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Did you know?

There were certain laws that governed the Sabbath. They couldn’t do anything that was done in the building of the temple. So that means they couldn’t light a fire or turn anything on; they couldn’t drive a wagon or carry anything in their arms except for religious items used in worship; they had to limit how far they travelled, even on foot. They can’t tear anything, either.

How the Pharisees Viewed the Sabbath

In the Old Testament, Sabbath-breaking was a capital crime.

It was keep the Sabbath holy, or die. Why was breaking the Sabbath such a serious sin in the eyes of God?

God’s purpose was to make Israel a kingdom of priests, set apart, the “first-born” of all His children on earth, a light to the world. Certain behaviors could quickly make Israelite culture just the same as the pagan cultures that surrounded it. God wanted Israel to completely avoid those behaviors.

There were certain laws that governed the Sabbath. They couldn’t do anything that was done in the building of the temple. So that means they couldn’t light a fire or turn anything on; they couldn’t drive a wagon or carry anything in their arms except for religious items used in worship; they had to limit how far they travelled, even on foot. They can’t tear anything, either.

Modern neighborhoods where these Sabbath laws are still kept can be found throughout Israel. Jews cook their meals for the Saturday Sabbath (beginning at sundown Friday night and ending at sundown Saturday night) on Friday. They don’t cook anything at all on Saturdays. Elevators in apartment buildings work automatically and stop at every floor on the Sabbath, so the residents don’t have to push any buttons.

Mosaic law says you can’t walk over 1,000 steps on the Sabbath, so Jews walk 999 or less. That means the synagogue has to be close by. A “ghetto” of Jews grows up around the synagogue. Although the word ‘ghetto’ has a negative connotation, it meant supportive neighbors were always close by. Neighbors upheld the faith traditions of the families around them. It has been said that the easiest way to make Jews lose their religion is for them to drive on the Sabbath. Then they can live anywhere they want, and they gradually “assimilate” into the cultures around them.

Keeping the Sabbath is very serious indeed. In ancient times, punishable by death. But the rabbis could declare something a matter of life and death and excuse breaking the Sabbath to save a person or animal. 

Jesus was trying to teach the people that the Sabbath was made for man; man was not made to serve the Sabbath. He ate and healed and taught on the Sabbath, and everything He did gave life, and that more abundantly. Still, He reverenced the Sabbath, the day to rest in the peace of the Lord.