One reason why many people are against the idea that God's command to keep the Sabbath applies today is that they believe the Sabbath is a burden to keep, and that the purpose of Jesus' work was to relieve us of these kinds of burdens.
Perhaps this negative view of the Sabbath is one reason why some work so hard to argue against the Sabbath being binding upon believers today.
However, if people truly understood the Sabbath, that God intended it to be good and a blessing for believers, then they might not be so adamant in finding reasons to avoid it.
Scripture is clear that the Sabbath is meant to be a blessing for humans, not a burden. Here are several passages that teach this.
13 “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the Lord honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
14 then you shall take delight in the Lord,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
In this passage, Isaiah says that God's people should "call the Sabbath a delight," and that if they do, then they will experience great blessings:
This passage makes it impossible to argue that the Sabbath is anything but good for God's people. The blessings associated with keeping the Sabbath are incredible, and all believers should be happy to pursue them.
For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Here, Moses writes that God blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. The Sabbath is supposed to be a blessing for believers, not a burden.
Also, that the Sabbath is holy means that it is good.
1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
9 He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.
Here, the Pharisees had a view of the Sabbath that was similar to how many Christians view the Sabbath today. They viewed it as a system of rules and regulations, which indeed would certainly be a burden.
However, Jesus corrects them by explaining the right view of the Sabbath. Jesus says that God "desires mercy, and not sacrifice." In other words, the purpose of the Sabbath is not "sacrifice," or focusing on rules and regulations, but rather "mercy," or doing good." Who can argue against the goodness of doinog good?
- 23 One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of[a] Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
Here, Jesus clearly tells us that "the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." In other words, God created the Sabbath for the benefit of man, not the other way around. The Sabbath is meant to be a blessing and a benefit for humans.
Of course, there are certain things we probably should not do on the Sabbath that we may want to do, and that are not bad in themselves. However, instead of seeing the Sabbath as an obstacle to doing the things we want to do, what if we saw the Sabbath as an opportunity to especially focus on the things of God, and in so doing be blessed, on one particular day each week? That is simply a more positive, and correct, perspective on the Sabbath.
The purpose of Matthew 12:1-14
Scripture clearly teaches that the Sabbath should be a blessing, not a burden, for Christians. If we view it as a burden, we need to re-evaluate our understanding of the Sabbath. If we view it as a blessing, we may not be so quick to find arguments to avoid it.