes watched very intently to see whether Jesus would heal this man on the Sabbath. He asked the man to stand forth, as if He would cure him; but first asked the scribes whether it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath. They were not willing to commit themselves in answering His question, and after a little while Jesus proceeded to heal the man: “He saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.” Jesus would not let the man suffer because of the criticism of the Jews.
We get a lesson here. We must not be hindered in doing good—by the opposition and the fault-finding of those about us. We must do our good deeds fearlessly, serving Christ regardless of the world’s sneers and hindering. (Extracted from Grace Gems website)