What Is The Sabbath?


This weekend, Gateway’s campus pastors will be preaching from Mark 2:23-3:6, which describes yet another run-in between the Pharisees and Jesus. This time, the context is the Sabbath.

For many of us, the ‘Sabbath’ is a somewhat foreign term, not often heard, nor do we Americans tend practice it well. But the Sabbath remains an important aspect of living the Christian life.

Here are a few questions and answers about the Sabbath:

What does the term ‘Sabbath’ mean?

The term ‘Sabbath’ is an ancient Hebrew word that actually means “to cease.” The Sabbath was a day when all ordinary work stopped. The Jewish Sabbath was celebrated weekly from Friday evening until Saturday evening. Today, Christians generally celebrate the Sabbath on Sundays, because Jesus redeemed us and the Sabbath through His resurrection on a Sunday.

Where did the Sabbath originate?

The Sabbath originated in God’s creation of the world.

Genesis 2:2-3 says: 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

Where in the Bible does God command the practice of the Sabbath?

Practicing the Sabbath is the fourth of the Ten Commandments.

Exodus 20:8-11 says: 8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

What is the purpose of the Sabbath?

The Sabbath is a day when we take a break from all our usual work activities to rest and enjoy God. Our focus on the Sabbath should be Christ and our worship of Him, together as the church. Jesus shows us in the New Testament that celebrating the Sabbath is less about legalism and more about grace. It’s less about sacrifice and more about mercy. It’s less about the Law and more about redemption. In fact, the Sabbath is all about Jesus and His redemptive work so that we can enjoy Him. We know this because Jesus said: 27 …”The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28).