Sermon # 24 Series: Matthew


            Title:              THE LORD OF THE SABBATH
            Text:              Matthew 12:1-14
            Subject:        The Meaning, Usefulness, and Fulfilment of The Sabbath

            Date:             Thursday Evening – December 29, 1994
            Tape:            # Q-82




            The subject which stands out permanently in these fourteen verses is that of the sabbath day. It is a subject about which the Jews were very sensitive and hold many strange and absurd opinions. The Pharisees had added their traditions to the teachings of Scripture and made Sabbath day observance the control and primary part of their religious legalism, as it is unto this day. This is a subject about which many, throughout the history of the church have held different opinions, and held them very strongly, even to the point of having no fellowship with those who disagreed with them. This is a subject about which we need to have a clear understanding.


            When our Lord’s disciples began to pick corn and eat it, as they walked through the fields, the Pharisees became enraged. When they did, the Lord Jesus seized the opportunity to give words of clear instruction regarding the sabbath, himself, and the uselessness of legalistic, graceless religion.


            In these fourteen verses our Savior shows himself to be The Lord of the Sabbath.


            That is the title of my message tonight and the thing that I want you to see. Christ is The Lord of the Sabbath.




  1. The Fallacy of the Pharisees (vv. 1-2).
  2. The Significance of the Sabbath (vv. 3-8).
  3. The Manifestation of Mercy (vv. 9-13).
  4. The Rage of the Religionists (v. 14).


I.  The Fallacy of the Pharisees (vv. 1-2).


            Sabbath observance was the very heart of Jewish religion. When the Lord Jesus gave tacit approved to what the Jews considered a violation of sabbatical law, he touched a raw nerve. Several things need to be observed here.


A.  Our Savior never violated God’s law regarding the sabbath or anything else. He perfectly fulfilled the law!


            Our Lord’s disciples here violated Jewish tradition, not Mosaic law!


B.  This incident was not accidental.


            The words “at that time,” direct our attention to the preceding verses. Our Lord is about to demonstrate that he is the Sabbath in whom sinners find rest for their souls (16:28-30).


            The word “sabbath” has the idea of ceasing from work, rest, and inactivity.


·        Genesis 2:2-3

·        Exodus 20:9-11


Like all other aspects of Old Testament law, the sabbath was a picture of Christ and pointed men to him in whom we find rest.


·        Hebrews 4:1-10


C.  The fallacy of the Pharisees here was the same as it is now – They made the Word of God of none effect by their traditions – (Mt. 15:6).


            The Old Testament law was still in affect when our Lord began his ministry. He and his disciples honored the law. But this was a breach of religious tradition. The Pharisees considered that a breach of God’s law.


NOTE: Just one section of the Jewish Talmud contain twenty-four chapters of Sabbatical Laws!


            Instead of being a day of rest, the sabbath had become a day of incredible burden because of all the man-made restrictions imposed by the rabbis in the name of God. It was harder to “rest” on the sabbath than it was to work the other six days of the week.” (Read John MacArthur – Matthew Vol. 2 pp. 281-282).


            Illus: “The Family Swinging!”

                        “Conjugal Activity on The Sabbath!”


NOTE: The sabbath was anything but a day of rest. It had become a day of frustration, anxiety, fear, and religious manipulation, imposed by ungodly, religious legalists, who had made the people “Weary and heavy-laden” (Matt. 11:28).


NOTE: The Disciples were not reaping on the sabbath. They were simply eating as they walked. But the Talmud forbade the rubbing of corn on the sabbath!


II.  The Significance of the Sabbath (vv. 3-8).


            In these verses our Lord Jesus shows how contemptuous he was of the Pharisees and their religious traditions. His questions (vv. 3 and 5) are scathingly sarcastic! They cut deep into the Pharisees’ pride. I can almost see them evincing with pain and anger.


            Like the other commandments, the sabbath day was intended to promote love to God and to one another. But the scribes and Pharisees knew nothing of love. These legalistic functionaries lived only to fulfill lifeless, loveless duties which made them feel good about themselves.


            The laws regarding the sabbath were never intended to


·        Restrict Deeds of Necessity (vv. 3-4; I Sam. 21:6).

·        Restrict Service to God (vv. 5-6).

·        Restrict Acts of Mercy (vv. 7-8).


NOTE: Always Choose Mercy and Compassion whom there is a question between that and Dogma, Ritual, and Religious Ceremony. (v. 7).


NOTE: Christ’s Claim Divinity, Supremacy, and Sovereignty (vv. 6 & 8).


III.  The Manifestation of Mercy – (vv. 9-13).


A.  The Lord Jesus showed great honor to the matter of public worship (v. 9; Heb. 10:25).


            He had nothing to gain from it and nothing to learn by it; and synagogue worship was a perverted form of worship. Yet, our Lord attended the worship of God for the glory of God and the benefit of others!


B.  The Pharisees sought to entrap the Master (v. 10).


1.       They chose a man whose hand was withered, not one who was dying – No Necessity!

2.       They raised a question – Not to learn, but to accuse! – That is the way of religious cavillim.


C.  The Lord Jesus shamed The Pharisees into silence (vv. 11-12).


            No Pharisee would contend that sheep are more valuable than men, who are created in the image of God! But in practice they treated other men with less respect than they did brute beasts in the name of religion.


            Illus: Hinduism

                        Abortion / Animal Rights Activists


1.         Our Lord answered their question emphatically. “It is lawful to do well on sabbath days!”

2.         Our Savior showed himself to be God.

·        By an Act of Omnipotence!

·        By an Act of Mercy!


IV.  The Rage of The Religionists (v. 14).


            Mark tells us (Mk. 3:6) that these Pharisees joined forces with the Herodians, their archenemies, the worldly political party who supported Herod, to destroy Christ. They were determined to rid the world of him at any cost. Why? Because…


·        He Exposed Their Inward Emptiness and Sin.

·        He Denounced Their Outward Religious Rituals.

·        He Disregarded The Traditions of Their Fathers.

·        He Taught Salvation by Grace Alone!




1.  Legalism is the implacable enemy of grace!


·        Galatians 3:3; 5:2-4


2.  There is no room for sabbath keeping in this dispensation of grace – Christ is our Sabbath!


·        Colossians 2:16-17


Christians have, since the earliest days of church history (Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:2), set aside Sunday, the first day of the week, as a special day of worship, fellowship, and divine service, because that is the day our Lord was raised. We call it “The Lord’s Day.” But it is not, in any way, a “Christian Sabbath!”


3.  Hebrews 4:9-11