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Matthew 12:8 & meaning...


Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath

Matthew 12:8


Matthew 12 [3.] But he said to them, “Haven’t you read what David did, when he was hungry, and those who were with him; how he entered into God’s house, and ate the show bread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law, that on the Sabbath day, the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are guiltless? But I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Matthew 12 [9.] He departed there, and went into their synagogue. And behold there was a man with a withered hand. They asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day?” that they might accuse him.


To truly grasp the weight of Jesus' words, we must first immerse ourselves in the context. The scene unfolds as the Pharisees, guardians of religious tradition, criticize Jesus for allowing His disciples to pluck and eat grain on the Sabbath, a day traditionally reserved for rest and strict observance of religious laws.

In response, Jesus not only defends His disciples but also challenges the very essence of their legalistic mindset. He invokes the title "Son of Man," a Messianic designation from the Old Testament (e.g., Daniel 7:13-14), signifying both His humanity and divine authority. By claiming lordship over the Sabbath, Jesus asserts a revolutionary paradigm shift—one that places Him as the ultimate authority over religious rituals.

  • Divine Authority Over Rituals: 
"For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath" resounds with the proclamation of Jesus' divine authority. The Sabbath, a sacred institution in Jewish tradition, is declared subject to the authority of the Son of Man. This challenges the Pharisaic understanding of Sabbath observance, emphasizing that Jesus transcends legalistic confines.

  • Restoring the True Purpose of the Sabbath: 
Jesus' declaration signifies a restoration of the true purpose of the Sabbath. Rather than being a rigid legalistic requirement, the Sabbath finds its fulfillment and true meaning in the person of Jesus. He becomes the source of genuine rest and spiritual rejuvenation, echoing the invitation, "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).

  • A Glimpse into the Messianic Identity: 
The use of the title "Son of Man" is significant. In associating Himself with the prophetic figure from Daniel, Jesus alludes to His Messianic identity. This title implies not only His authority over the Sabbath but also His role in inaugurating a new era—the Messianic Kingdom.


Freedom from Legalism: In claiming lordship over the Sabbath, Jesus liberates us from the shackles of legalism. Our relationship with Him is not defined by rigid adherence to religious rituals but by a living, dynamic connection with the One who is Lord over all aspects of our lives.

Rest in Christ: Jesus' declaration invites us into a profound spiritual rest found in Him. As Lord of the Sabbath, He offers a rest that goes beyond the cessation of physical labor; it is a rest for our souls, a rest that comes from being in intimate communion with our Lord (Hebrews 4:9-10).

A Paradigm Shift in Understanding Authority: The authority of Jesus challenges our understanding of authority itself. He is not a distant, authoritarian figure but the Lord who invites us into a relationship marked by grace, love, and genuine rest. It's an authority grounded in the redemptive work of the cross.

Cross References:

Mark 2:28: Mark's parallel account echoes the essence of Jesus' statement, emphasizing that the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath. This reinforces the universality of Christ's authority over all aspects of our lives.

Colossians 2:16-17: The principles of freedom from legalistic observances are echoed in Paul's letter to the Colossians. Believers are encouraged not to be judged by anyone regarding Sabbaths and festivals, as these are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

Hebrews 4:3, 9-10: The concept of entering God's rest is expounded in Hebrews, connecting the Sabbath rest with faith in Christ. The rest that Jesus provides goes beyond a day; it is a continual rest that believers enter by faith.

In Conclusion: Matthew 12:8 stands as a beacon, illuminating the transformative authority of Jesus over the religious customs of His time and, by extension, over our lives. As the Son of Man, He invites us into a relationship marked by rest, freedom from legalism, and a paradigm shift in our understanding of authority. In embracing Him as Lord of the Sabbath, we discover the profound truth that our ultimate rest is found in the One who knows us intimately and calls us to a vibrant life in Him.

See also: vs 7

PIB Scriptures are derived from the World English Bible


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