It is important to notice small details when reading the Bible. For example, I wonder how many times I have read this passage and missed that the Pharisee in the story was a “prominent” member of the Pharisees?
— Luke 14.1 – One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched.
Leading individuals in the first century had definite rules that surrounded the dinner table.
(1) Only other prominent persons were invited.
Jesus did not have the status of the Pharisees’ peers, but he may have been invited so the leading citizens of the community could “watch” him.
(2) Where you were seated at the table was determined by your status in the group. The closer to the host revealed the higher status of the person.
(3) Like the Romans, meals were a time for serious discussions of philosophy or religion.
An Outsider Appears
The Bible doesn’t explain how a seriously ill man entered the dining room. However, he did enter and Jesus made a point to recognize him.
— Luke 14.2-4 – 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.
The old fashioned term for the man’s condition is “dropsy.” It is an edema or a swelling of fluid in the body that is miserable and can be fatal.
In the first century “dropsy” was associated with greed. A person with dropsy craved more water, the very fluid that was killing him.
Greed does the same thing. The more we crave material possessions, the more they steal our lives from us.
Jesus presented the prominent citizens a religious question. He said, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?”
Their silence revealed their unwillingness to debate with Jesus, who spoke with the kind of power and authority like no other person they had ever encountered.
Have you ever wondered how the dinner party knew the man was healed?
Did all of the swelling immediately leave his body? Was he able to move in ways that were previously out of his reach?
In addition to healing the edema of man with dropsy, Jesus accomplished two things.
(1) He included a man who had no chance of being invited to join the “prominent” Pharisees of the community.
This is a consistent theme of the Gospel of Luke, but also can be found throughout the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
God’s will is always inclusion. It is human pride that divides people into acceptable and unacceptable table companions.
We do well to recall Jesus’ message to the church of Laodicea. This is one of the least favorable of the seven churches found in Revelation.
To this lukewarm church Jesus said, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3.20).
The resurrected Jesus offers table fellowship to those who are unqualified, except by the grace and love of God.
(2) Jesus revealed the destructive greed of the “prominent” Pharisees.
If dropsy was associated with greed, the behavior of the “in-crowd” likewise revealed their greed.
Jesus asked a probing question, “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?” (Luke 14.5).
Again, “They had nothing to say” (Luke 14.6).
Greed cares for material possessions and family members, but refuses charity to an outsider.
Like the man with dropsy, the more they craved status and possessions, the more they lost the vitality of their lives.
Jesus’ words about giving are true in every circumstances.
He said, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6.38).
If we evaluate persons as unworthy to receive our courtesy and respect, that death-dealing spirit will be measured to us.
If we open our hearts to all persons with a giving spirit, the joy of that attitude will flood our being.
Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on YouTube today. You will be enriched to listen to Rudy’s thoughts on this passage.
The video is on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
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