ESV - 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.
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Halakha (Jewish law) identifies thirty-nine categories of activity prohibited on Shabbat, and clarifies many questions surrounding the application of the biblical prohibitions. Many of these activities are also prohibited on the Jewish holidays listed in the Torah, although there are significant exceptions permitting carrying and preparing food under specific circumstances. Jews disagree about how to interpret these categories and there are often strong disagreements between Orthodox Jews and Conservative Jews or other non-Orthodox Jews. The thirty-nine creative activities are: 1. Planting 2. Plowing 3. Reaping 4. Gathering 5. Threshing/Extraction 6. Winnowing 7. Sorting/Purification 8. Grinding 9. Sifting 10. Kneading/Amalgamation 11. Cooking/Baking 12. Shearing 13. Scouring/Laundering 14. Carding/Combing wool 15. Dyeing 16. Spinning 17. Warping 18. Making two loops/threading heddles 19. Weaving 20. Separating two threads 21. Tying 22. Untying 23. Sewing 24. Tearing 25. Trapping 26. Slaughtering 27. Flaying/Skinning 28. Curing/Preserving 29. Smoothing 30. Scoring 31. Measured Cutting 32. Writing 33. Erasing 34. Building 35. Demolition 36. Extinguishing a fire 37. Igniting a fire 38. Applying the finishing touch 39. Transferring between domains Carrying of mats fall under #39.
The Jews were not allowed to work on the Sabbath, and they had very strict rules about what was classified as work. It was considered work to carry his mat, and therefore the Pharisees would have seen it as wrong.
As is apparent already, the Jews had a set of extra-biblical laws and traditions which Jesus endeavored to destroy, as they had no biblical authority. The carrying of a mat was considered a burden; however, the biblical injunction is to refrain from secular work, not to be idle. In fact, Isaiah 58 describes the Sabbath as a day not for rest in general, but of ceasing from our own work and doing God's work. Hebrews states concerning the Seventh Day,"There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His". The Sabbath is ceasing from our own works, as God ceased from His own works on the seventh day, wherefore, according to the 4th commandment, He sanctified and blessed that day. But it is more importantly, a day to take up the works of God, wherefore of the Sabbath day Christ declared, "My Father is at work until now, and I work". Jesus broke the Sabbath of the Jews, but restored the Sabbath of God, wherefore "the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day".
I think the religious leaders in Jesus's culture missed the heart of God behind the commandments in the Torah and regarding carrying on the Sabbath. I believe the heart is not going about one's own work, which is for personal profit or gain, but instead, focusing on God's work and his desires. In a more technical way, I believe the intention behind the sabbath rules were about work that produced or created. Carrying one's mat would not fall under that intent unless you were doing it to create or produce something (such as a profit). The guy just wanted to move his belongings without any intent to profit or produce from it.
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