Question: In Mark 2:27 the Bible says that, "'The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath." This verse seems contradictory and I don't understand it!
Answer: To begin, let us examine the first part of this verse, "The sabbath was made for man." This is the Fourth Commandment, given first in Exodus 20:9-11. In Exodus 35:2 the penalty for breaking the Sabbath was death.
"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."
God made our physical bodies and minds and knows them better than we do. There are several reasons for this com-mandment. Here are a few:
1. Our bodies need one full day out of seven just to relax without the physical labor of work.
2. Our minds also need to be rested from the mental pressures and stress of our work.
3. God wants his people to have time, without the pressure of working for a living, to worship Him.
4. When you observe someone who works seven days a week, with no time off, you will usually see a change in their behavior at home. They will be short-tempered, irritable, with little patience—all because the body, soul, and spirit do not have the proper rest nor time for worship.
5. God knew that man, because of his greed, would literally work himself to death and forget the Lord Who created him. Therefore, the Fourth Commandment.
Now the last part of the verse in question (Mark 2:27). "...and not man for the sabbath." In other words, the Law of the Sabbath prohibiting a person from working for his own profit or benefit on the Sabbath, did not prohibit a person from doing good for someone who needed help.
There is nothing wrong with eating on the Sabbath, so we are told in Verse 23 that,
"And it came to pass, that he (Christ) went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn."
In Verse 24 the hypocritical Pharisees falsely accused Christ and the disciples of breaking the Sabbath. They did not even know their own law .
..."And the pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?"
In Verses 25 and 26 Christ rebuked them for their hatred, ignorance, and false accusations.
Christ's practice of doing good for someone on the Sabbath happened many times during His earthly ministry; which the Fourth Commandment never prohibited. In Matthew 12:9-14 we find that Christ went into the Synagogue on the Sabbath and healed a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees gathered and were plotting to kill Him for doing good on the Sabbath (V.14). Christ rebukes them in Verse 11,
"And he (Christ) said unto them, what man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?"
In Verse 12, Christ makes it perfectly clear that the Fourth Commandment concerning the Sabbath did not prohibit a person from doing good and helping someone who needed help.
"How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore, it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days."
In conclusion to your question about Mark 2:27:
1. "The sabbath was made for man." Rest your body, rest your mind, take time to relax and worship the Lord.
2. "And not man for the sabbath." It is not unlawful, nor is it breaking the sabbath to help or do good for someone else. It did prohibit working for yourself merely to keep adding to your wealth.