The Sabbath In Perspective: An Illustration

“He said to them, ‘What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’ Then He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand!’ He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other” (Matthew 12:11–13).

One of the tragedies of Hinduism in India is its distorted disregard for human welfare. You should not give food to a beggar because that might interfere with his karma and keep him from suffering on a higher level of existence. You should not kill a fly because it could be the reincarnation of a person. For the same reason, you must allow rats to live and eat whatever they want. Hindus consider cows sacred and feed them whatever food is available. At the same time, they let certain people starve.

Similarly, the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ time despised other people and showed more compassion for their sheep than for the handicapped man here. Mark’s account says Jesus asked, “‘Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?’ But they kept silent” (Mark 3:4). The Pharisees couldn’t say anything because they would have been forced either to contradict their tradition or advocate murder. Their only external response was to remain silent, but undoubtedly they “were filled with rage” (Luke 6:11).

Our Lord answered His own question with the clear declaration, “So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” He then healed the man’s deformed hand as the Pharisees’ resentment no doubt rose to new heights. Christ not only approved of doing good on the Sabbath, He went ahead and actually performed good on behalf of another. If anything, this set forth the Sabbath as the supreme day for doing good.

Ask Yourself

What teachings of Scripture do you still mainly follow out of dutiful habit, not with an eye toward honoring God or being used as a blessing to others? What has your legalistic adherence gained for you, and what has it cost you?

From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610,