And exactly how holy is holy? Here is one instance of Jesus' take on it in Luke 14:1-6.
The setting? The home of a chief Pharisee where Jesus, and several others, are guests for a meal. A few details about those Pharisees.
They are some hardcore Sabbath keepers!
The name "Pharisee" means the "separated ones." This could mean they separated themselves for the duty of studying and interpreting the law. Or perhaps they separated themselves for holiness' sake.
At any rate, they developed the oral tradition of the Law and taught both oral and written traditions. They saw obedience to the Law (of Moses) as the way to God, and so of course it was very important to understand what that Law said. One thing they studied was in regards to the Law forbidding one to work on the Sabbath. The oral traditional helped clarify just what constituted "work."
Now the Pharisees opposed Jesus at least partly because he refused to accept the teachings of the oral law. (Background on Pharisees from Holman Bible Dictionary.)
Luke sets things up for us from the very first two verses. (NIV)
1) One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. 2) There in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy.
Now since the Pharisees disagreed so strongly with Jesus, one wonders why they invited him to their gathering. Perhaps the fact that they sat the sick man right in front of him had something to do with it. They wanted to see if he would heal this man even though it was the Sabbath day.
Dropsy is a condition involving fluid collecting in bodily tissues. I wonder if this man was also an out of place guest; one who was invited for a particular purpose.
Jesus knows they are watching him, so he asks them a question.
"Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?" His question was about their oral law. The Law said you couldn't work on the Sabbath, it was a day of rest. But even if you were a physician, would it be unlawful to help someone injured on the Sabbath?
And does a miracle qualify as work?
Jesus was challenging their hardline stance about keeping the Sabbath. When they didn't response, he healed the man and sent him away.
Then he askedd them, "If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?"
In this one question Jesus reveals to his opponents that they too would show compassion on a Sabbath. And the heart of keeping the Sabbath was about more than just following the rules.