Luke 14:1-6: “A Lesson in Compassion”
“And it came about when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread, they were watching Him closely. And there in front of Him was a certain man suffering from dropsy. And Jesus answered and spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees saying, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?’ But they kept silent. And He took hold of him and healed him and sent him away. And He said to them, ‘Which one of you shall have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?’ And they could make no reply to this” (Luke 14:1-6, NASB).
The Lord Jesus is an expert at knocking people, who think too much of themselves, off their pedestals. He has no tolerance or empathy for anyone who believes that they are somehow more worthy or important than others in terms of wealth, status, or influence. He does not see people in terms of classes or categories, and all lives matter to Him, both then and now. Jesus Christ is the Creator of all things (John 1:1-4; Colossians 1:13-17), the developer of our skin color, intelligence, character, emotional development, culture and environment. He has a place and value for every human being, and no one should think of themselves as better than the next person to justify their ego and self-centeredness.
The gullible, hate-filled radicals of today, who trash cities and deface monuments, are now going after crosses and other symbols of the Christian faith, declaring them to be symbols of “racism” and “white privilege” and are determined to destroy them. The devil and those who follow him have blinded these souls to the fact that, if it were not for the cross of Christ and His gift of salvation, they and every one of us would find ourselves in eternal hell after death, not for a cause or grievance, but because of our wickedness and sins regardless of color or creed.
The Scriptures plainly show us that any kind of pride or perceived aggression, based on race and status, was also part of the attitude of God’s chosen people towards peers and the other cultures that made up the polyglot structure of the Roman Empire and those kingdoms that had been in existence earlier. Unfortunately, some of God’s chosen people tended, at times, to show a lack of real empathy or compassion towards even those within their own culture, especially when it came to illness or poverty, which was seen as punishment from God for their sins. A prime example of this bad attitude came from the religious officials who considered themselves as being more pious and attentive to the Law of Moses than the rest of the Jewish population in the province of Judea – a trait that was challenged and rebuked by the Lord Jesus continually.
The group of officials that Scripture gives attention to the most are the Pharisees, and not in a good light. They are presented as religious ritualists obsessed with keeping the traditions and teachings of the elders before them, who had interpreted the teachings of men before them, as it pertained to their belief on how one should adhere themselves, so as not to violate their preconceived rules about how to honor God and His day of rest. The Sabbath, God’s decree of allowing a time of rest from work one day a week, had been turned into a rigid set of rules that one dare not ignore or disobey. That brought about resentment from the citizenry towards the religious leaders.
When they were confronted and challenged by the Lord Jesus on their stands, He pointed out, time and again, that we are to obey the Scriptures, and not interpretations. We are to love God and His Word and reject any dogma or addition by men as to what is deemed essential to the worship and adoration of the Sovereign Lord of all Creation.
There are people within the realms of religion, even today, who see themselves as used by God to enforce a system of rules and behaviors that define what genuine faith is meant to be, and woe to you if you screw up anything they have interpreted as vital to eternal salvation. Their definition and misplaced zealousness have caused far too many souls to reject what they have experienced in the name of Christianity. Issues such as dress, music, translations, and types of entertainment were deemed more important than godly compassion and love towards the fallen and less fortunate who tended to fall into sin and its consequences.
In verses 1-6 of Chapter 14, Luke writes that Jesus is at the house of a leader of the Pharisees as a dinner guest, not so much out of courtesy and fellowship, but as an opportunity for the religious officials to see if He would do a work that, to them, was forbidden to do on the Sabbath. He had healed a crippled woman previously on a Sabbath (13:10-17) and rebuked the synagogue official for an apparent lack of compassion for this woman and her condition. While these acts of mercy on the Lord’s part won the attention and affection of the people (at least for now), they also enraged the Pharisees and other officials who saw Jesus not as the Promised Messiah, but as a direct threat to their authority and influence over the spiritual lives of the populace.
In the house of Jesus’ host is a man who is suffering from a condition known as dropsy, which was an accumulation of excess fluid in the joints and can prove debilitating if not treated. It is often associated today with the loss of kidney function to eliminate excess fluid and waste matter from the body and causes swelling in the joints. We have medication now that causes the fluid to be eliminated through urine output and reduces such swelling; but in that time, so far as we know, no such medicine or treatment was in existence. Jesus sees this man’s suffering and heals him. He also asks the religious legalists whether healing can be done on the Sabbath. If God Himself desired to give mercy to someone in the form of healing them of an affliction, is that not His right and privilege despite the day or time?
Another issue Jesus brings up is the issue of common sense in dealing with a situation where an animal or one of their own family members is stuck in a ditch or another precarious situation and needs help immediately. Concern for the well-being of the animal or person and the need to rescue them takes precedence over the observation of a holy day, and so you do that which is right and merciful. Should not the Sovereign Lord be able to do the same? Who are we to allow a self-imposed legalism of our own making to stop God from doing anything? That is pure arrogance on our part. He does not need our approval or assistance to do that which is right. The entire act of healing grace, on the part of the Lord Jesus, silences them.
When I read this passage, I tend to think of the absolute cockiness that some people have towards the Holy One today. People arrogantly demand immediate answers to problems and grievances, or they want to challenge Him to prove His existence yet would refuse to follow or obey Him even if He did so. This attitude is also found in what some believe to be authentic Christianity. There are so-called “teachers” who declare that God is not able to work in the earth without our permission or that He will eagerly enter into some deal with you to get what you want in terms of being “prosperous.”
Worse yet, there is the blatant lack of reverence He deserves when we come to church to supposedly “worship” Him. Instead, we look at our social media page on our phone, pass notes, roll one’s eyes over the length of the sermon or tolerate preaching from a “pastor” that sounds more like a pep talk than an exposition of Holy Scripture. If God did decide to perform a work of mercy and grace in a service or convict us of our unholy and wicked attitudes and bring about repentance and salvations, it would end up upsetting and angering some people because it would interrupt their ritual and order.
O, LORD, revive us. Convict us. Let your elect have the faith to endure these wicked days and open the eyes of the lost. Let us recapture the wonder of Your majesty and glory in our worship and work. Let our lives be totally surrendered to Your guidance and direction. Let us not only call You LORD but live a life that demonstrates it before a lost and dying world. Get us to take our eyes off the things of the world and turn our hearts towards heaven and the promise of Your return. May we be found at our posts, performing the tasks to which You have directed us.
Forgive us of our arrogance, wickedness and lack of reverence for Your Holy Name and Being. Let us have no unclean thing before us that would deter us from following You, nor have us to forfeit that which was our duty and responsibility because of hypocrisy or willful sin. May You be honored, glorified and praised for all time because of the saving grace and mercy the Lord Jesus gave to us. We are unworthy, sinful creatures. Bless and praise You for not abandoning us. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. In Your name and for Your Honor, Amen.