The Healing of the Man with Dropsy


In our daily meditations, we are looking at the many supernatural acts of the Lord Jesus. Today we have the healing of a man with dropsy:

1One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. 2There in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy. 3Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?" 4But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him away. 5Then he asked 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?" 6And they had nothing to say (Luke 14:1-6).


Luke tells us that Jesus was invited by a “prominent Pharisee.” The Pharisees were known for their opposition to him, yet the Lord still reached out to them around a table of food. The Greek word translated carefully watched means to watch on the side or to watch insidiously. In other words, they were watching out of the corner of their eyes, hoping to catch Jesus on something He said or did. It was a Sabbath, so was this a setup? I don’t believe that this Pharisee had this man’s health as the motive.


Let’s try to enter the life and pain of the man with dropsy. In our day, this condition is called edema. It is a swelling up of parts of the body to grotesque sizes, due to fluid buildup. We could say that he was drowning in his body fluid. Edema is often caused by organ failure, the heart, kidney or liver. With such a sickness, he was not far from death. Luke does not tell us what parts of his body had swelled up, but it was visible to all who were there. If it were in the legs, he would have found it very difficult to walk or even to stand. He was not cared for by the religious crowd; their only interest was to use him to trap Jesus. The Lord saw the ambush coming. This poor, sick man was just the bait in the trap of the Pharisees. The conventional thinking of the religious elite concerning the poor, sick, and ill, was that their sin was being visited on them by God.


Christ's heart went out to the man. He would not compromise His value that people come first. People are precious to Jesus. What would He do? The room grew very quiet as Jesus took up their challenge. The Pharisees believed that one could only help someone on the Sabbath if that person's life were in danger of being lost.


Jesus shifted the focus of attention from Himself to the Pharisees and the lawyers gathered. The Lord has a way of asking a question to open a person's heart. Looking around at them, He said, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?" (v. 3). The Greek word translated as lawful means to be authorized, permitted, or is it proper? He wasn't asking if it was legitimate according to the law of Moses. He was asking them to give their opinion on what was appropriate. They did not anticipate this question. They were perplexed as to how to respond. If they would have spoken up against healing on the Sabbath in front of this very needy man, the state of their calloused hearts would be revealed. Neither did they want to permit Him to heal on the Sabbath after thinking they had Him in their trap. They knew that the Scriptures has no limitations to acts of compassion on the Sabbath.


4But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him away. 5Then he asked 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?" 6And they had nothing to say (Luke 14:4-6).


Jesus appealed to their common sense, saying that if their animal were drowning in a well, wouldn't they get it out? He was first appealing to their economic need, implying that they would have to buy another ox if they wanted to plow their fields. Then, again, if their son had fallen down a well and was drowning, wouldn't they do what they could to save their son from drowning? This man before them was drowning in his fluid, and he was someone's son. Shouldn't this son be released from drowning? The passage ends with Luke telling us that they had nothing to say. How cold-hearted false religion can be. Keith Thomas


To read this study in more depth, click the box All Studies on the Home Page, click the Gospel of Luke and then study 38, Luke 14:1-14, The Healing of a Man on the Sabbath.