December 21, 1893
JESUS CHRIST was persecuted because he did not keep the Sabbath to suit the Pharisees, the scribes, and the priests, in his days on earth.
CHRIST was not only persecuted, but he was rejected, and a robber and murderer was chosen in his stead, and he was crucified, because he would not keep the Sabbath to suit the Pharisees, the scribes, and the priests.
ALTHOUGH Lord of the Sabbath, himself, yet he was denounced as a Sabbath-breaker, was spied upon, was persecuted, was rejected, and a robber and murderer chosen in his stead, and was crucified, because he would not conform to the narrow, bigoted ideas of the Sabbath held by the Pharisees, scribes, and doctors of the law.
ALL this is worthy of peculiar attention in every way, just now when the Pharisees, the scribes, the chief priests, the hypocrites, and the doctors of the law, are making such a great stir over the Sabbath question, and are spying upon, and persecuting, and imprisoning, people for “Sabbath-breaking,” who are actually Sabbath-keeping, according to the plainest word of the Son, and according to the whole life’s example of Jesus Christ himself.
THE first year and a half of the Saviour’s ministry did not arouse much antagonistic attention from the church leaders and authorities. During this time their attention was that of curiosity to know what his work was to amount to. As he had not come in the worldly pomp and kingly power which their selfish designs had pictured, and as he did not show any signs of developing into it, they counted him as nothing, and expected to see his influence fade away and come to naught.
BUT, although Jesus indulged in no empty show, and made no attempt to draw attention to himself, and always spoke in the quietest, simplest way, there was a power that attended his words which held the minds and hearts of the people, and which they readily contrasted with the words of the scribes; for “his word was with power,” and “he taught as one having authority and not as the scribes.” And, instead of the Pharisees and other church leaders seeing his influence and work fade away, they saw it steadily increase and grow so that it even began to threaten their own influence with the people. Then they began their open criticism.
IT was at the end of the first eighteen months of his public ministry, when the man who was sick of the palsy, was let down through the tiling and was forgiven his sins and instantly restored by Christ’s word, and was bidden to take up his bed and walk. “There were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judea and Jerusalem,” and they murmured against him as speaking blasphemies. Matthew 9:1-7; Mark 2:1-12; and Luke 5:17-26. Very shortly after this, however, at Jerusalem, he restored the man at the pool of Bethesda, who had been impotent thirty-eight years, and bade him also to take up his bed and walk. But it was the Sabbath day when this was done, and “the Jews therefore said unto him that was cured: It is the Sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed and walk.” They asked who this was, and the man could not tell. Afterward, however, the man met Jesus in the temple and recognized him, and went and told the inquirers that it was Jesus who had made him whole, and therefore the one who had told him to carry his bed, and both on the Sabbath day. “And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the Sabbath day. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.” John 5:1-18.
NOW Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. He made it. He is the one whose power it commemorates. He is the one whom it brings to the mind of the faithful observer. It was literally impossible for Jesus to break the Sabbath; the Sabbath being the sign of what he is, and that men may know that he is what he is. Whatsoever he did therefore on the Sabbath was in itself Sabbath-keeping, and could not possibly be anything else. His Sabbath-keeping was precisely and in its fullness God’s idea of Sabbath-keeping, and was in itself perfect righteousness. The Pharisees condemned it as utterly wrong because it did not comport with their ideas of the Sabbath, and demanded that the Lord should give up his own and adopt their ideas of the Sabbath. The contest, therefore, in that day was, whether the Lord’s or man’s idea of the Sabbath should prevail. To reject the Lord’s idea of the Sabbath was to reject the Sabbath itself, and this was to reject the Lord himself. And when they clung to their own views against his, this was to put themselves above him, and to substitute themselves for him; and this was to put themselves above God.
SOON after the healing of the man at the pool, Jesus, his disciples, and some Pharisees, were going through a field of wheat on the Sabbath day, and the disciples pulled off some of the heads of wheat, rubbed out the wheat in their hands and ate it, for they were hungry. Then the Pharisees said at once to him, “Why do thy disciples that which is not lawful to do on the Sabbath day?” Jesus answered, “The Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath day.” “If ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.” “Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days.”
THEN, if not on the same day, the next Sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there who had a withered hand. And the Pharisees narrowly watched Jesus to see whether he would heal this man on the Sabbath that they might accuse him.  Jesus knew their thoughts and their purpose, and as though to make the thing as open as possible, he said to the man with the withered hand, “Stand forth in the midst.” The man stepped out, and thus every eye in the synagogue was fixed on him and Jesus. Then said Jesus to the Pharisees: “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life or to kill?” They could make no answer. Then said Jesus to the man, “Stretch forth thine hand.” “And he stretched it forth whole, as the other. Then the Pharisees went forth and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.” Matthew 12:1-14; Mark 2:23-26; and Luke 6:1-11.
THIS counselling with the Herodians is worthy of notice. The Herodians, as the name clearly indicates, were the partisans of the family of Herod. They were a political rather than strictly a religious sect. And they were also the supporters of Rome as well as of the Herods, because the Herods were dependent on Rome for their power. The original Herod received his place as governor of Judea from the Roman Senate led by Mark Antony. And Rome was the support of the house of Herod throughout. The Pharisees were ever resentful of the Roman power and constantly galled under the Roman yoke; and were therefore, both on religious and political grounds, the sectarian enemies of the Herodians. But their hatred of Jesus, and their determination to suppress his heretical views and practices on the Sabbath question were so great as to lead them to forego all differences and distinctions of either a sectarian or a political nature, and to enter into intimate counsel with their sectarian enemies to further their purposes against the Lord. This alliance with the Herodians also explains the readiness with which the Pharisees finally secured the cooperation of Herod and Pilate in corruptly carrying out their more corrupt purposes against Jesus.
AGAIN, at the feast of tabernacles, Jesus was teaching in the temple and said: “Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me? The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee? Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel. Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; … and ye on the Sabbath day circumcise a man. If a man on the Sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me because I have made a man every whit whole on the Sabbath day?” “Then they sought to take him, but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come. And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done? The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.” But the officers returned without him, and were met with the inquiry, “Why have ye not brought him?” They answered, “Never man spake like this man.” The Pharisees replied, “Are ye also deceived? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.” And in their angry zeal they were about to judge and condemn him right there, without any hearing, but Nicodemus put a check upon the proceedings by the inquiry, “Doth our law judge any man before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” The assembly broke up and every man went unto his own house. But Jesus went unto the “Mount of Olives.” John 7:19-53; 8:1. While they went on with their wicked plotting against him, he himself went to the Mount of Olives to pray, and to pray for them. Psalm 31:13-15; 69:11-13. While they were allying themselves to political power, he was holding fast to God. While they were putting their trust in earthly power, he was showing his trust in God.
SHORTLY afterward he met the man who had been born blind, and anointed his eyes with clay, and sent him to the pool of Siloam, and the man went and washed and came seeing. His neighbors and others brought to the Pharisees him whose sight had been thus given him. “And it was the Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes…. therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God because he keepeth not the Sabbath day.” John 9:14-16.
AGAIN, “He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day. The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day? And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.” Luke 13:11-17.
AGAIN, “And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath day, that they watched him. And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day? And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go; and answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the Sabbath day? And they could not answer him again to these things.” Luke 14:1-6.
Every time they watched to see whether he would do so and so on the Sabbath day, they saw just what they were looking for. And they saw it so plainly, too, that there was no mistaking it. Nor did he ever make any apology for it; nor did he ever attempt to prove that what he did could not have “disturbed” anybody.
JESUS went on in his blessed work, and the Pharisees followed with their accursed plotting. At last he raised Lazarus from the dead, and “many of the Jews believed on Jesus.” And immediately the news was carried to the Pharisees. “Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not…. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.” John 11:45-53.
THEIR self-convincing and self-justifying argument was this: “This Christ perpetually disregards the Sabbath. He is a confirmed Sabbath-breaker. All who believe on him will follow his example, of course. And he is gaining such an influence that all the people will certainly believe on him if things are suffered to go on. And as surely as they do this they will all become, from his teaching and example, habitual Sabbath-breakers like himself. This will make a whole nation of Sabbath-breakers. Then the judgment of God will fall upon the land, and he will bring in the Romans like a flood as he did the Chaldeans before and sweep all away and leave the land desolate. The salvation of the nation depends upon the maintenance of the Sabbath. But this Christ continually disregards the Sabbath and will not yield. Therefore, as the salvation of the nation depends upon our maintaining the Sabbath, and as this fellow’s teaching and influence is carrying the whole nation into Sabbath-breaking, it is plain enough that if we would save the nation we must get rid of him.” Thus their blind zeal and bigoted prejudice led them to attempt to save the nation by rejecting and destroying the Saviour. This was then only to put themselves in the place of Christ, and even above him, as the saviours of the nation. So that, in the Sabbath question in that day, as well as in this, there was involved the question: Who is the Saviour? Is it Christ or man? Is it Christ, by the power and faith of God alone; or is it the self-appointed church-leaders, by the power and force of earthly government?
THEY tried one more tack, however, before proceeding to open violence: They set a trap by which to get him to say some word or give some sign which they could twist into a charge of treason or disrespect of authority so as to get him into the clutch of the law. “Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. And they watched him. And they sent out unto him their disciples, with the Herodians, as spies, who should feign themselves to be just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.” And they asked him that question concerning the tribute, when he answered, “Render to Cesar the things that are Cesar’s, and unto God the things which are God’s.” “And when they heard it, they were not able to take hold of that saying before the people: and they marvelled greatly at his answer, and held  their peace; and left him and went their way.” Matthew 22:15-22; Luke 20:20-30. Then the very next day, “were gathered together the chief priests and the scribes and the elders of the people unto the court of the high priest who was called Caiaphas; and they took counsel together that they might take Jesus by subtlety, and kill him. But they said, Not during the feast, lest haply a tumult arise among the people, for they feared the people.” Then came Judas to the chief priests and captains and offered to betray him secretly unto them. They gave him the thirty pieces of silver, “and he consented, and from that time he sought opportunity how he might conveniently deliver him unto them in the absence of the multitude.” And the night of the very next day they captured him in Gethsemane, after midnight, and led him to Annas, and then to Caiaphas, then to Pilate, then to Herod, and back to Pilate. And when Pilate had insisted, even to the sixth time, that he found in him no fault, and spoke three times of releasing him and really sought a way to release him, then it was, that in their desperation, they cried: “If thou let this man go thou art not Cesar’s friend. Whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Cesar.” Pilate then took the judgment seat, and they demanded that Jesus should be crucified. Pilate said, “Shall I crucify your King?” And in utter renunciation of God and all that he had ever done for them, they replied: “We have no king but Cesar.” Then therefore he delivered him unto them to be crucified.” And they led him away to crucify him.” “And they crucified him.”
AND they did it all to save themselves and the nation. But this was to make themselves the saviours of themselves and others; for in doing it they rejected the Saviour both of themselves and of all men. Thus the Sabbath question in that day, as in all days, involved the question of, Who is the Saviour? Their efforts then, to save themselves and the nation, resulted in the utter ruin of themselves and of the nation. They said, “If we let him alone, the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.” They did not let him alone, they persecuted him to death, and the Romans did come and take away both their place and nation. Their effort to save their place and nation only destroyed their place and nation.
THIS whole account was written for the warning and instruction of men in the ages to follow. And to no age or time could it possibly be more applicable, or more pertinent, than to just this day and time in the United States. Here the Pharisees, the scribes, and the doctors of the law have rejected God’s idea of the Sabbath and have set up a man’s. God’s idea on this subject is clearly stated, “The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.” Man’s idea is and is declared, “Sunday is and shall be the Sabbath,” and this plainly instead of the Sabbath of the Lord, as the Lord himself has stated the matter. To-day also the most widely separated sects, in profession, the Protestants, and the Catholics, have joined themselves together, as did the Pharisees and Herodians, to get control of governmental power to make effective their purpose to put down the Lord’s idea of the Sabbath and exalt a man’s—even that of the man of sin. These too, to-day, like those of old, accomplished their purpose upon the governmental authorities by threats of political ruin, like those of old did upon Pilate. And to-day, in many parts of the land, these Pharisees are persecuting those who maintain the Lord’s idea of the Sabbath, as expressed in his own words, just as those Pharisees back there did Jesus for doing the same thing. To-day these Pharisees are watching, and spying upon those who are loyal to God’s idea of the Sabbath, just as were those back yonder watching Jesus and spying upon him for the same thing. To-day these Pharisees are doing all this to get these to compromise or give up the Lord’s idea of the Sabbath and adopt man’s idea, which is but the idea of the man of sin, as did those Pharisees back yonder to get Jesus to do the same thing.
AND we are most happy to know, and to have these Pharisees find out, that there are some people so much like Jesus, that when they are persecuted to get them to yield the Lord’s Sabbath and adopt man’s, they will not do it. We are glad to know that there are to-day some people who are so much like Jesus, that when they are conforming strictly to God’s idea of the Sabbath and are therefore faithful Sabbath-keepers, they are yet persecuted and imprisoned as Sabbath-breakers. And we are especially glad to know that these people are so much like Jesus that when the Pharisees of to-day go sneaking and spying around them as the others did around Jesus, these see just what they are watching for, as the other Pharisees saw when they watched Jesus. And we sincerely hope that these people shall still be so much like Jesus that the will suffer persecution to the death as did he, rather than to compromise or yield one hair’s-breadth of their allegiance to God’s idea of the Sabbath, or to adopt to that extent man’s idea of the Sabbath in the place of God’s, or even along with the Lord’s. For to put man’s idea on an equality with the Lord’s is at once to put it in the place of the Lord’s. Of the Sabbath keeping Waldenses it is written, that “many of the true people of God became so bewildered that while they observed the Sabbath they refrained from labor also on the Sunday.—Great Controversy, Vol. IV., p. 65. God forbid that any of the true people of God in our day should become so bewildered as this! No. Far better be like Jesus and die for allegiance to God’s truth, than to live by compromise with the lies and abominations of the Pharisees and Herodians, backed up by both Herod and Pilate.
A. T. J.