Old Testament Laws: Was the Sabbath made for all human beings?

After the Pharisees criticized Jesus for allowing his disciples to pick some grain on the Sabbath day, Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Was he saying that God made the Sabbath for both Jews and Gentiles—all human beings?

No, that was not the point. Jesus did not say that the Sabbath was made for all people. The Pharisees believed that the Sabbath was for Jews only. If Jesus had said that the Sabbath was made for Gentiles, it would have created another controversy. The Pharisees were concerned about the behavior of the disciples, not the Gentiles.

The Pharisees were overestimating the importance of Sabbath restrictions. Jesus responded to them not by expanding the Sabbath, but by reducing it. If Jesus responded by teaching that the Sabbath was made for everyone, it would have supported the Pharisees’ concerns instead of refuting them.

We can see what Jesus meant by looking at the next phrase: “and not man for the Sabbath.” His point was that the Sabbath was made to serve people, instead of people being created to serve the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a servant, not a master. He was addressing the relative importance of the Sabbath, not which specific people were given the Sabbath. The Sabbath was to be a blessing, not a burden.

We could just as easily say, “Circumcision was made for humans, not for angels.” This statement is true, but we should not focus on the first half as if it meant that circumcision was made for all humans. It was given to Israelite males only, not the rest of the world. Similarly, Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for humans, but he did not say, nor did he mean, that it was made for all humans.


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