Jesus said that “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:1-14; Mark 2:23-3:6; Luke 6:1-11; Deut. 23:25). But have we misunderstood His point entirely? Please, allow us to explain.

One Sabbath, a group of hungry disciples were walking through a Judean field, picking heads of grain to eat (cereal grains are the world’s single best source of energy). The Pharisaic Jews, however, construed this action as a form of harvesting, a task forbidden on the Sabbath.

Jesus responded that King David himself ate food the showbread in God’s Temple – food that was forbidden to non-priests. He further reminded the Pharisees that, “On the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate (treat something ‘holy’ as ‘common’) the day and yet are innocent.”

In other words, David’s eating the Temple showbread proved that the needs of the children of God (humanity) rank higher than the ordinances of Israel’s temple. Likewise, the priests doing things otherwise forbidden on the Sabbath, showed that the Temple activities ranked higher than the Sabbath itself.

In other words, if the Temple ordinance ranks higher than the Sabbath, and the suffering of the sons of man (humanity) ranks higher than the Temple ordinance, then it must logically follow than human need ranks higher than the Sabbath!

By saying that, “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath,” Rabbi Jesus was not overriding Torah’s clear prohibition regarding harvesting on the Sabbath day. On the contrary, He sought to uphold the ultimate authority of God’s Word (Torah) by arguing that the needs of the humanity ranked even higher than either the temple ordinance or the Sabbath!

By Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg and Jared Seltzer



  1. As a someone raised in the Seventh-day Adventist faith, I was taught that the Sabbath was too holy to be infringed on. Every seventh day of the week was a day devoted to God and His Word. Secular labor was abstained from, sports and recreational activities refrained from as well. Shopping or doing business transactions was also prohibited.
    I first understood Yeshua’s words as meaning that He alone is Lord of the Sabbath since He created it and made it holy. It was until I read the context of Mark 2, that I got the full picture of what Yeshua really meant.
    That human need overrides the sanctity of the Sabbath.
    The Jews believe even to this day, that it is acceptable to break God’s commandments when emergencies arises. When the Pharisees confronted Yeshua on how He and His disciples observe Sabbath, their view of Sabbath observance was too sanctimonious and had to be addressed by Yeshua to set the record straight. Whether they accepted what He said or not, they did accused Yeshua of breaking the Sabbath command when in fact He was exemplifying the correct relationship between the Sabbath and satisfying one’s own need. In a sense, each person is lord of the Sabbath day.

    • I don’t know if I can respond to James N. Benko, but I would like to ask you, James, if you are still a Seventh-Day Adventist. I was raised as one too. And do you still keep the 7th day or did you change to Sunday? Hope you don’t mind asking you.

    • Jesus also said that to worship God, the true worshippers would worship in spirit as God Is In Spirit. That one day would not be better then another. SO the worship of God, is every day in the spirit, but we gather together on 1 day to seek & learn.

  2. Thank you for reaffirming my thoughts on what Lord of the Sabbath means. I note you call the Torah God’s Word. (It is holy scripture). Is this a looking back through the lens of Christian thought and calling it so, or is this a pre-Christ Jewish understanding of the Torah – that is calling it the Word of God? I guess I question whether calling the Bible the Word of God is actually wrong. One, because it, the bible is given divine status and thus is a form of idolatry. Two, I cannot see it anywhere in the First covenant writings it is ever suggested the writings were God’s Word. Three, if it is not to be called God’s Word, then are we overlooking what preaching the Word really means? Curious to know.

    • Thanks for joining the discussion, Thomas. The word Torah means instructions, and instructions are always given by an instructor. God spoke to and instructed Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and dozens of other people in the Bible. It was recorded and collected into various books and then translated which ultimately became our modern Bibles. So, yes, the Torah is God’s word. There are certainly challenges in scribal errors and translation, but they are still God’s instructions to be holy and cherished. But if they replace God, only then would it become idolatry.

  3. Dr Eli, humanity’s greatest need is to receive and believe in Jesus as our Lord & Saviour. This need overrides all the religions and philosophies. The New Covenant is far superior to the old because it is centred on Jesus alone — and Jesus is much greater than Moses.

  4. Surely that’s what is meant in Hbr 4 when Paul said..”Let us fear..lest we do Not enter His Rest..they heard the Word..but it did not profit them..not being mixed with faith..But for those who believe..we Do enter that rest”’s a bit like Sitting Down in His is no sweat..hence the linen garments..
    I Believe His Rest is Within Each Believer..
    Not a Day as such..a State of Being..?

  5. We use (incorrectly) the words works and rest. Were the Pharisaic Jews accusing the disciples of works (harvesting)? Your article has me wondering about the meaning of the word rest. Is rest associated with eating (a need of humanity). I think we associated rest with NT (Jesus) and works with OT (law).

    • Hi Kat, The Sabbath commandment is to work six days and rest on the seventh. The question, though, is to what extent. The Pharisees like modern Judaism would have defined work (generally) as any actions required during the construction of the tabernacle. Since the tabernacle housed bread, and since grain must be harvested for that bread, ergo picking grain fit their definition of work, and so it was prohibited on Sabbath. Jesus did not contradict this opinion, rather he demonstrated that human need was a higher priority than the temple or the Sabbath!

      • Hi Jared,
        The application of the Sabbath is very complex for me. I was unchurch so when I repented (faith) I adhered to government laws. In the U.S. this includes MOST of the Ten Commandments and not all laws are good. I would not have known that Jesus was King. I eventually rejected the mark of the beast (accepted His victory). All of this without a Biblical language ? I see the word “eat” and I wonder if it is the holy communion spoken of in John 6:54

        • These are the word Jesus used for Passover Meal before His death The one where Jesus said With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you. This is no Communion or Eucharist in the bible Other meals mentioned were common meals Passover held once a year

  6. I find that after reading Mark chpt. 2. and comparing it with what i thought the sabbath meant. It does make sense. Growing up Baptist, I was’nt taught to study the old testment with the new testament. It makes more sense to me now.

  7. Why other Christians do not attend function like weddings, funerals in particular using the verses “keep the Sabbath,” from Exodus 20?

  8. Hello from the USA I like to know what day is the day jews go to church…I have always gone on Sundays but a friend i know he go to church on Saterdays…So what day is the Sabbath for the Jews? Then i will know the true day to go to church ..My friend says from sun down Friday to sun down on Saterday you dont do any work at all on a job or at home….So what can you tell me about this ? Thank You God Bless You Beverly White PS I LOVE TO TAKE YOUR STUDYIES BUT DONT HAVE THE MONEY TO PAY AND MY DREAM IF I COME INTO MONEY ON A LAW SUIT IM IN MY DREAM IS TO COME TO THE HOLDLAND

  9. When were studing under a Rabbi who is now gone bless him told us about the sabbath and I asked him then if you can not do anything on the Sabbath then how can you get out of bed? That is work getting out of bed and getting dressed. He said he never thought of it that way. He was telling us that he walked to the Temple on Sabbath and I asked will is that not doing work too? He said will driving to the Temple would be work. But walking was not considered work. I consider doing work on Sabbath was doing house work or doing gardening or the normal the same thing you do every day. But if you have animals to feed you have to feed and water them. Yeshua did state that if your mule fill in a whole you would to get him out even though it was work, the animal is a live being and can get out on his own. So to me if I have to cook then I cook but to do the dishes I wait tell evening when Sabbath is over. I feel that what that was meaning is that we have to eat so it is ok to cook a simple meal and to study the word and doing the things that you have to do but things like house work and shares outside cleaning stalls and staking hay and other work that you normaly will do durning the week is not done and the Sabbath.

      • Donata The commandment for the Sabbath is for the 7 th day Starting at sunset on what we call Friday till sunset on what we call Saturday There is no Commandments for sunday or other days of the weeks as they are working days unless during the feasts

  10. There is a lot of common sense needed here.
    God knows man needs rest. Once every 7 days. Without the command, the Jews would be trading and working 7 days a week. He wants us to devote that day to Him and make it Holy. Harvesting – going to work, cooking, physical labour is not rest. But there has to be some common sense here. Are shabbat elevators really what God had in mind? Is pushing a button work? When I was in Israel they would smoke on the Sabbath but would not turn on a lighter, so they ask tourists to light the ciggerettes for them. Maybe I am not as educated on scripture and I am not stepped in Jewish culture so I don’t know, but I just dont see God being that petty over it. (Especially since smoking is a crutch and crutches apart from God dont belong on Holy days.. I just quit smoking recently I know how much is saddens God to see us damage the body He made for us with His own hands) But my main point is, Surley He knew, even on the Sabbath, we would have to be alive and not just sit perfectly still for 24 hours

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with Leviticus and The New Testament or The Jewish Apostle Paul I: His World. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

    • I agree with Melissa. God’s purpose here is more “Stop working/striving/stressing, so that you can be still &rest (i.e, pause)” so that you have a set time to focus on your relationship with God instead of excusing yourself with busi-ness.

  11. Thank God for the complete work of Jesus on the Cross. Now we do not have to justify our relationship with Him through works, but only by faith in Him through Jesus Christ. We are Saved by Grace through Faith which is the Gift of God, not of Works lest anyone should Boast.

  12. Q: Show me one NT verse after Jesus’ resurrection where God commands any church to keep the Sabbath.
    What day do you give to church? (Saturday). Why do you disobey I Cor 16:2 order to give on Sunday?

    • Keith Piper from Liberty Baptist? Welcome! Thanks for joining the discussion. (I had to shorten your post, but you may post a link.)
      In short, (except for maybe Rom3:31,Heb 4:9,1John5:2-3,Rev12:17) there is no post-resurrection NT commandment to keep Sabbath. Sunday church had not yet been invented. The example that the Savior and disciples give is going to the Temple or synagogue (Acts13:15,42;14:1,17:1,2;17:10,17,18:4,7,18:19,26).
      Now, you, can you provide one NT verse that commands us to be fruitful and multiply (Gen1:28)? Do you see the fallacy in your question now? The previously given precedent stands.

    • Keith
      Re Sabbath. Show us 1 scripture that says not to and to keep the first day. Most churches cite the resurrection saying it was on the First day but a study of the Gospels say no He was buried before a Yearly Sabbath And rose on the weekly Sabbath

      • Alan, I don’t see how you get to a sabbath resurrection from Scripture, since Luke 24 makes very clear that the first day of the week was also the third day since these things happened. Compare verse1,13 and 21.

  13. I would like to know why you call the Savior Jesus when this name is Latin, from the Greek name Iesous, instead of the hebrew name YaHshua. Isn’t the names can’t have a translation? Thank you.

  14. Greetings. I can see now that when Jesus said, “The son of man is lord of the sabbath” (my lower case letters!), he was not speaking about himself because he was speaking in the 3rd person. Since the primary meaning of ‘son of man’ in Ezekiel is of a human being, he was saying in effect that humanity and the needs of human beings are the highest consideration. This is in keeping with what you have written, Eli, that the needs of humanity are higher than the ordinances of the temple and the institution of the sabbath.

  15. I always find the comments here very stimulating to say the least. But I think one of the biggest hurdles I find that many Christian’s have (I am not Jewish) is the naming of the “Old” Covenant vs the “New” Covenant. As you learn in Hebrew studies the first books of the Holy Scriptures are called the TaNaK and the “second” portion is the Brit Chadasha. When you struggle with accepting this, it is often hard to grasp the actually understanding of the Hebrew Bible. Understanding the entire bible is about Hebrews written by Hebrews. Except for maybe one writer.

  16. I love the Lord, serve Him and want to glorify Him with my life. I have only been reading these articles about a week. I am not Jewish and do not want to be Jewish. I do not know Hebrew or Greek and so am thankful for the additional understanding of numerous words that read differently in English. I am thankful that when Christ came to set us free, He set us free from the bondage of legalism. I’m thankful that He is GOD and He is the LORD and He is my brother and the lover of my soul.

    • Linda, if you are still reading here could you offer your understanding/definition of the word “legalism” that you used above? This word is used with different meanings by different people so I am unsure how to interpret your message correctly.

  17. Have the christians been adhearing to God word by keeping the sabbith on a Sunday.I have asked this to many religious leaders and nobody seems to give me a direct answer .Can somebody please help

    • I think Christians should be imitators of Christ and his apostles (1 Cor 11:1). What was their custom (Luke 4:16)?

      • Dr. Eli, after reading all the confusion here about the Sabbath, and the replacement of God’s Times with modern Christian practices, my heart was heavy. Your answer rocks! In reading your response I found the simplicity and clarity stunning, and my heart was filled with joy. God gave us a calendar that includes the days of the week, the start of the year, the start of the month, the days to rest, and the occasions to celebrate with Him. Sadly, we Christians are confused because unbeknownst to us, what we have been taught replaces scripture with traditions.

  18. Thanks for clarification regarding the topic that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath It does not say that Jesus said the Sabbath is NOT TO BE OBSERVED AS COMMANDERD BY GOD HIMSELF WHO IS SUPERIOR TO JESUS AND WHO JESUS OBEYED UNTIL DEATH… REMEMBER GETSEMANE WHEN JESUS ASKED HIS FATHER TO TAKE THIS CUP AWAY NOT ACCORDING TO MY WILL BUT ACCORDING TO THY WILL IT IS to co me simple common sense to do good deeds on the Sabbath like the good Samaritan. Hospitals are not closed on Saturdays or Yom Kippur or any other holiday.

  19. As a non-Jewish believer, I understand from the teaching of scripture that I should love my neighbour as myself. I can not say that my lord will be pleased to see me as one who does NOT love his neighbour. Should I in a similar manner come to the point of understanding that the teaching of scripture is that I remember the sabbath to keep it holy? Is it disobedience to my lord if I do not observe the sabbath? Is Sabbath observance for Jews only? Has it not been abolished?

    • Firstly, the Bible never abolished the Sabbath. But if you compare how much the Bible talks about loving one another versus how much it talks about the Sabbath, love is definitely a way higher priority. Secondly, there is nothing wrong with non-Jews observing the Sabbath (and they will certainly reap a blessing for it), but the commandment concerning Sabbath is directed to Israel and to the sojourner and servants in the Land of Israel. But to be fair, Isaiah 56 has very encouraging things to say about the stranger that accepts the Sabbath and the way of the Lord.

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      • re work. I’ve read and cannot bring to mind where but that when rebuilding the temple the people were so engaged they did not want to stop, Any action requires work. breathing. Believe the Pharisees were responsible to enlarge what was work to a much higher degree than Jesus meant.

        • Are you thinking of Exo.36:6 where the people had to be restrained from donating to the tabernacle building project?

        • re non Jews would not include the lost Tribes descendants which seem to be European as they too were under the law. God knows who and where they are and they need His call to ” come home ” like the prodigal son.

  20. I’m a eteacher student a few years. Question Dr. Eli; you stated to “Shadrach Amoah-Sakyi”;

    “Firstly, the Bible never abolished the Sabbath.”

    Jesus fulfilled the Law for He is the Law incarnate, thus the redeemed believer takes rest in Jesus’ finished work at the cross. And earlier on you stated to Keith Piper;

    “In short, (except for maybe Rom3:31,Heb 4:9,1John5:2-3,Rev12:17) there is no post-resurrection NT commandment to keep Sabbath. Sunday church had not yet been invented.”

    Jesus taught to trust 100% in His finished work, not ours, His precedent stands.

    • I agree that Yeshua’s precedent stands, Lazzaro. From the Gospels, his precedent and custom was to observe Sabbath, and the Apostles did too. The pre-Yeshua precedent was Sabbath observance, and there is no record of abolishing it, but rather an affirmation in the example of the Messiah and his disciples. Yeshua fulfilling the whole Law no more abrogates it than a president fulfilling his office of the presidency abolishes the office of the presidency. “Fulfill” is not synonymous with “abolish;” they are rather antonyms. Yes, it’s good to trust in Yeshua’s finished work, but He asks obedience of His followers too.

      • @Dr. Eli No you do not agree, this is insincere. Yes Jesus did observe Sabbath, and so did the Apostles but not after Jesus declared on the cross “It is finished”. The Lord’s supper is where the New Covenant began [thus sabbath keeping abolished]. Intellectual sophism i dislike much.

        • I think the believers found the Sabbath important, post resurrection: Mat.24:20 (prophetic of future time), Luk.23:56 (written years later as though commandment still relevant), Acts 13:14,42 (why didn’t Paul tell them to meet the next day on Sunday?), 13:44,15:21 (the reason for only the four prohibitions was because they would learn on Sabbath), 16:13,17:2,18:4,20:7 (after sun-down, still together from Sabbath), Col 2:16 (don’t judge Sabbath-keepers), Heb 4:9.

        • Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.

          Christians would say “Jesus fulfilled the law, so it is no longer applicable,” I’ll say this:

          ful•fill‌ ‌or ‌‌ful•fil‌ (fʊlˈfɪl)

          ‌‌ 1. ‌ to carry out, or bring to realization, as a prophecy or promise.
          ‌ 2. ‌ to perform or do, as duty; obey or follow, as commands.
          ‌ 3. ‌ to satisfy (requirements, obligations, etc.)

          ‌ 4. ‌ to bring to an end; finish or complete, as a period of time.
          ‌ 5. ‌ to develop the full potential of (usu. used reflexively): ‌ to fulfill oneself in charitable work.

          Christianity takes one possible definition of that word, #4, and builds their doctrine that the law was done away with on that one definition in that one verse, Mat 5:17. But, read the whole thing in context: Matthew 5:17-20

          We can look at this whole passage and say that definition #1 is far more likely the intended meaning; probably with connotations of defs #2 and #3 and even #5. Because when Yeshua says #4 is not the one, we tend to believe Him.

        • But what of the definition of the word translated here “abolish” in the English translation of the Greek translation of that scripture?

          G2647 καταλύω kataluō kat-al-oo’-o From G2596 and G3089; to loosen down (disintegrate), that is, (by implication) to demolish (literally or figuratively); specifically (compare G2646) to halt for the night: – destroy, dissolve, be guest, lodge, come to nought, overthrow, throw down.

          So not one letter will be eradicated (abolished) from the law, according to Yeshua Himself!

        • Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen, a Calvinist, Orthodox Presbyterian minister and Christian Reconstructionist said in an article for the Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics: “When God promulgated His moral will through the Mosaic law, how much of mankind did He consider accountable to keep that law? From Paul’s standpoint the answer was obvious: “Now we know that whatever things the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may be brought under the judgment of God” (Romans 3:19), God declared His righteous standards to Israel, and through Israel to all the world, thereby stopping every mouth and bringing all men, Jew and Gentile alike, under judgment. “Whatever things the law says,” therefore, it says to the whole of mankind. Precisely for this reason Paul could “lay to the charge both of Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin…. There is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (vv. 11,23).”

          The above 3 posts are excerpts from an 8 pg paper I wrote on Mat 5:17-20. I’ll make it available to the IBC on request.

    • Lazzaro What does fulfill mean ? In this case fill to the full ie Commit adultery is a sin. Jesus filled that fuller by even thinking of it is a sin. re Sabbath Read5:18-19 till heaven and earth pass away not one jot or one tittle Including the Sabbath

  21. Praise God for the explanation, Dr. Eli.
    I wonder too how anyone could be at rest while hungry…either physically or spiritually. Our bodies cry out for food to stop hunger pangs and our souls cry out for the Bread of Life in order to enter His Rest.

  22. 14 years in prison for his faith,my friend who was also in with some rabbis who Were Imprisoned,tithed bread to the poor there. They said to him they don’t tithe because of the law. They tithe because under These terrible circumstances we wanted to make a surprise for God.

  23. Firstly, sabbath was made for man & not man for the sabbath.
    Secondly, rest and worship are different words with different actions, by honoring the sabbath, I come to realise two important aspects, one is I am a created being and part of this whole creation and , two I am a working class employee so by abstaining from work, I am free from that burden.
    Worshiping Adonai is more of an everyday commitment for me.

  24. Every post I read here provides beautiful insight and points for further study as a western Christian… yet every time the comments degenerate to children arguing over which glass of milk is theirs rather than just drinking the milk and allowing it to nourish the body. Thanks Dr. Eli

    • We may all be at different places in life, but hopefully we’re all still growing and maturing in our spiritual walk…some faster than others.

  25. Dr. Eli, I appreciate your statement about different places in our lives. Due to space, no scriptures included. A statement describing all Christians is that we are all on unique, individual spiritual journeys, led by the Holy Spirit, to heaven. This guides self comparisons toward Jesus, not other human competition.

  26. Luke 6.1 tells us the exact time they were eating the fresh kernels of corn being plucked. (See, Lev. 23:14) The 2nd 1st Sabbath, or the first after the 2nd day of UB. (AD 31, astronomical calculation, 3/31 Nisan 18) Another Passover regarding length of Jesus’ ministry. See Lk. 13:6-9

  27. Wow, for me today is the Day of Grace. 1 J 4:4 “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.”

    • Question Thought. Can Christian willfully “sin” and go to work on Sabbath? Or can I eat pork regularly, when God forbidden to do that in everlasting Torah? Or should I keep purity until I have no choice? Jesus did not eat pork regularly, did he?

      • In short, Yeshua teaches his followers not to relax even the least commandment and teach others likewise (Mat.5:19), so don’t expect me to. 🙂 I will say that God gives grace to new believers who are still early on in their journey of holiness, however He does also expect more fruit from His seasoned followers. And no, Jesus never ate anything unclean, nor did His disciples.

  28. Question though: How is it R 14:1 “I can do all,” so I don’t need to listen Torah and ignore all the commandments about eating and touching… And still He said his commandments are valid forever. Am I unfaithful if I will start to eat pork now?

    • What verse are you referring to, Rom. 14:1? “I can do all” sounds more like 1Cor.6:12 where Paul is probably referring to the complex issue of things sacrificed to idols. Anyways, Paul was a strict Pharisee. If something he says sounds anti-Torah, then re-think it.

    • Sorry R 14:2… Rom 14:2 “One man has faith to eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables.” So I deduced from it that “I can do all”. I definitely study Rom. 14 and Matt. 7 today.

      • The reference to “eating herbs” indicates that believers had differing views on whether meats could be eaten (probably because everything at the market was sacrificed to an idol), and they were in sin for judging each other and causing the “weak” to stumble. It is not permission to eat things that the Torah defines as forbidden.

  29. There is also Fil 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” Recently I realized that when first Christians were kept in prison by Romans they had no choice what to eat (but I doubt they would offer meat to them,:-)! They could eat unclean things though.

  30. The spirit that spoke through Jesus, love, compassion, forgiveness and the willingness to give, is Lord overall. And the law was given to serve us, not us becoming servents to the law. Even the Son came to serve, show us the way, not to be made king

  31. Do you not think that Jesus is the Sabbath, in that he is the one we rest in. God is back at work, it is we that are called to rest in Jesus, He is our Sabbath rest.

  32. The LORD chose to memorialize His display of creative power by setting aside the seventh day of the Creation week as a holy day of rest and remembering. God wrote these words: “Remember the Sabbath Day Ex 20:8, in the New earth we will keep the Sabbath Is66:23

  33. God broke his own command by marching around Jerico 7 times.
    Jesus may not have broken the Sabbath.
    The jews had so many regulations (a fence) around the sabbath which made it impossible. Idon’t belive this was the original intent.

  34. Dr. Eli
    I so enjoy your insiteful articles. And now I need more, which of your books do you suggest I start with?? Thank you


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