It is my understanding that Luke 14 is a unit to be studied as a whole. However, I do not have the time to sit and explain it as an entire unit, nor do you, Constant Reader, have the time to sit and read the article in its entirety. So I will do my best to maintain the thread of my thoughts of Luke 14 as I write these articles respectively.
Luke 14.1-6 sets the scene for this chapter and the following teachings of Jesus found in this section. We can only assume, but this seems to be an event that took place following a synagogue assembly. If you will remember, this is not the first time that Jesus has been confronted on the Sabbath nor is it the first time that he has healed on the Sabbath (see 6.1-11; 13.10-17). So it is not new territory for Jesus.
Is it new territoy for the Pharisees who are “watching him carefully” (ESV)? Maybe. They may be new antagonists who have never seen Jesus before. Although, it is also possible that this is the same group he has encountered in the past; perhaps this man with dropsy is a plant to try and goad out of Jesus a miracle so they can accuse him. Whatever the case, these men are here and they have an agenda: catch Jesus in the act and find something to accuse him with.
So he has been invited to the house of “one of the leaders of the Pharisees” (NASB). This is probably a lavish setting with much food. I draw that implication from the parables of Jesus and the lavish detail he uses when describing the wedding feast (v.8-11) and the great banquet (v.12-14, 16-24). Jesus may be drawing from his surroundings as he tells these parables. Plus, it would not be out of character for a man of prominence, as this Pharisee was, to pad his pockets a little and so adorn his house.
We are introduced to the poor man who is suffering from a condition called dropsy. The official medical term today is edema. This is when serous fluid accumulates in the tissue of the body. It just sounds painful to me. This man is swollen from all the fluid that is accumulating in the tissue of his body. His hands are swollen. His feet are swollen, perhaps making it painful to walk. His arms, legs, neck, chest are probably swollen. Who knows how long he has suffered like this. But here is he “in front of” Jesus. Is he looking for a miracle? Maybe. Chances are he knows about Jesus and what he can. He is more than likely in a great deal of pain from his affliction. Even if is used by these Pharisees, he could still be hoping against hope that Jesus will find some way to heal on the Sabbath.
And so the characters are before us: Jesus, a group of self-righteous Pharisees, and a man with dropsy, gathered in a ruler of the Pharisees’ house for a bite of lunch (v.1). I suppose it is rather tense as all eyes (at least the eyes of the Pharisees) are on Jesus. Faced with the plight of humanity, what will he do? Will he heal? Jesus beats them to the punch…
“Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” Nervous eyes dart back and forth among the Pharisees. What is he talking about? No one of them could heal anyone on any day. They ponder to themselves. This is new, they continue to wonder. Furrowed brows form on the faces of these Pharisees. They are struck speechless. If they say “no” the people will see them as harmless. If they answer “yes,” Jesus is vindicated in his actions. They rage internally, voicing no answer.
Jesus, knowing the cunundrum he has caused in their logic, takes hold of the man and heals him and sends him on his way; he ahs served his purpose – not the purposes of the Pharisees, but the purposes of God. God is glorified even in his illness. Surely the Pharisees and experts in the law are stupified; what can they say? And so Jesus continues with instruction: if their son or ox falls into a well on the Sabbath, would they not fetch him out? It is rhetorical; of course they would! The implication is how much more valuable is human life! God demands mercy and compassion for human life. They recognized the value of an animal but failed to see the greater intrinsic value of a human life.
So instead of the man with dropsy being used as evidence against Jesus, the tables are turned and he becomes Exhibit A against the Pharisees and more convincing proof to the Lordship of Jesus. And so now the stage is set, the pulpit is warmed up for the teaching of Jesus that follows.