Religious Leaders Hated Jesus

Throughout the gospel accounts of Jesus Christ's life and ministry, we continually see the hatred and animosity that the Jewish leaders had for Jesus. But why did they hate Jesus when they admitted that they knew he was sent from God? They hated him because he told them the truth about their religion, which was Judaism. Even though they professed to observe all of God's law and did observe the Sabbath (Shabbat) and the annual festivals, they had rejected God by teaching and living by their own rules and traditions instead of God's laws. By devising their own rules and traditions of worship, they violated God's instructions concerning tampering with the purity of his law:

"You shall not add to the word which I commanded you, neither shall you diminish ought from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you" (Deut.4:2 Para.).

Jesus said, "This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me teaching for doctrines the commandments of men . . . full well you reject the commandment of God that you may keep your own tradition" (Mk. 7:6-7,9 KJV).

For centuries, most people have assumed the Jews of Jesus' time were keeping the law of God as they should have, but this is not true! They were more concerned with preserving their own religious traditions than they were with loving and obeying God. As unbelievable as it may sound, they did not believe Moses, nor did they observe the law of Moses as God intended.

They had convinced themselves that all of their man-made rules and traditions were in harmony with God's Word and the law of Moses. In most cases, however, their traditions had become more important than God's Word. It became more important for them to wash their hands in a ceremonially religious ritual before each meal than it was to honor their fathers and mothers (See Matt.15; Mk.7).

Jesus said, "But I know you, that you have not the love of God in you . . .Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that is accusing you, even Moses in whom you trust. For had you believed Moses, you would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if you believe not his writings, how shall you believe my words?" (Jn.5:42-47 Para.). 

Jesus made it very clear that they not only disbelieved Moses but also disobeyed the law as Moses originally gave it:

"Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keep the law?" (Jn.7:19 Para.).

The gospel of John shows that Jesus revealed Judaism's perversion of God's way of truth. Although the Jews thought they were obeying God's law, they were actually violating most of it.

This is exactly the same problem inherent in most of Judaism and Christianity today. Millions of people have Bibles in their homes, and millions read and study God's Word, but how many truly follow and live by the word of God? What Jesus said then, still applies today!

Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do you not understand my speech? Even because you cannot hear my word. You are of your Father the Devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he is speaking a lie, he is speaking of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it" (Jn.8:42-44 Para.).


The Jews hated Jesus for this indictment:

"If I had not come and spoken to them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak [excuse] for their sin. He that hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. But this comes to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law. [They knew better, they had the law of God]. They hated me without a cause" (Jn.15:22-25 Para.).

This is one of the reasons why Jesus preached as he did, especially in relation to the Sabbath. He showed by healing, casting out demons, and preaching on the Sabbath that the Sabbath was a time for rejoicing, healing, redemption, and for preaching the Truth of God!

Neither God the Father nor Jesus Christ are honored by the traditions and religious precepts of men, whether or not they are Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Buddhist, or any other religion outside of the worship revealed in the Bible.

The Jews of Jesus' day had perverted the original intent of the Sabbath and made it their Sabbath by adding a multitude of rules concerning its observance. These rules and Jewish traditions turned the Sabbath into a day of rigorous bondage (Matt.23:4). 

This is why Jesus revealed that he was the Lord of the Sabbath, not of Jewish tradition. Jesus revealed and removed the bondage of Jewish tradition; he never abrogated the laws of God (Matt.5:17).

The laws and commandments of God and his Sabbath days were never bondage; they are called The Perfect Law of Liberty (Jms.1:25). Jesus Christ came to release God's way of truth from the bondage of Judaism!


"And he came to Nazareth where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read" (Lk.4:16 KJV).

Most people who profess Jesus Christ as their Savior will agree that he is the example one should follow in one's pursuit of righteousness.

It was Jesus' custom to participate in a formal worship service at the synagogue on the Sabbath. His custom was to observe the Sabbath the same day the Jews of his time did.


The English phrase on the Sabbath day would more accurately be translated from the Greek text as on the day of Sabbaths, which seems to indicate that this day may have also been the Feast of Weeks. Although there are no scriptures to support this assumption, it is a possibility, considering how the sacred calendar is structured and the Calendar Court's authority to administer it.

Made For Mankind

"And Jesus concluded, The Sabbath was made for the good of man, man was not made for the Sabbath" (Mk.2:27 GNB).

Jesus said that humanity was not meant to serve the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made to give them a break from their labors and as a time for coming together to worship God. However, the Sadducees and the Pharisees had made so many restrictive rules concerning Sabbath observance that its observance became a burden instead of a pleasure as God had originally intended.

"So the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath" (Mk.2:28 KJV).

Here, we see that Jesus claims authority over the Sabbath, and rightly so, because he had created it (Jn.1:1-26; 1.Cor.8:6; Heb.1:1-3) and pronounced the laws by which it was to be observed. Nowhere in the scriptures do we see the Creator God who became Jesus Christ or God the Father declaring the Sabbath an unnecessary observance.


Many believe that what is written in John 5:18 is proof that the Sabbath commandment has been abolished:

"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" (Jn.5:18 KJV).

Did Jesus indeed "break the Sabbath?" Or is there an error in the King James translation of this verse?

Before we go into the reason why the Jews thought Jesus broke the Sabbath, the question of whether or not Jesus could sin and still be our Savior should be answered.

Did Jesus Sin?

Many theologians believe that Jesus did transgress the Sabbath. They also assume the fourth commandment was merely the Law of Moses; therefore, they ignore the fact that Jesus was the Creator God who spoke the Ten Commandments from the top of Mount Sinai (Jn.1:1-18).

A little logic is a useful thing. This is especially true in dealing with the Word and Truth of God. God is a logical being and the Bible is a very logical book. While he was a human being, could Jesus have broken the law and still have qualified to be our Savior?

What is Sin?

What is the Biblical definition of sin? The apostle John said, "Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law" (1.Jn.3:4 KJV). But, of what law is John speaking about?

In his letter to the Romans (Rom.7:7), the apostle Paul said that he would not have known what sin was if it were not for the existence of the law. He goes on to show that the law he is speaking of contains the commandment, "You shall not covet," which is a part of the Ten Commandments. Therefore, one aspect of sin is the transgression of the Ten Commandments.

Paul explains that "The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good" (Rom.7:12). Then, in verse 14, he states, "The law is spiritual," which means this law is also eternal. The principles contained within the Ten Commandments are spiritual principles and will never be done away with. Therefore, this is the law which results in sin if it is broken. And we know the Sabbath is the fourth point of the law within these commandments. Therefore if one does not keep the Sabbath holy to God, one is guilty of sin according to the law.

It is important to remember that God is not pleased with those who refuse to obey him once they understand what he requires of them (Jn.9:31; Ezk.chp.20), and that continued disobedience will result in eternal death (Rom.6:23).

James says the same thing concerning the Sabbath: "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (Jms.2:10 KJV). James points out that violating any one point of the law causes one to break the entire law. Why is this so? It is because the law of God is a perfect body of law, and each point of the law is intertwined with and inseparable from the other. Therefore, the violation of one point violates the perfection of the whole, which brings to bear the entire weight of the law upon the law breaker.

Jesus And The Religious Leaders

During the life of Christ, there were many different schools of thought among the Jews and teachers of the law concerning what was right and wrong according to God's law. Some allowed certain things and not others, while some forbade something, and others permitted it. If Jesus had been merely another teacher with opinions of his own, it would not have bothered the Jews. What did disturb them was his assumption of real authority (Matt.7:29; Mk.1:22) based on his claim that God was his Father (See Jn.10:24-26,30-33). They imagined that he was out to steal away their followers and their prestige, which made them extremely jealous.

Perfect Obedience

We know that the Creator God became the man Jesus Christ who was made under the law (Gal.4:4-5) for the purpose of becoming our Savior. And we know sin is transgression of the law (1.Jn.3:4). Paul also tells us the wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23). If Jesus broke the law that he was obligated to keep as a man and an Israelite, he sinned! And if he sinned, he died for his own sins, not ours! And if he did not die for our sins, we have no Savior and no hope.

Jesus did not sin! Therefore, he kept all the law, which includes the Sabbath. The death of Jesus did not abolish, break, or rescind the law of God. Jesus gave his sinless life in place of our sinful lives and paid the penalty which was ours for violating the law of God.


Does John 5:18 say Jesus broke the Sabbath?

"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" (KJV).

The event that precipitated this accusation by the Jews was Jesus' compassion in healing a crippled man on the Sabbath (a man who had suffered in this condition for thirty-eight years), and then commanding him to roll up his pallet and carry it out of a crowded public place (Jn.5: 5-11).

Laboring on the Sabbath was not Jesus' normal practice. This was one act of mercy (Jn.7:21) for which Jesus was accused of breaking the Sabbath. The Jerusalem Jews were still talking about this event for months after it occurred, and it was for this one act that they were seeking to kill him (Jn.7:1-2,10).

Were special acts of mercy permissible on the Sabbath? Notice what John records about another special healing. After he had made clay and applied it to the eyes of a blind man, Jesus gave the congenitally blind man sight (Jn.9:14-32):

"Therefore some of the Pharisees said, This man [Jesus] is not of God, because he keeps not the Sabbath day [Notice whose opinion it was that Jesus had broken the Sabbath]. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them" (Jn.9:16 Para.).

If Jesus broke the Sabbath, he was a sinner. But did he break the Sabbath? This was a very difficult question for the legalistic Jews who argued the point among themselves. They even questioned the blind man whom Jesus had healed, but he only added to their dilemma by saying Jesus was not a sinner: "He has opened my eyes. Now we know that God hears not sinners" (Jn.9:30-31).


When Jesus is accused of violating the Sabbath because he had healed a person on the Sabbath, he replies, "If a man on the Sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are you angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the Sabbath day? Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (Jn.7:23-24 Para.).

It seems that these super-religious self-appointed teachers among the Jews did not regard the act of healing as coming under the same law of exceptions as circumcision or the law of emergencies (Lk.14:5; Ex.23:5; Deut.22:4). However, Jesus and his Father in heaven see it otherwise.


"And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years. . .and could in no way lift up herself. And when Jesus saw her, he called. . . and said to her, Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity. And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. Then the ruler of the synagogue angrily turned on the people and commanded them not to come any more to be healed on the Sabbath. The Lord [Jesus] then answered him, and said, You hypocrite, does 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 has bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?" (Lk.13:11-16 Para.). 

Jesus says that healing is an act of mercy and compassion, which constitutes a valid expression of God's love for his people. To do good is definitely legal on the Sabbath. It falls into the same spiritual category as having mercy and compassion on the helpless and needy. Certainly this woman was more important than an animal, which the Jews would not hesitate to rescue from harm 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" (Lk.13:17 Para.).

Later, and perhaps on the same Sabbath day (Lk.14:1-14), as Jesus was about to heal another person, he challenged the lawyers and Pharisees themselves to give an answer to their own question about whether or not it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath day. However, they could not or would not answer him, so Jesus went on to heal another person:

"And [Jesus] answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox which has fallen into a pit and will not straight-away pull him out on the Sabbath day? And they could not answer him again to these things" (Lk.14:5-6 Para.).

In every case, Jesus was performing merciful and compassionate acts which were exceptions to the interpretations the Jewish religious leaders put on the scriptures, but they were definitely not exceptions to the way God meant for the Sabbath to be kept.

To do good and show acts of mercy, compassion, and love on the Sabbath is a part of the Sabbath: These kinds of acts do not pollute or violate the Sabbath. Jesus certainly was not transgressing the Sabbath. Perhaps, this particular Sabbath was made even more holy because of Jesus' acts of mercy, compassion, and love on this special day. Certainly Jesus was not setting an example of ignoring the Sabbath.

As Jesus healed people on the Sabbath, he continually put the question of doing good on the Sabbath to his adversaries:

"And he [Jesus] entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the Sabbath day; that they might accuse him . . . And he said to them, Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath day . . .? to save life . . .? But they held their peace. And when he had looked around about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he healed the man" (Mk.3: 1-5; Lk.6:6-10 Para.).

In Matthew 12:11-12, Jesus cites the principle of the "sheep in the pit," and then he declares, "It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath day." We should keep in mind that Jesus Christ is the Creator of the Sabbath and it is he who originally established what can and cannot be done on the Sabbath (Gen.2:2-3; Jn.1:1-5; Eph.3:19). 


It is significant that the last mentioned Sabbath healing is immediately preceded in all three of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) by another aspect of the Sabbath-exceptions question. While walking through some grain fields, Jesus' disciples were hungry and began to eat kernels of the standing grain with Christ's approval. But why?

The Pharisees had already declared, "it is not lawful!" But Jesus proclaimed that a higher law (in these exceptional, occasional cases) transcended the law they zealously misunderstood and misapplied (Deut.23:25). It was the law of mercy, compassion, and doing good deeds. Did not God himself declare that he was interested in mercy and compassion rather than sacrifices (Hos.6:6). It was this same broad principle that made it lawful and necessary for an animal's owner to loose it from the stall and lead it to water on the Sabbath (Lk.13:15) or lift it out of a pit that it had fallen into (Lk.14:5). This law made it permissible for David and his hungry men to eat the showbread. Jesus cited the precedent for doing this in Matthew 12:1-4. Jesus explained that to do good deeds, the priests could labor in the temple on the Sabbath and they would be blameless (Matt.12:5).

It is merciful to give thirsty animals water to drink on the Sabbath and it was lawful and merciful for hungry men in need of nourishment to be given the holy showbread to eat. It was merciful for ailing persons who had endured their infirmities for years to be healed on the Sabbath. But these acts of mercy and compassion do not abolish or rescind the Sabbath. The principle is clear that doing merciful and compassionate deeds is not forbidden in the spirit and intent of the Sabbath command.

In one respect, Mark's account makes this matter more clear than either Matthew's or Luke's, because Mark includes an imperative statement in his account.

"And he said to them, The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mk.2:27 Para.). The Sabbath was made for the purpose of being a blessing and a benefit for humans. It was made to draw us closer to God and keep us mindful of his great purpose and love for us. The Sabbath was not made to be a burden; it was made to be a blessing.


In order to understand what is truly said in John 5:18, we must first understand what is meant by 'work' in verse 17: "But Jesus answered them [in regard to their condemnation of his Sabbath act], My Father works hitherto, and I work." There is probably no statement Jesus made concerning the Sabbath that is more misunderstood than this one.

What was Jesus saying? Did he say that he and the Father labored incessantly on every Sabbath? Did he say that they had never observed the Sabbath? Of course not! That would deny the scripture that said God had ceased to work on the seventh day of creation (Gen.2:2-3; Ex.20:11). 

The word work, as used in verse 17, does not refer to continuous laboring, it refers to the special and individual acts, deeds, or performances of miraculous healings. In reality, the work being done was in the spiritual sense. It was the spiritual work of God and had nothing to do with the prohibition of performing work by which one earns their living or accumulates wealth.

We are told that we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works (Eph.2:10). Therefore, one aspect of this spiritual work of the Father and Christ concerns the children of God. This spiritual work of God is going on seven days a week through the power of the Father's spirit within his children. Furthermore, it took the Father's spirit-power to do the miraculous works which Jesus performed.

Jesus said, "I can do nothing of my own self." (Jn.5:30 Para.); "Many good works [deeds] have I shown you from my Father" (Jn.10:32 Para.); "The Father that dwells in me, he is doing the works [the miraculous deeds]" (Jn.14:10 Para.).

With this in mind, it is clear that, in John 5:17, Jesus was saying that his Father is the one they were actually accusing for what he did on the Sabbath. Because it was only by the Father's will and through his power that Jesus was able to perform every good deed.

"Then answered Jesus and said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do: for whatever things he does, these also does the Son likewise" (Jn.5: 19 Para.).

In his observance of the Sabbath, and the making of it especially honorable (Isa.42:21), Christ was following the express will of the Father. They together were not rescinding the Sabbath; they were revealing its true purpose.

Verses 20 and 21 of John 5, and the rest of the chapter continue the discourse on the relationship between the Father and the Son. John returns again and again to this subject in John 6:26-65 and in most of chapters 7 through 18. This is the dominant theme of the gospel of John.


The one thing Jesus did that directly contradicted the assumed authority of the Pharisees concerning the Sabbath was his performance of miraculous deeds. He was actually keeping the Sabbath in its fullest intent and purpose (for mankind). Additionally, his teachings contradicted the overly strict and added do’s and don’ts which were manmade traditions by which these religious leaders made the Sabbath a yoke of bondage.

Jesus loosed these needless restrictions. He did not "break" the Sabbath. 

This is exactly what is written in the original Greek of John 5:18:

"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" (KJV).

The English word break in verse 18 is translated from the Greek verb luo, which is normally translated to loose. It does not mean break, abolish or rescind nor does it have great legal force to it as has been alleged. Notice the following example in which this same Greek word is used:

"Whoever therefore shall break [more properly, loose] one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt.5:19 Para.).

This was Jesus' own evaluation of the law of God. It was sinful even to loose much less to break any of the commandments, including the Sabbath command. But the added commandments, traditions, and dogmas of men were a far different matter!

Additional Sabbath Rules

After the death of Ezra and Nehemiah, Jewish religious leaders began to enforce the Sabbath with more zeal in order to avoid the mistakes of the past which resulted in their national captivity.

Without any authority from God, the Jews began to add their own list of rules to Sabbath observance. Because of these added rules, Sabbath observance became very complex and a burden to the people which drove them away from God instead of drawing them closer.

During Christ's time, the Scribes and the Pharisees who sat in Moses' seat (Matt.23:2) used their authority to enforce these self imposed Sabbath rules instead of administering the just and holy laws concerning the Sabbath that God had given to their ancestors. These additional man-made laws are what Jesus rescinded and loosed. He certainly had not abolished or rescinded the Sabbath day as a result of performing acts of mercy and healing people on it!

Surely it ought to be plain by now that Jesus loosed the Sabbath. Those who say that Jesus did away with the Sabbath are actually taking a firm stand with the Pharisees against Jesus Christ by saying the same thing they said.

Anyone who believes that Jesus broke the Sabbath is actually denying that Jesus Christ is our Savior by accusing him of sin! Most who do not wish to observe the Sabbath today use the excuse that Christ broke the Sabbath or that the need to keep the Sabbath was abolished at his death. This is how they attempt to excuse their own violation of the Sabbath. 

Using John 5:18-19 as the basis for abolishing the Sabbath is mere wishful thinking that does not rest on a deep understanding of the Greek language, the scriptural context, or special insight into the minds of John and Christ. Instead, it rests on pretexts, misunderstandings, bold extrapolations, broad stretching of the evidence, and narrow biased use of lexical statements. These arguments are mere attempts at justification by people who are afraid that they themselves should be keeping the Sabbath.

Jesus And The Law

Jesus said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill" (Matt.5:17 KJV).

Jesus did not come to weaken or destroy the law as many people think; he came to keep it perfectly, reveal its goodness, and magnify it by revealing the love and spiritual principles upon which it was founded. See also Isa.42:21; Matt.5:18-20.


Below is a short review of some of the evidence of Sabbath keeping by the apostles and the early church.

In Acts 13:14-15, we see Paul and Barnabas arriving in Antioch and going into the synagogue on the Sabbath day where, after the formal reading of the law and the prophets, they began to preach to those in attendance:

"And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath" (Acts 13:42 Para.).

After the Jews had left the Sabbath services, the Gentiles asked Paul and Barnabas to preach to them on the next Sabbath:

"Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. And the next Sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God" (Acts 13:43-44 Para.).

The Jews and the Gentiles asked Paul to preach to them on the next Sabbath. Why didn't they just ask him to come to Sunday services the next day, if that was the day that should be observed? They did not do this because Paul observed the Sabbath. He knew which day was sanctified by God and he taught others to observe it as well:

"And Paul, as his manner was, went in to them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures" (Acts 17:2 Para.). 

It was the practice of the apostle Paul as well as the other leaders of the early church to observe the Sabbath by teaching the word of God in the formal setting of a worship service. These events recorded in Acts 13 and 17 took place in 45 and 49 A.D., which was long after the early church began.

In Acts 18:1-4, we see Paul in Corinth: "And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks" (v4). This was about 51 A.D., which was over 20 years after the death and resurrection of Christ.

In these three accounts, we find Paul observing the Sabbath many years after the death and resurrection of Christ. Remember, Paul was taught personally by Jesus (Gal.1:10-12). Surely Paul would have known of any change in the observance of the Sabbath or a change of the day on which it should be observed. Remember also that Paul says, "Be you followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (1.Cor.11:1).

Keeping Of The Sabbath

Notice the following statement in the Book of Hebrews which was written about thirty years after Christ's resurrection:

"There remains therefore a rest to the people of God" (Heb.4:9 Para.).

Most Bible marginal references have the correct Greek translation of the word rest as keeping of the Sabbath. The word rest comes from the Greek word sabbatismos, which means Sabbath. Therefore, verse 9 should read, "There remains therefore a keeping of the Sabbath to the people of God."

The New International Version of the Bible translates Hebrews 4:9 as follows:

"There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God."

Yes, God intended his people to rest on the Sabbath and draw close to him in worship and fellowship on the day that he set apart at Creation for this purpose.

It is indisputable that both the Bible and secular history record that the apostles and the early church observed the seventh-day Sabbath. Therefore, we must conclude that, as a child of God today, we must also observe this day as instructed in the biblical record.

By B.L. Cocherell      b5w3