Miracles · Supernatural

Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus #31 – Jesus Heals a Man With Dropsy on the Sabbath

After my series on the parables, I found I was drawn to look into the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels. I have never studies the mighty works of Jesus as a focused effort before and am looking forward to finding nuggets of truth that we can be encouraged by.

I have provided a general introduction, with an opportunity to download two files for your reference in my initial post Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction. I found that the format I used for the parable posts were useful to keep me on track, and will continue to use them for this series, with some minor tweaks. With that said, let’s take a look at

Jesus Heals a Man With Dropsy on the Sabbath

Luke 14:1-6

One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” And they could not reply to these things.

General Observations

Can you imagine the hospitality of this Pharisee? What a gracious man, that in the midst of tensions between his political/religious party and this new Rabbi, he has the foresight to invite the Master to dinner for a chance to discuss differences. Truly a man seeking the truth!

And can you imagine, that as friction is building between those Pharisees and Jesus, Jesus has the grace to accept an offer for dinner at the Pharisees house and enter into what may become a time of debate.

Let’s check out the passage to see if my initial observations bear the scrutiny of truth.

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

As we read the passage, we find that the ruler of the Pharisees had invited Jesus (along with His disciples) to dinner. Verse 3 mentions that lawyers and Pharisees were present. The ruler, it is safe to assume, stacked the room with his friends and influential members of the ruling party, (as it was common for them to associate with their own), those who were of the same thinking and status. You know, none of those unworthy “unwashed”.

But wait, there is one more participant, one more in the house of the ruler of the Pharisees. A man who had dropsy. A disfigured nameless person, who must have simply wandered in off the street to enjoy a feast with the Pharisees!

When did the Lord perform this mighty work?

See https://www.bibletimelines.net/timelines/jesus-ministry

Where did the Lord perform this mighty work?

See Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction for downloadable reference file.

Why did the Lord perform this mighty work?

First lets consider the condition this poor man experienced. Dropsy is an old word for a condition that is commonly called edema, or fluid retention. During my time writing on Jesus’ relationship with the Sabbath, I reviewed the disease quickly. See Jesus on the Sabbath – Part 13 – Swelling Opposition. The man’s condition may appear to be merely swollen legs (acute pulmonary edema) but this symptom indicates a greater threat to his life, for it may indicate congestive heart failure. This poor man may have been a ticking time bomb, with his ticker on the edge of failure. He was not simply experiencing an inconvenient condition of swollen legs and arms.

Secondly, my initial assumption on the motive of the ruler and his buddies may have been somewhat incorrect. For you see, when Luke describes them as “watching him carefully”, it wasn’t innocent curiosity that motivated them. The term is paratēreō, and it carries with it the idea of watching assiduously, a scrupulous observation, to observe diligently and carefully.

I love how Luke provides the setting, and then the disabled man appears (out of nowhere). The stage is set and the watchers are watching! Watching oh so carefully. They know of the Master and his disdain for the law of God, His utter disregard for the Sabbath and His dangerous teaching that completely destroys the nation of Israel’s covenant with God.

Jesus simply asked a question.

I want to stop there and consider the wisdom of questions. Debates and arguments may produce great entertainment, but I have rarely been in a verbal battle and come away knowing a heart has changed. Arguments and debates introduce a “pride” factor that makes at least one of the debaters busy finding a defense as opposed to considering the truth of the statement just heard. Questions allow for a freedom to consider the concept or idea that is presented. A well framed question is powerful, as we see in this passage, for those who were passionate about the Sabbath, remained silent. No response. Two time Luke tells us they were silent. Amazing!

And what was the question? During each of the previous miracles on the Sabbath, this issue was present in some form.

“Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?”

Everyone in the room knows where this is going. Jesus may have well said – I’m gonna heal this man – tell me of any restrictions prior to my healing him, because I’m gonna heal him! Jesus warned them of His intent, knowing they were watching Him with intent of judging His actions. In my mind this was a set up that Jesus walked into, and He turned the tables, healed this man, taught truth to those through two questions and left the audience gasping for breath.

He is incredible!

One additional item that I find encouraging is that Jesus took the sick man, healed him and sent him away. Jesus wasn’t going to allow the Pharisees attack the one healed as they did with the man in John 9. See Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus #26 – Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind. They pounced on that man, and though he stood strong, Jesus simply healed the man with dropsy and sent him away.

His final question revealed an added layer to the Pharisees hypocrisy. Let’s consider that next.

What was the message for the original audience?

Jesus second question drove home a personal application, an application that showed the two faced Pharisees (and us) of our confused reasoning for ignoring or not allowing a good work to be done, based on some religious law or commandment.

It truly is simple, that if we find something that is good to do for someone in trouble, someone in need, someone who is suffering, the religious exercise can take a back seat.

I think of a time when on the way to church we saw someone that needed some help along the road. I reasoned that we would disturb people in the service if we were late, and passed right by him. This doesn’t look like Jesus, that I know now, yet the chains that bind us through religion have a strength that is surprising.

On second thought, if a donkey or child did fall in a well on the Sabbath, if the ruling class was consistent, the victim could stay in the well for the remainder of the Sabbath. No harm no foul and the religious man could remain pure. But alas, this is not the assumption that is made and with the silence of the Pharisees to this question, it seems it wasn’t their practice. So what gives?

Their religious practice exposed their covetousness and hypocrisy, and when sin is exposed, two results may occur. Confession and repentance, or a need to silence the Messenger. They decided to maintain their course and silence the Messenger. Let’s be clear. Jesus was showing them their legal inconsistencies and they couldn’t handle it, and instead of learning from truth, they planned on suppressing the truth by crucifixion. Death was the answer the Pharisees who “sought God” came up with and all they needed was an opportunity.

What is the message for us today?

I can’t help but think of an application for us in the simplicity of a single concept, a single message that the Lord, I believe was trying to communicate. He was giving us guidance in relation to our interaction with the law of God and those who are in need.

Paul also had somewhat of a similar audience, an audience that was consumed with rule keeping, and his guidance to those wrapped up in religiosity was simple. The whole law, (that is the law that is from God and not man) is fulfilled in one word, one concept, one thought!

Galatians 5:14

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Paul continued with his discussion to these poor Galatians, those who were wrapped up in religion, of keeping a law provided by some man, and wrote the following famous text, which if it wasn’t so familiar, would be shocking.

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

No law against something? Total freedom to exhibit any of the fruits of the Spirit? No restrictions on love?

Many laws are by their very nature prohibitive, they keep us from doing something. (There are of course those laws that require some action, but the intent of this passage was to release followers from prohibitive laws, so we will stay within the boundaries of the passage!) There are no laws that keep you from providing acts of love or of having a spirit of joy, or acting as a peacemaker with those who are in stress. No laws that would bring you into any condemnation with God.

Of course those in the religious community may give you some trouble, but that may simply indicate you are getting the Jesus thing!

While you are pulling the donkey out of the well, stay focused on the donkey in the well, not the “donkeys” that are complaining!

Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion. If you know someone this blog may bless (or challenge), send them a link, so they may join us in our discussion

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