We read a little bit ago where Jesus was at his hometown synagogue on the Sabbath day. Now we come upon Matthew 4:23 where he is teaching in a synagogue. So let’s explore this a bit more. You can see some scriptures references to Him in a synagogue here or regarding the Sabbath here.
What can we learn from these passages about how Jesus felt about synagogues and Sabbaths?
- “he taught in their synagogues.”
- “he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom” in the synagogues.
- He “healed every disease and sickness among the people” in the synagogues.
- He “went into the synagogue and began to teach” “when the Sabbath came” it was “his custom.”
- He rebuked demons and cast them out “Be silent and come out of him!” in the synagogues.
- He visited people on the Sabbath, “and he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Simon’s mother-in-law whom Jesus healed there, immediately “rose and began to serve them,” on the Sabbath.
- He taught in many synagogues.
- His disciples “picked some heads of grain and ate them” on the Sabbath. When confronted with this unlawful act Jesus challenges them back with “Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break [the sanctity of] the Sabbath and yet are innocent?”
- Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
- He asked, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”
- He had dinner at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees on the Sabbath.
- During the Feast of the Booths, He told the disciples He was “not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” But then He went to the temple to teach in the middle of the feast, they confronted Him about healing on the Sabbath, “Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
- He “made the mud and opened the man’s eyes” with it on the Sabbath.
I did some research starting with synagogues and the Sabbath, using a variety of resources, especially Jewish ones. To be frank, I guess in my mind, with little thought attached to it, I figured the Jewish people of today probably know what they are doing when it comes to pre-Jesus stuff.
Then I came back to the whole point of this study – getting back to basics. So I thought, what did God say about all this – duh? Right?
Surprisingly, very little. Seriously. I was a little shocked at what I found. It also speaks to how little I am versed on the Old Testament. O.o Here is the whole of what God says about synagogues:
Ohhhh, wait, it’s probably because they weren’t called synagogues … Hmmm, ohh I know it was a tent, I think it was called the tent of meeting or tabernacle. Let’s try that.
In Exodus 17 we see the Tabernacle being set up, all the instructions about building it, and the consecration of Aaron and his sons as Priests. We see a lot about the Priests and then in Exodus 29, we see where God says,
There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory.
I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.
We also see a Tent of Meeting in Exodus 33 and 40. But no where do we see anyone other than Moses or the priests entering the tabernacle or tent of meetings. We see where God did instruct the Israelites to observe certain rituals, in Leviticus 23. One of those is the Sabbath, which is weekly, but it doesn’t say anything about getting together for it. We’ll explore the details of the Sabbath in a moment.
So when did weekly meetings start? Did God instruct them? Let’s see, temple – yeah, it would have been a temple back then. So let’s look at the Temple and God’s instructions regarding the weekly meetings in a Temple.
The first Temple wasn’t even started until the 4th year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, about 970 some years before Christ was born. We do see people other than priests able to enter now, but it doesn’t look like there was any mandate from God to meet there weekly.
It seems weekly “synagogue” started sometime after the Temple was destroyed. The best I can come up with because of lack of any other evidence is, it’s a man thing, not a God thing.
Now back to the Sabbath, which was an instruction, a Commandment, given by God. Exactly what were people supposed to do on the Sabbath?
I read a lot about Jewish traditions and rituals on the Sabbath, and then went to the Bible to see what I could find. I quickly discovered, most of what I read in regards to Jewish traditions on the Sabbath were man made, not necessarily God made. Here are all the instructions I could find regarding the Sabbath. Here are some things we can glean from these:
“bake and boil what you will bake and boil [today], and all that remains left over put aside for yourselves to keep until morning.” … “Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none.” [NOTE: this was in regards to the manna which God provided during the time in the wilderness.]
“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath [a day of rest dedicated] to the Lord your God; on that day you shall not do any work,” [NOTE: The word work isn’t what we think it is. It means, “the kind of work that is creative, or that exercises control or dominion over your environment.” That’s a lot different than what we would typically consider work.]
“You shall most certainly observe My Sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, so that you may know [without any doubt] and acknowledge that I am the Lord who sanctifies you and sets you apart [for Myself].”
“So the Israelites shall observe the Sabbath, to celebrate the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.’ 17 It is a sign between Me and the Israelites forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He ceased and was refreshed.”
“You shall not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.” [NOTE: There are many opinions on what kindle means.]
“Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, To minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord, To be His servants,” [should keep the Sabbath].
“honor it, not going your own way Or [d]engaging in your own pleasure Or speaking your own [idle] words,”
“do not carry any load on the Sabbath day or bring anything in through the gates of Jerusalem. 22 You shall not carry a load out of your houses on the Sabbath day nor do any work, but keep the Sabbath day holy [by setting it apart as a day of worship],”
To sum it all up.
- “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
- In regards to actions on the Sabbath, Jesus said, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
- Jesus’s custom was spending the Sabbath day in a synagogue teaching.
- Jesus “healed every disease and sickness among the people” on the Sabbath.
- Jesus rebuked demons and cast them out on the Sabbath.
- Jesus visited people on the Sabbath.
- It doesn’t seem as though God ever really instituted any weekly gatherings, just Feasts and the Sabbath.
- God was pretty clear in the Old Testament about keeping the Sabbath day – He repeated it over and over. He included it as one of the 10 Commandments.
- It is a sign throughout generations that God sanctifies us and sets us apart.
- It is a sign between God and the Israelites forever that He mad the heavens and the earth in six days and on the seventh He ceased and was refreshed.
- The only mandates for common people (those who are not Priests) regarding the Sabbath day are listed above, everything else is man made.
- The Sabbath was the seventh day after six days of labor. The Jewish Calendar has always been based off lunar occurrences, so basically, they use God’s nature to keep track of things. The Jews believe the Sabbath starts on what we refer to as sun down Friday and ends at sun down Saturday.
- Weekly gatherings on Sundays began in the New Testament.
Did any of this change after Jesus? We may discover the answer to that question as we continue the journey of getting back to basics. For now, I’m am going to choose to let it sit just as it is.