Miracle: Jesus Heals a Man of Dropsy on the Sabbath (Luke 14:1-14)
Jesus had constant conflict with the Pharisees over a variety of issues. He had harshly condemned them because of their hypocrisy, greed and wickedness (Matthew 23). In light of the ongoing enmity, why did they invite Him to dinner (Luke 11:37-52) and why did He accept their invitation?
The circumstances of the dinner, which is held on the Sabbath, point to the Pharisees having an agenda beyond fellowship with Jesus. Obviously, their invitation was not extended out of goodwill. Not only does Luke tell us that the Pharisees are watching Jesus, but it seems they purposely place a man in front of Jesus who suffered from abnormal swelling in his body (Luke 14:2).
As is usually the case, Jesus wastes little time getting straight to the point. He asks them, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not” (Luke 14:3)? While they “remained silent,” Jesus heals the man and sends him on his way (Luke 14:4). Notice the Pharisees make no argument about whether or not the man is genuinely healed.
Jesus did exactly what the Pharisees expected and now the Pharisees had an opportunity to fulfill their agenda. Right? Wrong. Jesus turns the tables by asking the Pharisees, “Which of you, having a son or ox that has fallen into a well on the Sabbath, will not immediately pull him out” (Luke 14:5)? Luke says, “They could not reply to these things” (Luke 14:6). Surely they would express joy at the man’s healing! No. They did not say a word.
The Pharisees are not the least bit concerned about the man with dropsy. He was simply an object or tool to be used to justify their condemnation of Jesus. Jesus, on the other hand, shows compassion for the man. Not only that, Jesus also shows compassion for the Pharisees by warning them and providing them another opportunity to respond to His unfathomable grace.
Jesus is now in charge of the agenda. He uses the theme of dinners and invitations to reveal what will happen to those who will reject His invitation. Jesus observed the guests select their places at the table. He first addresses the importance of humility. He said,
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place.” (Luke 14:8-9).
Jesus moves on from there to discuss charity. Jesus addresses the host,
“He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14).
Where do you sit when invited to dinner? Who do you invite when you host a dinner? The Pharisees invited Jesus to dinner in hopes of advancing their agenda of condemnation and self-righteousness. Jesus accepted the invitation for the purpose of displaying compassion and teaching about humility and charity. He accepted the invitation so that He might offer His enemies one more chance to turn to Him in faith.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
1. Why didn’t the Pharisees reply to Jesus’ question regarding healing on the Sabbath?
2. Jesus noticed “they chose the places of honor.” What did Jesus say regarding people who exalt themselves? When will this happen?
3. Who should we invite to dinner?