Jesus has great questions of me. Jesus wants to know if I understand love or if I’m just stuck on religious traditions and norms. Will I love the beggar and help them? Will I comfort the sick person and pray for Jesus to heal them? What will I do? Jesus wants to know. As a disciple, I need to learn.
One time when Jesus went for a Sabbath meal with one of the top leaders of the Pharisees, all the guests had their eyes on him, watching his every move. Right before him there was a man hugely swollen in his joints (dropsy). So Jesus asked the religion scholars, elites and Pharisees present, “Is it permitted to heal on the Sabbath? Yes or no?”
They were silent. So he took the man, healed him, and sent him on his way. Then he said, “Is there anyone here who, if a child or animal fell down a well, wouldn’t rush to pull him out immediately, not asking whether or not it was the Sabbath?” They were stumped. There was nothing they could say to that. Luke 14:4-6
Jesus puts caring before ritual. Jesus knows, directly from God the Father, that love triumphs over everything.
Instead of bringing them to repentance, Jesus’ severe denunciation of the religious elites, the Pharisees and scribes (Luke 11:39–52) only provoked them to retaliation. They plotted against Him.
The Pharisee who invited Jesus to his home for dinner also invited a man afflicted with dropsy. This is a painful disease in which, because of kidney trouble, a heart ailment, or liver disease, the tissues fill with water. How heartless of the Pharisees to “use” this man as a tool to accomplish their wicked plan, but if we do not love the Master, neither will we love our neighbor. Their heartless treatment of the man was far worse than our Master’s “lawless” behavior on the Sabbath.
This afflicted man would not have been invited to such an important dinner were it not that the Pharisees wanted to use him as “bait” to catch Jesus. They knew that Jesus could not be in the presence of human suffering very long without doing something about it. If He ignored the afflicted man, then He was without compassion; but if He healed him, then He was openly violating the Sabbath and they could accuse Him. They put the dropsied man right in front of the Master, so He could not avoid him, and then they waited for the trap to spring.
Keep in mind that Jesus had already “violated” their Sabbath traditions on at least seven different occasions. On the Sabbath Day, He had cast out a demon (Luke 4:31–37), healed a fever (Luke 4:38–39), allowed His disciples to pluck grain (Luke 6:1–5), healed a lame man (John 5:1–9), healed a man with a paralyzed hand (Luke 6:6–10), delivered a crippled woman who was afflicted by a demon (Luke 13:10–17), and healed a man born blind (John 9). Why our Master’s enemies thought that one more bit of evidence was necessary, we do not know, but we do know that their whole scheme backfired.
When Jesus asked what their convictions were about the Sabbath Day, He used on them the weapon they had forged for Him. To begin with, they couldn’t heal anybody on any day, and everybody knew it. But even more, if the Pharisees said that nobody should be healed on the Sabbath, the people would consider them heartless; if they gave permission for healing, their associates would consider them lawless. The dilemma was now theirs, not the Master’s, and they needed a way to escape. As they did on more than one occasion, the scribes and Pharisees evaded the issue by saying nothing.
Jesus healed the man and let him go, knowing that the Pharisee’s house was not the safest place for him. Instead of providing evidence against Jesus, the man provided evidence against the Pharisees, for he was “exhibit A” of the healing power of the Master Jesus the Messiah.
The Master knew too much about this legalistic crowd to let them escape. He knew that on the Sabbath Day they would deliver their farm animals from danger, so why not permit Him to deliver a man who was made in the likeness of God? Seemingly, they were suggesting that animals were more important than people. (It is tragic that some people even today have more love for their pets than they do for their family members, their neighbors, or even for a lost world.)
Jesus exposed the false piety of the religious elites. They claimed to be defending God’s Sabbath laws, when in reality they were denying God by the way they abused people and accused the Saviour. There is a big difference between protecting God’s truth and promoting man’s traditions.