For Israel the observance of the Sabbath with scrupulous care was the central expression of life in the covenant with God.
The dispute about what did and did not belong to the Sabbath was at the heart of Jesus' difference with the people of Israel, especially the Pharisees.
The Sabbath was about imitating God who rested. It was the one day of the week in which all things ceased and rest was embraced so that the circle of the family could be reformed. It was a vital part of living the faith and a vital aspect to society.
In the gospel today Jesus is dining with one of the leading Pharisees. A leading Pharisee was one who lived with a strict interpretation of the law and who was a model of behavior for all other Pharisees.
Jesus encounters a man suffering from dropsy. Dropsy was a illness in which the body was retaining fluid which usually led to swelling of the legs and feet. Congestive heart failure was probably the reason behind the swelling. It is a very common ailment that accompanies old age.
The man with dropsy was probably a family member of the Pharisee. On observing the Sabbath, the Israelites were forbidden to travel long distances and had to remain at home.
The clearest way of reforming the inner circle of the family was to spend time together and this was a positive result of observing the Sabbath.
Jesus in performing the miracle seeks to clarify the importance of tending to the people who need assistance as an integral part of observing the Sabbath, as imitating God.
The question he posed is still very salient to us today. "Who among you , if your son or ox falls into Cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?"
Jesus reminds us that it is good to care for animals but never to the neglect of persons.
Secondly, that what we would do for a child we should also be willing to do for all. Jesus stretches our concern for all and includes all in the inner circle of our family.
In the Sabbath is meant to reform the inner circle of our family and reform society, then our family must never be a closed circle but must always make room for all at the table.
In Christ we are strangers no longer; in Christ the table is meant to be room for all.
As we move forward in our life, we must always keep a space at our table for all, including the outcast, the sick, the immigrants, and those who are different than us. This way we truly learn to be godly in our life and the Sabbath rest penetrates our very lives.
We must not just keep the Sabbath but we must let the Sabbath keep us.