by Shawn Brasseaux
The Law of Moses forbade Jews from working on the Sabbath day, so why did the Lord Jesus heal the sick and cast out devils on the Sabbath? Was it just to anger the Pharisees and the other hypocritical religious leaders of Israel? In this Bible study, we want to examine some of the instances in detail in order to understand why Jesus Christ healed on the Sabbath day. I think you will find the explanation quite fascinating.
CHRIST’S SABBATH DAY HEALING
In Matthew 12:10-15, Mark 3:1-6, and Luke 6:6-11, the Lord Jesus heals a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath day. By the way, the Bible says that, because Jesus healed on the Sabbath, the Pharisees “held a council against him, how they might destroy him” (Matthew 12:14; Mark 3:6; Luke 6:11).
Again, in Luke 13:10-16, there is a humpback woman, crippled and unable to stand up straight. Jesus Christ heals her too on the Sabbath day. On another Sabbath day, as documented in Luke 14:1-4, Christ heals a man who suffers from dropsy (edema). We see yet another instance of Jesus Christ healing a lame man on the Sabbath day in John 5:1-16. Let us examine a few of these passages in detail in order to gain a better understanding of why Jesus Christ healed on the Sabbath.
According to Luke 13:10-16, the Lord Jesus Christ is teaching in the synagogues on the Sabbath days. On one Sabbath, He heals a humpback Jewess. Verse 14 says that the ruler of synagogue is angry because Jesus has healed her on the Sabbath day. Jesus Christ responds (verses 15,16): “Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on this sabbath day?”
Notice Jesus refers specifically to Abraham’s children (Jews). Also, recognize that Satan has bound this Jewess, and Jesus Christ is the only one who can free her. He looses her from the bondage on the Sabbath day.
Now, we want to look at John 5:1-16. In Jerusalem, there is a pool where the mute, the crippled, the blind, and other sick people go to be healed. An angel occasionally comes down and stirs the water. The first person to get into the water immediately after will be made whole (healed). Evidently, one man sitting beside the pool has been unable to walk for 38 years (verse 5). The Lord Jesus Christ sees the crippled man waiting by the pool, so the Lord asks the sick man if he wants to be healed. Jesus instantly heals the man (verse 9). This was on the Sabbath day, so Israel’s religious leaders are upset again (verses 9,16,18).
Let us briefly look at why God established the Sabbath day, and then we will come back Christ’s earthly ministry.
THE SABBATH DAY ESTABLISHED
The Bible first mentions the Sabbath day in Genesis 2:1-3 (by the way, the Sabbath is Saturday, never Sunday, in Scripture). Then, the Bible does not speak of the Sabbath day again until Moses, some 2,500 years later. In the Mosaic Law, the LORD demanded that Israel “keep the Sabbath holy.” The LORD commanded Israel not to do any work on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15). They were to rest on the Sabbath (Leviticus 23:3). Instead, every Jew was to spend the Sabbath day thinking about God’s purpose in creation and, thus, the nation Israel’s role in His plan for the earth (Exodus 31:13-18; Exodus 35:2,3).
So, what was God’s purpose in creation, when He rested on that first Sabbath back in Genesis 2? Psalm 132:8 reads, “Arise, O LORD, into thy rest; thou, and the ark of thy strength.” Verses 13 and 14 tell us: “For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.” God’s purpose in creating the earth was to set up an earthly kingdom, which He had planned since He created the world (Matthew 25:34).
Had sin not entered into creation with the fall of Adam and man, God would have come down and lived on planet earth the Sabbath after the Sabbath of Genesis 2:1-3. This is why God referred to the Promised Land as His “rest” (Hebrews 3:11, 18)!
However, we understand that sin interrupted God’s plan, and that earthly kingdom did not come about in Genesis. Instead, beginning with Abram (Abraham) in Genesis chapter 12, God started a new race of people, the nation Israel. God would make Israel His chosen people on earth. Once saved, the Jews would restore God’s authority in the earth (which had been lost when Adam fell, and man’s dominion on the earth was passed to Satan; cf. Genesis 1:28 and 2 Corinthians 4:4 and Ephesians 2:2).
To the nation Israel would God give that earthly kingdom that He planned backed with Adam and creation (Exodus 19:3-6). When the Jews kept the Sabbath holy every week, they were continually reminded of that earthly kingdom and their role in God’s purpose and plan for creating the earth.
Unfortunately, Satan polluted the nation Israel with pagan idolatry: also, he sent false prophets to mislead Israel, and his evil spirits seduced and possessed Jews (Deuteronomy 13:1-18; Jeremiah 6:13; Acts 8:7-24; Acts 13:6-8; 2 Peter 2:1-3; et al.). As long as Satan kept Israel in spiritual bondage, the Jews could not be the vessels that God had intended them to be. This continued throughout the Old Testament, whose prophets emphatically preached of Israel’s coming kingdom. Finally, Jesus Christ, Israel’s King-Redeemer was born, and He came to bring usher in their kingdom.
However, that earthly kingdom was further postponed when the Jews rejected and crucified Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross. Had Israel accepted Jesus as her Messiah-King 2,000 years ago, that earthly kingdom would have been set up. But, that kingdom will not be established until the Second Coming of Christ, some 6,000 years since creation, and a day beyond even our time!
CHRIST’S HEALING ON THE SABBATH EXPLAINED
Okay, so getting back to Christ’s earthly ministry, we can begin to understand why He healed on the Sabbath day. When Israel’s Messiah and King (Jesus) came, as documented in the Bible books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, there was a spike in the number of devil-possessed and sick Jews. As long as Israel was in spiritual darkness and satanic bondage, God could not use them in their kingdom to evangelize Gentiles.
Do you remember the humpback woman in Luke 13:16, who we briefly discussed earlier? “And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” That physically crippled woman was spiritually impotent Israel, firmly bound by Satan’s chains and spiritually blind! The Jews were to be released from that satanic bondage on the Sabbath, the Millennial Reign of Christ, the period of “rest” that the Saturday Sabbath typified.
Notice what Mark 5:10 KJV says: “And he [the unclean spirit] besought him [the Lord Jesus Christ] much that he would not send them away out of the country.” The devils do not want to be cast out of “the country.” They do not want to be cast out of the land of Israel! Furthermore, the devils rightly claim Jesus Christ has come to destroy them by setting up His kingdom and binding them!
The Lord Jesus Christ told the Jews who He healed that their sins are forgiven (Matthew 9:2; Mark 2:5; Luke 5:20; Luke 7:48). Jesus is casting out devils and healing all manners of disease and sickness and preaching “the gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 9:35). He also sends out the twelve apostles to heal and preach “the gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 10:1-8). The Lord Jesus is demonstrating to Israel the healing, prosperity, and forgiveness that God would provide for the Jews during their earthly kingdom.
Notice Matthew 12:15, which occurred right after the healing of the man with the withered hand (recall that it was on the Sabbath). “But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all.” Here is an example of Jesus healing multitudes of people on the Sabbath. This healed multitude also symbolized Israel being healed in her earthly kingdom.
Jesus Christ is not only healing Israel physically, but spiritually as well. Every time Christ cast out a devil (unclean spirit), He was abolishing Satan’s influence over the nation Israel. Interestingly, the crippled man in John 5:5 had been handicapped for 38 years. Amazingly, Deuteronomy 2:14 said that Israel wandered in the wilderness for 38 years. During that period, the Jews were rebellious and spiritually crippled, unable to enter the Promised Land.
When Jesus healed the man suffering from dropsy in Luke 14:1-4, recall that He healed him too on the Sabbath day. This sick man also symbolized Israel, spiritually impotent and under Satan’s control. Again, by healing the sick, especially on the Sabbath day, Jesus was demonstrating to the Jews that their earthly kingdom would bring spiritual and physical healing. The man whose withered hand was healed on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:10-15; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11) also symbolized Israel’s physical and spiritual healing in her coming kingdom.
Another example of Israel being devil-possessed is the man indwelt by the unclean spirit in Mark 1:21-27 and Luke 4:31-36. Notice that the unclean spirit asked Jesus (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34): “Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.” The devil knew exactly what Christ was there to do! Christ was there to destroy Satan’s stronghold on the nation Israel. He was here to bring in the kingdom that the Sabbath day had shadowed for some 1,500 years!
The Pharisees and scribes had such a formalistic mindset that they completely missed the point of why Jesus Christ was healing on the Sabbath. So, they just condemned Him as a “blasphemer” and a “law-breaker.” They were too preoccupied with keeping the Sabbath (vain religious tradition) that they had lost sight of why God had implemented Sabbath day keeping in the first place! In addition, they completely missed the point that by performing those miracles, Jesus was proving that He was their Messiah.
However, these religious leaders had wicked hearts of unbelief, and they used anything to discredit Jesus Christ, and thus accused Him of Sabbath day breaking. In their hypocrisy, these unbelievers had totally missed the fact that they “broke” the Sabbath when they circumcised a male Jew on the Sabbath when it was the eighth day (John 7:22-24).
While the Sabbath day was important, it was a ceremonial law. Sometimes, the Sabbath day needed to be broken (such as in the case of physical circumcision). Jesus Christ spoke of loosing or helping animals on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:11,12; Luke 14:5). As to not infringe on other aspects of the Mosaic Law, the Sabbath day would need to be broken. Freeing animals under burdens was acceptable on the Sabbath day (see Exodus 23:5; Deuteronomy 22:4)—these laws took preeminence above the Sabbath keeping because they were the right things to do. Yet, the religious leaders of Israel did not want to admit that Jesus healing on the Sabbath was good and acceptable.
So, why did Jesus heal on the Sabbath day? Jesus was healing on the Sabbath in order to demonstrate “the powers of the world to come” (Hebrews 2:3-5; Hebrews 6:4-6). The Old Testament prophesied that when Israel’s God would come, the lame man would leap, the mute would sing, the blind would see, and the deaf would hear (Isaiah 35:4-6). By performing the healing miracles, especially on the Sabbath, Jesus Christ was fulfilling what the Old Testament had predicted!
After all, there will be no sickness or suffering in the kingdom when Christ returns to earth (Isaiah 11:6-9; Isaiah 33:23,24; James 5:14-16). God will cause the evil spirits to pass from the land of Israel (Zechariah 13:2). In fact, during the Millennial Reign of Christ, Satan will be bound in the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:1-3,7). That is, by performing those miracles, Christ was showing Israel the healing and forgiveness that would take place in His millennial kingdom! Moreover, the Jews needed signs and wonders before they would believe God, and Christ’s miracles taught Israel what He was going to do with them (Exodus 4:1-8; John 4:48; 1 Corinthians 1:22).
Now you know why the Lord Jesus Christ healed on the Sabbath….