Q & R – Greg Albrecht – Why does Jesus mention the Sabbath?


Hello Greg,

I worshipped with you and many others on CWRa – your message was “SO THAT … OR BECAUSE?” As a side note, I am wondering why Jesus referred to “the Sabbath” in Matthew 24:20? Hebrews 4 seems to indicate no specific day for “Sabbath-rest” now.

Praying for and supporting PTM/CWR.


Great to hear you joined us for the message. The question to which you refer, in Matthew 24:20: “Pray that your flight will not place in the winter or on the Sabbath.”

  1. Matthew 24 is the Olivet Prophecy – some believe many of Jesus’ warnings/predictions are yet to take place.  I believe, based in large part on vs. 34, “this generation will certainly not pass away until these things have happened” means that Jesus was primarily talking about the complete destruction of Jerusalem in 69-70 AD – which would be, as we see so clearly in hindsight, within that generation. He is talking about the need for Jewish residents of Jerusalem to flee, at some future time,  from the approaching Roman armies.  History records (Josephus provides a detailed account) it was a horrific and brutal war of attrition the Romans waged against the Jews.
  2. The verse which you query – first of all, who was his audience? Matthew 24:1 tells us that. He is speaking to his disciples, who were all Jews, still both in terms of their faith and their ethnicity,  as representatives of all their Jewish countrymen. Where were they located when he gave them this prediction? In Jerusalem. The verse is therefore initially and primarily to a Jewish audience and primarily to those who would be living in Jerusalem at some future time – as I say above, in vs 34 he further narrows that future time to some point in that generation. That’s the primary meaning of this passage. Any other meaning must follow this meaning and flow out of it.
  3. Verse 20 it says “your flight” – so he is specifically talking about the perilous and arduous journey away from warfare some future residents of Jerusalem would face  – in the previous verses to vs. 20 he talks about urgency – “don’t take time to get stuff out of the house – just go!”
  4. Before verse 20 he says it will be difficult for women with little children who are nursing – another detail to paint the picture of this flight from danger.
  5. Then he says that those presented with this do or die flight should hope that the weather for their flight would not be such that it would add difficulties  – through snow (occasional snow falls in and around the higher elevation of Jerusalem) or rain, or cold, etc.
  6. Then he says they should pray that the flight would not take place on the Sabbath.   Does he say this to indirectly, in some secret way, tell them that they should always and forever, after his cross and resurrection, obey the old covenant sabbath?  That would be a fanciful and really silly interpretation of this verse.   Who was he talking to? Jews. Jesus knew that the vast majority of Jews had rejected him, would, in fact, kill him and that the vast majority would, after his departure, still not accept him – choosing the traditions and requirements of the old covenant sabbath instead.   Bearing in mind his audience, he could also have said something like “You better hope that you will have kosher food available during your flight and not just bacon and ham and ribs and pork chops and pulled pork.”
  7.   Why?  Because Christians should never eat pork and continue to observe old covenant kosher food laws?  Obviously not.
  8. Yes, Hebrews 4 is clear that Jesus is our Sabbath – not a 24-hour period of time – and of course, many other New Testament passages make that clear as well.

Thanks for joining us and for allowing us to be of service – thanks for your prayers and support

In Christ,

Greg Albrecht

For more answers to tough questions, check out our book:

Between Religious Rocks and Life’s Hard Places—101 Answers to Tough Questions About What You Believe.

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