1. Exposition

Is Jesus' remark about the Sabbath a general pronouncement or about a particular person?

Mark 2:27 (ESV)

27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

This verse is sometimes understood as a general pronouncement that the Sabbath exists for people and not the other way round. But that is not possible. Jesus is not speaking about the character of the Sabbath, but about its establishment. He reminds the audience of the time the Sabbath was made (ἐγένετο). The Sabbath came into existence “for man”; the singular is intentional. The reference is to the human being God created on the sixth day. After the Lord had formed man, man and wife, he rested on the seventh day. The Lord did not create man as embellishment for the day of rest, but vice versa. The manner in which this could be realized after the fall is described in the law of Moses. You cannot read verse 27 as a kind of crowbar in those laws, as if this verse were a rule that restricted the operation of the Lord’s laws. Verse 26 shows that those laws remain in effect (“not lawful”). And verse 28 does not contain a general conclusion that permits the relativization of the laws about the Sabbath. Rather, it contains a special conclusion with respect to Jesus. This special conclusion would remain up in the air if verse 27 imposed a general principle (is every person then also “lord of the Sabbath”?). But the special conclusion connects to verse 27 if we continue to read that verse as a reminder of creation. Ultimately, the Sabbath was a gift to Adam. And now Jesus comes as “the Son of Man,” as the second Adam. As such he has the right freely to make use of the Sabbath, just as Adam had that right. He was not brought under the law that had to be added for Adam’s offspring because of sin.1