Love, the Law and Pikuach Nefesh (by Len Winneroski)

UnknownThen he (Jesus) said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” – Mark 2:27-28

Are Christians still required to keep the Sabbath? Should the Sabbath be observed on Saturday or Sunday? Should Christian businesses be open on the weekends? Can we mow the lawn or clean the house on the Sabbath? God-fearing Jew’s and Christians have argued and debated questions like these since the very beginning of the church.

The fourth commandment, listed in Exodus 20:8-11, says to “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” Although Jesus recognized and practiced the Jewish Sabbath from sundown to sundown Friday to Saturday, he was accused by the religious leaders of his day of breaking it on multiple occasions.  For instance, John 9:16 says, “some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

The debate over the Sabbath still rages today. Some Christian’s believe that we should still practice the traditional Jewish Sabbath on Saturday so that we don’t break the forth commandment, while others feel that we recognize Christ’s resurrection by celebrating the Lord’s Day on Sunday.

Although we could talk about Constantine’s 321 A.D. Sunday Law edict, argue the merits of law vs. grace, and point to the fact that gathering on Sunday instead of Saturday has made it more difficult to witness to our Jewish friends, that is not the main point that I would like to make this morning. The bottom line for me is that Christ is the fulfillment of the law. The apostle Paul said, “do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17).

When Jesus “broke the Sabbath” by healing on the Sabbath, he was operating under the Jewish principle of pikuach nefesh. According to pikuach nefesh a person must do everything in their power (even work on the Sabbath) to save the life of another. (

I find it more than a coincidence that seven of Jesus’ recorded miracles were performed on the Sabbath. I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I’m guessing that He was trying to tell us something very important. Here is a list of the Sabbath miracles:

1) Jesus Heals a Lame Man by the Pool of Bethesda: John 5:1-18

2) Jesus Drives Out an Evil Spirit: Mark 1:21-28, Luke 4:31-37

3) Jesus Heals Peter’s Mother-in-law: Mark 1:29-34, Luke 4:38-41 (see earlier verses)

4) Jesus Heals a Man with a Deformed Hand: Matthew 12:9-13, Mark 3:1-6, Luke 6:6-11

5) Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind: John 9:1-16

6) Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman: Luke 13:10-17

7) Jesus Heals a Man with Dropsy: Luke 14:1-6

So while the religious folks were arguing about the technicalities of the Law, Jesus was busy healing the lame, the demon possessed, the deformed, the blind and the crippled. It makes me wonder… If we spent as much energy loving and helping those in need as we do arguing over baptism, tongues, the role of Mary in the church, and the proper day to recognize the Sabbath what would happen? I believe that the world would be transformed by the love of Christ. Dear Jesus, please help those of us who claim to follow you to love better than we argue and to actually do what you did while on earth so that you may be glorified.

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