The words in bold are cryptic – even enigmatic. They are also highly contentious.
Highly contentious? Yes, in AD 30 Israel. And in AD 1798 in Jersey – only seventeen years after the Battle of Jersey when, in the Royal Square, Major Pierson was killed in bringing to a halt the French invasion of Jersey.
Let’s look at 1798 first. Jersey is very close to France. The French Revolution began in 1789 when the Bastille in Paris was stormed. Napoleon was aged 20. In 1798 he was preparing for the coup d’etat that established him, one year later as First Consul and five years later as Emperor.
Military matters were of great importance in Britain – and in Jersey.
Jersey had a standing British garrison. It also had a Militia. Training was vital. Military drill was enforced strictly because of the strategic importance of the Channel Islands.
What about the seventh day – traditionally the Sunday but originally the Saturday - until Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday?
Military drill on the seventh day? No, said some followers of Jesus of Nazareth in Jersey, AD 1798. We agree with military drill. We will fight. We will not do the drill on a Sunday. We will do the drill in full on one of the six days when we would normally be working. We will do it on a week day at our own expense and paying for all the extra costs incurred by others.
This was refused. The men were lampooned, made to march through St Helier to be mocked by the crowd. They were imprisoned. In October 1799 the States passed a Law that would enable the authorities to banish from the Island forever those who did not drill on the-seventh-day.
But this Law, like all Jersey Laws passed by the States, needed the formal approval of His Majesty the King of England in his Privy Council.....
King George III is on the record as saying, in the Privy Council meeting in December 1798, “I must not have my subjects oppressed in this way.”
That resonates with the view of Jesus in AD 30. On that occasion, Jesus was teaching (see bold above) those who accused him and his key followers of breaking the rules of the-seventh-day. “The-seventh-day was made for the good of mankind – not the other way round.”
That having been made clear by Jesus, he then goes further (see bold above). He says very clearly that he is lord of, in charge of, the-seventh-day. In Israel’s historic records the-seventh-day was the day after God had completed all of creation and the day after God released Israel out of concentration-camp-slavery in Egypt c BC 1350.
By saying that he was in command of the-seventh-day he was indicating his creator role – and releasing-slaves role............
King George III never had a creator role – but he did have a releasing-the-oppressed role. Royal Sanction was not given to the Law passed by the States that would have banished these men from their home island for the rest of their lives unless they drilled on Sundays.
Jesus too had a releasing-the-oppressed role. Shortly before stating that “the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath” he released a man who was in thrall to an unclean life – on the-seventh-day. And immediately after making that statement he restored the shrivelled hand of a man – on the-seventh-day. So shrivelled was the man’s hand (representative of his whole being) that Jesus’ role as restorer was really that of a re-creator. On a Sabbath.
It was on a Sabbath too that Jesus completed his greatest role for others. That day he was in the grave, dead through the wrong-doing of others – and rose again in order to be able to forgive and restore those who would follow him.