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Are the Sabbath laws binding on Christians today? – MacArthur

Are the Sabbath laws binding on Christians today? – John MacArthur

We believe the Old Testament regulations governing Sabbath observances are ceremonial, not moral, aspects of the law. As such, they are no longer in force, but have passed away along with the sacrificial system, the Levitical priesthood, and all other aspects of Moses’ law that prefigured Christ. Here are the reasons we hold this view.

  1. In Colossians 2:16-17, Paul explicitly refers to the Sabbath as a shadow of Christ, which is no longer binding since the substance (Christ) has come. It is quite clear in those verses that the weekly Sabbath is in view. The phrase “a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day” refers to the annual, monthly, and weekly holy days of the Jewish calendar (cf. 1 Chronicles 23:31; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 31:3; Ezekiel 45:17; Hosea 2:11). If Paul were referring to special ceremonial dates of rest in that passage, why would he have used the word “Sabbath?” He had already mentioned the ceremonial dates when he spoke of festivals and new moons.
  2. The Sabbath was the sign to Israel of the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 31:16-17; Ezekiel 20:12; Nehemiah 9:14). Since we are now under the New Covenant (Hebrews 8), we are no longer required to observe the sign of the Mosaic Covenant.
  3. The New Testament never commands Christians to observe the Sabbath.

Continue reading …

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Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5:19-20 (Part 2)

Matthew 5:19 (ESV) Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

We don’t really know what a least commandment is.  The Pharisees had many different ways of breaking down the Law of Moses into the important and the least important.  Obviously in a later passage Jesus implies that tithing mint, dill, and cumin are a least matter by suggesting the Pharisees should have done the weightier matters.  Yet while we have several references to weightier, greatest and most important, we don’t have Jesus really explaining a “least’ commandment.

Matthew 23:23 (ESV) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

Matthew 22:37-39 (ESV)
37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
38 This is the great and first commandment.
39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Mark 12:29-31 (ESV)
29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these”

Mark 12:33 (ESV) And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Luke 16:10 (ESV) “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.



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A Better Hope and Promise

In comparing and contrasting the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes, I found something interesting.  Hope you find it just as interesting and encouraging.

Hebrews 7:18-19 (ESV)
18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness
19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.

Read through the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17 looking for the promises, hopes or curses given upon obedience or disobedience.

Exodus 20:1-17 (ESV)
1 And God spoke all these words, saying,
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,
6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments
.
7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
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.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Then read The Beatitudes from Matthew 5.

Matthew 5:3-12 (ESV)
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

So what are the differences?

Bad news first! First the curses from God for disobedience. 

Ten Commandments Curses:

Exodus 20:5 … visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, …

Exodus 20:7 …will not hold him guiltless…

The Beatitudes have no curses from God.


Now what about the promises for obedience?

 

Ten Commandments Promises:

Exodus 20: 6 … showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments…

Exodus 20:12 … that your days may be long in the land …

 

The Beatitudes are full of promises and hope.

Matthew 5:3 theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:4they shall be comforted.

Matthew 5:5they shall inherit the earth.

Matthew 5:6they shall be satisfied.

Matthew 5:7they shall receive mercy.

Matthew 5:8they shall see God.

Matthew 5:9they shall be called sons of God.

Matthew 5:10theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:12your reward is great in heaven, …


See one of the many reasons why we are under a better promise and hope?

Hebrews 7:19 (ESV) (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.



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Law and the Prophets

The “Law and the Prophets” refer to the first five books of the Law and all the major and minor prophecy books.  But generally this also includes the books of poetry or wisdom books since much of the time they also offer prophecy, such as in Psalms 22:1.

Matthew 5:17 (ESV) “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Matthew 7:12 (ESV) “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 11:13 (ESV) For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John,

Matthew 22:37-40 (ESV)
37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
38 This is the great and first commandment.
39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Luke 16:16 (ESV) The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it.

Luke 24:44 (ESV) Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

John 1:45 (ESV) Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Acts 13:15 (ESV) After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.”

Acts 24:14-15 (ESV)
14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets,
15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.

Acts 28:23 (ESV) When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.

Romans 3:21-22 (ESV)
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—
22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. …



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Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5:19-20 (Part 1)

This passage is one of those many passages that has varying explanations depending on one’s view of the Law of Moses and the New Testament.

Matthew 5:19-20 (ESV)
19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

See we looked at Matthew 5:17-18 already and there Jesus is talking about the Law and the Prophets not passing away until all is fulfilled or accomplished.  But notice the subject matter has changed in Matthew 5:19.  Now Jesus is talking about commandments. 

  • Why the change? 
  • What is He referring to when He says commandments? 
  • What is the “Least of these commandments”? 
  • But doesn’t Paul teach not to follow some of the Law of Moses?
  • Do other books in the NT contradict this statement from Jesus if they teach not to observe the Law, or portions of the Law?

See how we can confuse ourselves?  The confusion is ours not the Lord’s because He is not the author of confusion. (1 Corinthians 14:33)

For several weeks now I have been working on a comparison and contrast between the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ.  That has been a very interesting study.  But the general gist is that the Law of Moses was given on Mount Sinai and the Law of Christ was given on the Mount.  One interesting detail I found was that in Exodus 19:4-5 God points out how He has physically blessed Israel and then warns them to obey His Voice and His Covenant.

Exodus 19:4-5 (ESV)
4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.
5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;

Then look at the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus begins by telling the people about their blessings if they are part of the Kingdom in Heaven, the Beatitudes.  Then He tells the people He is not destroying the Law and the Prophets but fulfilling them.  Next Jesus tells the people that if they break the least of these commandments or teach others to break them then they will be least in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus proceeds to give His commandments concerning righteousness (Matthew 5:20), murder (Matthew 5:21-22), Adultery (Matthew 5:27-28), Marriage (Matthew 5:31-32), etc.  Jesus is changing what the Jews knew of the Law of Moses by raising the stakes and giving His Law, The Law of Christ.  By the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus has raised the stakes so much that one must be more righteous than a Pharisee to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 

But see Jesus surely can’t be referring to the full Law of Moses when He is speaking in this passage because then we have Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, teaching that circumcision is not any longer the physical circumcision but it is the circumcision of the heart.  Teaching that there is no longer any sacrifices and that food should not be an issue.  Surely no true believer thinks Paul is “least in the kingdom of Heaven”? 

In Matthew 5:20 Jesus tells the people they must be more righteous than the Pharisees if they want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Can you imagine how the people felt when they heard they must be more righteous than the Pharisees, the “perfect” Law of Moses abiders?  But then Jesus goes on to explain exactly what He means which is above and beyond the Law of Moses.  By then they are astonished because how can any man fulfill the Law that Jesus laws down.  No hate, no lust, and love your enemies seemed to be impossible demands to be placed on them.

Jesus sums up the Sermon on the Mount by saying that everyone “who hears these words of Mine and does them” will be like a wise man.  Notice the phrase “these words of Mine”!

Matthew 7:24 (ESV) “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

Jesus gave His Law as one who had authority.  He was giving direct instruction.  Not once did Jesus have to revert to saying “God says …”.

Matthew 7:28-29 (ESV)
28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching,
29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

When my children give instruction to a sibling and that sibling doesn’t obey them often they must revert to say “Moma said to ______ .”  Their authority is delegated from me.  That don’t have the same authority as I do.  But I never have to say “Moma said …”.  Although very rarely I have appealed to their Dad’s authority and said “Dad said …”.  Jesus spoke upon His own authority while Moses and the prophets spoke under the authority of God not upon their own authority.

Can you see why the crowds were astonished?



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Matthew 5:19-20 To Ponder

Matthew 5:19-20 (ESV)
19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

What does this passage mean if the Law of Moses is not binding on Believers or does this mean it is?

What is a “least” commandment?

Is there a difference between Law and Commandments?

What is the Kingdom of Heaven?



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Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5:17-18

There are some very interesting things that occur when Jesus gives what is typically called the “Sermon on the Mount”.  Another interesting thing is the comparison and contrast with Mount Sinai and Moses.  We’ll look at that later.

Jesus went up on the mountain to deliver His Law, the Law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

In Matthew 5:17 Jesus says that He did not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them.

Matthew 5:17 (ESV) “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Now the word fulfill is argued over as to what exactly Jesus means by that.

Fulfill is the Greek word pleroo  meaning to make replete, i.e. (literally) to cram (a net), level up (a hollow), or (figuratively) to furnish (or imbue, diffuse, influence), satisfy, execute (an office), finish (a period or task), verify (or coincide with a prediction), etc.: Used in the KJV as- accomplish, after, (be) complete, end, expire, fill (up), fulfil, (be, make) full (come), fully preach, perfect, supply.   (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

But then we can look at the next verse to see more explanation.

Matthew 5:18 (ESV) For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

This verse is explaining the previous verse and the word fulfill.  See it even uses a different word to explain it better – accomplished.  However, those who feel the KJV is the only accurate translation have a little more difficulty here.  See the KJV translates this verse as:

Matthew 5:18 (KJV) For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Now that still explains verse 17 some, but not as well as the ESV. ( When defining a word it is best to not use the word in the definition.  🙂 )  But the interesting thing here is the word that the KJV translated as fulfilled is actually a different word than the word for fulfill in verse 17.  See the original Greek word is ginomai  not pleroo.

Ginomai  is a tough word to explain and understand.  Technically it is “to cause to be” but since that doesn’t help me with my poor English skills I had to look further.  So out comes an Englishman’s search to see how that word is used in other places in the Bible.  The best way to understand and translate a word from Scripture is with Scripture.  (Englishman’s is based off of the KJV.)

The underlined portion is the root word Ginomai.

Matthew 1:22-23 (KJV)
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Matthew 6:10 (KJV) Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

Matthew 7:28-29 (KJV)
28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:
29 For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Hebrews 4:3 (KJV) For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.

So now that helps even more:  

Ginomai – fulfilled, was done, be done, it came to pass, were finished.

Yeah, but then others will say but heaven and earth hasn’t passed away!  That’s right they haven’t but reread that verse.

Matthew 5:18 (KJV) For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Matthew 5:18 (ESV) For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Maybe reading a few more verses with this expression will help.

Luke 16:17 (ESV) But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.

See what Jesus is saying here?  It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for the Law to become void.  However, the Law and the Prophets will be fulfilled or accomplished.

We use similar expressions regularly. 

“On the second Tuesday of next week I’ll give you a hundred dollars.”

“When pigs fly I’ll stop loving you.”

But in this next verse the expression has changed somewhat.  See here it says Heaven and Earth will pass away but Jesus’  Word will not pass away.

Matthew 24:35 (ESV) Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, not just those prophecies about Him, but all the Law and Prophets.



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Sabbath – What Did It Mean To Israel?

Before we look at Jesus and the Sabbath we need to point out a few details about the Jewish Sabbath.

There are many verses in Exodus through Deuteronomy which explain and itemize what is acceptable of the Sabbath. Such as the following verse.  Notice also that the phrase becomes a “Sabbath of Rest” many times.

Exodus 35:2-3 (KJV)
2 Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.
3 Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day.

Many of the verses that follow are using the term Sabbath to refer to a particular day of the week.

Then we start running into the phrases like “on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts” (2 Chronicles 2:4, Isaiah 1:13, 2 Kings 4:23, Hosea 2:11) which essentially are lumping all of Israel’s special day celebrations together.

But we need to remember that the weekly Sabbath was not a day of worship.  The Sabbath was a day of rest.  Most people would not have been close enough to walk the distance to the temple or even a synagogue for any worship.  The Sabbath was typically spent at home eating the foods prepared the day before.  No cooking, lighting of fires nor walking a distance was allowed.

Exodus 16:29 (ESV) See! The Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.”  

A few more interesting details:

The Sabbath is not used in the Psalms of David.  However, Psalm 92 is written for the Sabbath.  Many Bibles note that Psalm 92 is “A Psalm or Song for the Sabbath day.”  But the Psalms themselves don’t say anything about the Sabbath. 

The Book of Proverbs never mentions the Sabbath.

Then we get to the books where the Israelites are breaking the Sabbath and being rebuked for it, such as Nehemiah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah.  Rebuke after rebuke for breaking the Sabbath and not following the Lord’s commands.  The Israelites are punished and restored repeatedly for breaking the Sabbath and for not following the Sabbath commands.  Prophecy after prophecy of what will happen if the Israelites continue to break the commands.



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Sabbath Observance Pre-Moses?

As we continue to look at the Sabbath we find something interesting, a noticeable lack of a mention of the Sabbath, or even rest, in many books of Scripture. 

One of the oldest books is the Book of Job.  Many Scholars feel that Job predates Abraham. Job whom the Lord actually brags about to Satan never mentions the Sabbath. 

Job 1:8 (ESV) And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”

Job sacrifices offerings to the Lord, yet does not appear to celebrate a Sabbath.

Job 1:5 (ESV) And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.

Actually even, the only rest that Job talks about is looking forward to the rest of death or better yet in his mind the rest of having never lived.

Job 3:11-17 (ESV)
11 “Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire?
12 Why did the knees receive me? Or why the breasts, that I should nurse?
13 For then I would have lain down and been quiet; I would have slept; then I would have been at rest,
14 with kings and counselors of the earth who rebuilt ruins for themselves,
15 or with princes who had gold, who filled their houses with silver.
16 Or why was I not as a hidden stillborn child, as infants who never see the light?
17 There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest

But this causes a problem because see if the verses in Genesis 2:1-3 mean that from that time men observed a Sabbath we have Adam through Abraham up to Moses with no record of observing a Sabbath rest.  We also have Job who does not observe a Sabbath rest.  But even more challenging is the fact that the Lord Himself calls Job “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” (Job 1:1)

We have Noah who was righteous and blameless yet he never observes a Sabbath. (Genesis 6:9)

We also have Abraham who “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” (Galatians 3:6)

Scripture records these blameless men’s sacrifices and their sin, yet no mention of observing the Sabbath.  Those who say that man has always been supposed to observe the Sabbath are adding to Scripture something that is not there.  As we saw in looking at Genesis 2:1-3 the Lord observed the rest upon the seventh day after Creation, not man.

Genesis 2:1-3 (ESV)
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
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.

We also run into another difficulty.  While we do not know the author of the book of Job, we do know that Moses wrote the first five books of “The Law”.  We do not have any record that even man knew that the Lord rested upon the seventh day.  That was not recorded in writing for us until the time of Moses.  The Lord did walk and talk with man more before Moses yet no record of any discussion about the Sabbath.

So what do we do when others claim that the Sabbath was an everlasting covenant?  Read the Scriptures closely.  See what everlasting means and whom each everlasting promise was made to.  Then look at the prophecy verses.  Ezekiel and Isaiah both have prophecies that mention a Sabbath but we cannot look at OT prophecies without first looking at the NT and seeing what it says.  Only then can we interpret the OT prophecies that may, or may not, deal with endtimes or that still remain in the future and whom these prophecies refer to.  We cannot understand the future without looking at what has already happened.  So what does Jesus say about the Sabbath?



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