Philippians 1.18-26; Psalm 41; Luke 14.1, 7-11
“They watched him closely.” Jesus’ public comments and actions were carefully monitored by adversaries who “wanted to find a way to entrap him” [Matthew 22.15], by those who were determined to kill him. [John 11.53] Yet his ministry was always devoted, both in word and deed, to bringing healing and liberation to all. Because of this fundamental commitment Jesus did not eschew interaction even with his antagonists.
The sabbath was a day of freedom from work for both humans and animals. It was extended into a sabbatical year every seven years when slaves were to be freed [Exodus 21.1-2], and after seven cycles of seven years (49 years), the 50th year was to be observed as a Jubilee, with all debts remitted. [Leviticus 25.8-55] To prevent over-planting, the land was to be kept fallow for one year in every seven. [Exodus 23.10-11] Millennia later, the Babylonian captivity was explained as 70 years of sabbaths for the holy land. [II Chronicles 36.21]
Sabbath wasn’t the ending of God’s work of creation and redemption; as Jesus himself put it “My Father goes on working, and so do I.” [John 5.17] The Evangelist comments that “that only made the Jews even more intent on killing him, because, not content with breaking the sabbath, he spoke of God as his own Father, and so made himself God’s equal.” [5.18] Jesus’ equation of his ministry in one place and time with the ongoing and eternal work of God helps us see the events and choices of our every-day lives sub specie æternitatis, as the arena in which God, still, is working his purpose out.