A Walk through the Book of Luke
March 20, 2023
Jesus at a Pharisee’s house
“Healing a man with dropsy.”
The Gospels speak of many ailments. We’ve read and listened to the healings by Jesus of blindness, deafness, leprosy, bleeding, and demon possession. In today’s reading from Luke, Jesus heals a man with dropsy.
Today we no longer call the ailment the man had dropsy; now, it’s referred to as Edema. Edema is characterized by excess watery fluid collecting in the body’s cavities or tissues. Usually, this illness is connected with congestive heart failure, as well as liver or kidney failure.
In today’s lesson, Jesus also shares two parables. First, he is at the home of a Pharisee enjoying a meal. He uses the example of a banquet in each of them.
Let’s look at today’s reading from the book of Luke.
“One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So, taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way.
Then he asked them,
“If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?”
And they had nothing to say.
When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back, and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
One has to wonder why a person with dropsy was at the home of a Pharisee. The passage notes that Jesus was being carefully watched. Perhaps the Pharisee invited the ailing man to see if Jesus would heal him on the Sabbath. This would result in Jesus being trapped and accused of not following the Sabbatical rules.
In his case, before healing the man, Jesus asks the Pharisees and experts of the law a question:
When Jesus did ask a question about what was lawful on the Sabbath, He was never asking permission. Instead, Jesus was putting the religious leaders on the spot. Nevertheless, in each case, He always healed the ailing person.
In today’s devotion, Jesus’ follow-up question speaks to the heart of the matter concerning the Sabbath.
Jesus was trying to tell the religious leaders that love comes first. The Pharisees and religious leaders were concerned about following the letter of the law. Jesus emphasized that people’s well-being is more important than following the Sabbatical law to the letter.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t follow the commandments or rules in general. The regulations and laws are put in place for a reason. But, at the same time, we must put the well-being of others first.
As I mentioned earlier, Jesus also shared two parables at the Pharisee’s house.
First, Jesus says:
“When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited.”
“As a parable, it has a spiritual significance. A wedding feast was a recognized symbol for the kingdom of God and heavenly bliss. This parable is based on the practice of seating guests at table by rank and distinction. The more important guests arrive last, and an unwary early arrival might have to be moved to a lower place so to accommodate them. Far better to adopt a position of modest and wait to be invited to a better seat. For God exalts humble and debases the proud.” (New Bible Commentary, 21st Century Edition, Luke 14, Pp. 1004)
Jesus is saying that rather than be self-seeking and putting ourselves on a pedestal, we should be humble to our fellow man. Just as Jesus was humbly born in a stable and later got on His knees to wash His disciples’ feet. We, too, should be unpretentious and servants to others.
Then Jesus presented a second parable.
“When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back, and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
In the second parable, Jesus directed it at His host.
Jesus tells His host that you will be paid back when you invite your friends, brothers and sisters, relatives, and rich neighbors. In other words, they will eventually ask you to their homes for dinner.
But what about the poor, crippled, lame, and blind. Jesus is saying that these are people who are generally unable to reciprocate with an invitation back to you. Jesus is not condemning His host for inviting friends and family to his home. Jesus himself did not fall into any of the people in the second category.
Let’s think of it this way. What about that homeless person on the street corner asking for food or money? How about an older adult who rarely leaves their home because they are never invited to join someone for dinner? Or the disabled person who would like to come to church on Sunday but doesn’t have transportation.
These are the people that need help but generally cannot reciprocate. And that’s okay! Of course, don’t have a self-seeking attitude when you help others. But know that you are doing God’s work, and He sees what you are doing in His name.
We don’t know if the reprimands Jesus gave in these parables hit home or not. But, I’m sure Jesus hopes that, at the very least, His disciples will have heard His words and learned to practice humility.