"Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?"
The Sabbath is the most repeated ordinance in the Scriptures. Like the wearing a wedding ring informs people that we belong to someone, Sabbath observance informs our entourage that we belong to El-Shaddai. From a simple mental cognition to a strict and severe application, people have a wide array of ideas on how the Sabbath should be observed. All the aspects of the spectrum of Sabbath application are covered, sometimes even at the cost of division between family and friends. The question we need to ask ourselves is: how did Yeshua observe the Sabbath?
We are told that the evening the Master’s death was a Sabbath so his disciples went to rest according to the commandments (Luke 23:56). What Yeshua taught his disciples was a healthy respect of the Sabbath and there is nothing in the Scriptures to tell us that He broke it. Remember, Yeshua was without sin, and sin is the breaking of the Torah (Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:4).
What Yeshua did was argue with what was a harsh and burdensome application of not only the Sabbath but of the whole Torah, He Himself said ‘ My yoke is easy’ (Matthew 11:30). In Torah talk, the 'yoke' the Master referred to was the yoke of Torah application in our lives. What Yeshua was in fact saying is that His type of Torah application was easy and light not hard and oppressive, which included His application of the Sabbath. For example: for farmers, a donkey was a precious commodity in Israel so it was agreed by the religious leaders of the day that if on the Sabbath a donkey fell in a well, its masters could rescue it even though it broke some Sabbath prohibitions. Yeshua then went on to argue that the life of a man was much more precious than that of a donkey, so if it is permissible to rescue a donkey on the Sabbath, it should certainly be permissible to heal a whole man on the Sabbath day.
Yeshua was not creating a new law and application but He certainly was arguing from within the contents of the Jewish law of His day. Yeshua tried in fact to teach us that not only the saving of a life was acceptable on the Sabbath, but also the alleviating of human suffering, which is what eventually became a doctrinal point of disagreement between Him and some of the more rigid religious folks of His day.
The examples of Yeshua’s handling of the Sabbath should give us a good idea of what is biblically permissible on the Sabbath. When He asked them the rhetorical question, Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill? (Mark 3:4)", Yeshua in fact reminded His audience that by their own teachings it was alright to do good on the Sabbath Day.
May we remember this principle and learn to make our Sabbath observances a blessing to us, and to those around us.