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Compassion on the Sabbath

Compassion on the Sabbath
By the time of Christ's ministry on Earth, the Pharisees had made a burden of the Sabbath with an endless number of rules. While their objective was to protect the sacredness of the Sabbath, they had created forty categories of activities that were to be avoided on the Sabbath; under each of those were subcategories further outlining these forbidden activities.

For example, walking on green grass was prohibited because that would have been a form of threshing. And in caring for the sick, relieving pain was allowed on the Sabbath, but any action that would cure the disease had to wait until the Sabbath was over.

Jesus, the "Lord of the Sabbath," entered this environment to re-introduce the true purpose of the Sabbath to the world. In Matthew 12, Jesus' disciples were accused of Sabbath-breaking because they picked some grain to eat on their way through a field. In answer to the accusation, Jesus pointed to two Old Testament stories. His first illustration was the time when David fled from Saul and ate of the sanctuary's showbread. According to ceremonial law, the showbread was only for the priests, but David asked for food and the high priest offered him the only food readily available (1 Samuel 21:6).

Jesus went on to describe how the priests themselves worked in the temple on the Sabbath, offering sacrifices, for instance, and yet they were considered innocent of Sabbath-breaking. They were simply doing what was necessary for the worship of God. (See Matthew 12:5.) In defining the true purpose of the Sabbath, Jesus said, "If you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath" (Matthew 12:7, 8).

Going on from there, Jesus illustrated His message of compassion by healing a man with a withered hand. This simple act of healing demonstrated a key principle of the Sabbath: "It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath" (Matthew 12:12). Throughout His ministry, Jesus continued to bring hope and healing to men and women on the Sabbath. (See Matthew 8:12–16 and John 5:1–18.)

As you consider Christ's example, take a moment to read and share this thought-provoking article about what it means to honor the Sabbath by showing compassion and doing good. Click here to get started.