Chapter 91


The Sabbath Day — The Day of Mercy


“And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him. And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go; And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day? And they could not answer him again to these things.” (Luke 14:1-6)


The Lord God declares by the prophet Isaiah…


“If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

(Isaiah 58:13-14)


            Our all-glorious Savior made the sabbath a delight for many while he was upon the earth, and continues to make the gospel Sabbath, that the old, legal sabbath portrayed, a delight to sinners to this day.


            Christ is our Sabbath; and we find delight in him. When a sinner is turned from his way, from his sin, from the pleasure of his depraved heart, and from this world to the Lord Jesus Christ, finding mercy, grace, salvation, and rest in him, he finds that Christ, in whom he rests, is a delight, a luxury, and that faith in him is an honor. Indeed, all who trust Christ, delight themselves in him, triumph over all their foes in him, and shall at last obtain the full heritage of the heavenly Canaan, called here “the heritage of Jacob.” “For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”


A Sabbath Day Miracle


During the time of our Lord’s earthly ministry, the sabbath day was used as a day for healing. By his example, our Savior displayed that the Old Testament sabbath day was intended and designed by our God to portray this day of grace.


      “And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him” (v. 1). — The Jews commonly held great, lavish feasts on their sabbath day. On this occasion our Lord was invited to the house of one of the chief of the Pharisees, one of the Sanhedrim, one of the primary, best known of that band of self-righteous legalists. Our Lord was not invited to the Pharisee’s house out of courtesy, but because these fine, law-keeping, sabbath-keeping religionists had hatched a plan to trap the Master. So “they watched him.”


            “And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy” (v. 2). — These good, kind religious men baited their trap by setting a certain man before the Savior who had “the dropsy.” Dropsy is an old term for congestive heart failure. This condition is accompanied by swelling, scanty urine, poor appetite, sluggishness, and debility. The swelling usually begins in the feet and ankles and proceeds up the legs towards the abdomen. It is fairly common among diabetics. In addition to the swelling, the bladder functions poorly, a person loses his appetite and becomes very sluggish. His swollen limbs become debilitating. After a while, it becomes obvious that he is terribly sick and will soon die, if something is not done to help him.


            When sulfuric acid is generated in the body, it unites with water and causes the swelling. This produces heat, which expands the capillaries. The pressure forces the serum through the walls of the blood vessels, producing inflammation and dropsy.


            It is interesting that only Luke, the physician, records this miracle performed by our Lord. Perhaps he did so because in his day any man found in the condition of this man was doomed to a slow, painful death. There was no cure for him, at least no cure that could be wrought by the hands of men.


            These men brought this poor, dying wretch to the Pharisee’s house for no other reason than to entrap the Son of God. They cared nothing for him. As religion always does, they were simply using him for their own purposes. But it is written, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain” (Psalm 76:10). And their wrath soon showed forth our Savior’s praise. These devils were but vassals, by whom the Lord of glory was pleased to bring a certain, chosen, dying man to him that he might show in that man the wondrous, saving power of his mercy, love and grace.


            “And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?” (v. 3) — Though they never spoke a word, the Savior answered them. He answered their thoughts. They were not merely dealing with a man. They were not attempting to trick a mere prophet. They were dealing with the God of Glory, trying to lay a trap for the omnipotent, omniscient God, and he lets them know it. The Lord Jesus knew exactly what they were up to. He asked them, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?”


            “And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go” (v. 4). — They held their peace, because they dared not answer. They were trapped by their own trap. They dared not say anything that might show any agreement with the Master. They could not say “yes” without consenting to what he was about to do. And they could not say “no” without denying that works of mercy were permitted on the sabbath day by Moses. Indeed, the sabbath day was designed to portray this great gospel day in which we live, this day of mercy and grace.


            Once the Master had shamed these babblers into silence, he took the man with the dropsy and healed him. He who could dry up the Red Sea, calm the waves of the raging Galilee, and bring water out of a rock had no difficulty drawing a little water from this man’s body. Immediately, the swollen limbs were made whole, perfectly healthy. Then he who was the real Master of Ceremonies in this Pharisee’s house dismissed the man from the table and company and the company of his foes; and he went home perfectly cured.


            What a picture this is of our Savior’s works of grace in chosen, redeemed sinners! — He took him. — He healed him. — He let him go.


            “And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?” (v. 5). — Again, our Master answered the unspoken quibbles of this cruel, merciless, religious crowd that hated him, hated God, and hated men. They were obviously incensed by what he had done, incensed that a poor, dying man was made whole on the sabbath day. Yet, not one of them would allow his own ox or ass to drown on the sabbath day, if he could help it. Our Lord’s obvious, bold insinuation was this: — You gentlemen obviously care much more for your property, for your own beasts than you do for a human being. “And they could not answer him again to these things” (v. 6).


Other Sabbath Miracles


Did you ever notice how often our Lord chose to perform his miracles of mercy upon poor, needy souls on the sabbath day? In the gospels we are given six specific cases of cures wrought on the sabbath day. I need not remind you that man was created on the sixth day. Six is the number of man. Our Lord, by performing these six cures on the sabbath day, seems to be saying, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27).


  1. The case before us in Luke 14 is one.
  2. On the sabbath day our Savior cast the devil out of a man (Luke 4:31-37).
  3. Luke 6 tells us of our Lord healing a man’s withered hand on the sabbath day (Luke 6:6-11).
  4. In Luke 13 our Savior healed a woman who had been plagued with a crippling infirmity for eighteen years (Luke 13:10-17).
  5. In John 5 we see our Savior healing a poor, impotent man, a man who had been impotent for a long, long time (John 5:1-9).
  6. In John 9 our Lord heals a man born blind, again on the sabbath day (John 9:1-14).


      There are three special, very instructive features about all of these six miracles that ought to catch our attention. First, they were all performed on the sabbath day. This day is the day of salvation. Oh, may it be for you the day of salvation. Then, you will call Christ our Sabbath and this his day of grace a delight. Second, each of these wonders was performed by Christ alone. Third, not one of these poor souls sought the Lord’s mercy.


            In every example the Savior was found of them that sought him not (Isaiah 65:1). The possessed man entreated Christ to leave him alone (Luke 4:34). The man with the withered hand did not think of cure (Luke 6:6). The infirm woman had no hope of healing (Luke 13:11). The man with the dropsy did not ask for the blessing (Luke 14:2). The impotent man did not seek Christ (John 5:5). It was a thing unheard of that the eyes of a man born blind should be opened, and, therefore, he did not expect it (John 9:32). But the Lord of the Sabbath is not bound by men. Omnipotent grace is never withered. The arm of the Lord never waits for the will of the sinner (Romans 9:15).


            The Lord Jesus Christ came into this world to save chosen sinners; and save them he will. He has redeemed them by his precious blood. He will save them by his omnipotent mercy. And he will do it without their aid, without their work, without their will, even without their desire. — He does it freely!


            Physicians never come to the sick until someone sends for them. Christ came to us, who sent not for him, which made him say, “I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not” (Isaiah 65:1). He came to us before we ever thought of coming to him. He sought us long before we sought him. He found us before we ever dreamed of finding him.


            When the physician does come, he expects to be paid for his services, whether or not they are effectual. “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10); and he paid all the charge of his long journey.


The great Physician now is here,

The sympathizing Jesus!

He speaks the drooping heart to cheer —

O hear the voice of Jesus!


Your many sins are all forgiven.

O hear the voice of Jesus!

Go on you way in peace to heaven,

And wear a crown with Jesus!


All glory to the dying Lamb!

I now believe in Jesus.

I love the blessed Savior’s name,

I love the name of Jesus.


And when to that bright world above

We rise to be with Jesus,

We’ll sing around the throne of love,

His name, the name of Jesus!


Delightful Sabbath


In Isaiah 58:13-14 the prophet of God, with the inspired vision of prophecy, looks beyond the carnal, Jewish sabbath and sees in it a picture of Christ, who is the true Sabbath, and the blessed rest of faith in him[1]. When can we, when do we, “Call the sabbath a delight.”We can and do call the sabbath a delight only when we are made to experience God’s healing of our souls in Christ, only when we are brought to the blessed rest of faith in him who is our Sabbath, when we keep the sabbath of faith, ceasing from our own works and resting in Christ alone for our entire acceptance with God.


            We need to understand that the sabbath God required the Jews to keep was only a temporary, typical ordinance, which represented Christ and our redemption by him. When the Lord God instituted sabbath keeping to the Jews in the legal dispensation, he gave two reasons for it.


            First, the sabbath was to be kept as a symbol of God’s rest (Exodus 20:8-11). It represented the completion of God’s creation and the satisfaction of God in his work. Though God’s work of creation has been marred by the sin and fall of our race, the sabbath day portrayed a blessed day of glorious rest called “the times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21; Colossians 1:20; Ephesians 1:10), when all things shall be restored to God.


            Second, the sabbath day was a constant reminder of Israel’s redemption out of Egypt. Hence, it was a picture of our redemption by Christ (Deuteronomy 5:15). In other words, the sabbath day, like all other aspects of the Mosaic law, was a picture prophecy of our perfect redemption by Christ. As the Jews rested on the seventh day of the week from all their works, so believers find perfect rest and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ.


Christ Our Sabbath


We can and will call the sabbath a delight only when we understand that Christ is our Sabbath. We do not observe a literal, legal sabbath day, because Christ is our Sabbath, and we rest in him. I know many who pretend to keep a literal sabbath day. Many try their best to delight in legal sabbath work. But I do not know a sabbatarian in the world who really delights in his attempts at sabbath keeping, not a single one. Every sabbatarian I know finds the yoke of their legal observance oppressive and galling. It is a spiritual flagellation they feel they must perform in order to be holy.


            Sabbath keeping, like animal sacrifices, was a part of the Old Testament law. It has nothing to do with New Testament worship. I know that the sabbath day is frequently mentioned in the four gospels and the Book of Acts, during that transitional period in which the church of God passed from the Old Testament era into the New. However, it is always mentioned in connection with the Jews and Jewish worship in the temple, or in their synagogues. But it is mentioned only two times in all the Epistles (Romans through Revelation).


            In Colossians 2:16-17 we read, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” Here the Apostle Paul, writing by inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, forbids the observance of legal sabbath days in any form. He does so on the basis of the fact that in Christ God’s elect are entirely free from the law (Romans 7:4; 10:4).


            In Hebrews 4:3-4, 9-11 the sabbath that remains in this gospel age is called “rest.” Here the Apostle shows us that all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ keep the sabbath in a spiritual way. That is to say, they and they only truly keep the sabbath by faith in him, by resting in him.


Finished Work


We can and will call the sabbath a delight when we realize that our all glorious Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Mediator, has entered into his rest; and his rest is glorious, because he has finished his work (Hebrews 4:10; Isaiah 11:10). Our Savior’s rest in heaven is glorious and it is his glory. — “His rest shall be glory!” As God rested on the seventh day, because his work of creation was finished, so the God-man our Mediator has entered into his rest in heaven, because he has made all things new for his people, having finished his work of redemption (Romans 8:34; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Hebrews 10:10-14).


            Behold our exalted Savior! Do you see him seated upon his throne in heaven? There he sits in undisturbed and undisturbable sovereign serenity! His rest is his glory (John 17:2; Philippians 2:9-11). That exalted God-man, as our divinely appointed Representative, has fulfilled all the legal sabbath requirements for us, even as he did all the other requirements of the law. Now, in heaven he is keeping an everlasting sabbath rest (Isaiah 53:10-12). And his rest, which is his glory, tells us that he has finished his work (John 17:4; 19:30), the salvation of his people is certain (Hebrews 9:12), and all his enemies shall soon be made his footstool (Hebrews 10:13). There is no more work to be done. Christ did it all! And when all the work was done for us, our blessed Savior entered into his rest. Now, all who find rest in him call that sabbath a delight!


Sabbath Rest


All who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ keep the sabbath by faith (Hebrews 4:3), because we have entered into his rest; and we call this blessed sabbath rest of faith in Christ a delight, the delight of our souls. We do not yet keep the sabbath perfectly, because we do not yet trust our Savior as we should. We do not yet trust him perfectly. But we do keep the sabbath truly and sincerely by faith. Our sabbath observance is not a carnal, literal thing. We do not keep a sabbath day. God forbids that (Colossians 2:16-17). We keep the sabbath spiritually by faith.


            Remember, the sabbath day was ordained by God in the ceremonial worship of the Jews in the Old Testament as a symbol of God’s rest after creation and as a reminder of the Jews redemption out of Egypt. The essence of sabbath observation was self-denial and consecration to God. Anything personally profitable or pleasurable was expressly forbidden (Isaiah 56:2; 58:13; Ezekiel 20:12, 21). Sabbath observance was, in its essence, an unconditional, all-encompassing, self-denial. It was a renunciation of self and a dedication of one’s self to God. That is exactly the way we observe the sabbath spiritually by faith in Christ, not one day in seven, but all the days of our lives. The believer’s life is a perpetual keeping of the sabbath!


            The Lord Jesus Christ gives rest to every sinner who comes to him in faith. He says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Are you laboring and heavy-laden under the load of sin and guilt? Do you long for rest? In your inmost soul do you struggle hard with sin, longing to find peace with God? Will you hear what the Lord Jesus says? “Come” — That is: believe, trust, rely upon me. “Come unto me!” — Not to the preacher. Not to my church. Not even to my doctrine. But “Come unto me, and I will give you rest!” When a sinner comes to Christ, he quits working for God’s favor, because he rests his soul upon the finished work of his Substitute (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).


            Yet, this sabbath of faith involves more than a ceasing from our works and the remembrance of our redemption by Christ. It also involves, in its very essence, the consecration of our lives to our dear Savior (Matthew 11:29-30). We keep the sabbath of faith and find rest unto our souls as we willfully, deliberately, wholeheartedly surrender to Christ as our Lord. If we would keep the sabbath, truly keep the sabbath, it will take considerably more than going to church on Sunday and reserving one day a week for religious exercises! We keep the sabbath by putting ourselves under the yoke of Christ’s dominion, submitting to his will in all things, learning of him what to believe, how to live, and how to honor God. As we do, we find that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. When we submit to Christ’s dominion, when we bow to his will, we find rest for our souls and “call the sabbath a delight!”


            While he walked on this earth, our Lord Jesus performed so many miracles of mercy on the legal sabbath day to teach us that “the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27), to teach us that the dawning of the true Sabbath is the day of mercy for chosen, redeemed sinners.








Don Fortner



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[1] This becomes obvious when we observe that Isaiah’s exhortation - “Call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord,” should read, “Call the sabbath a delight the Holy One of the Lord.”