While Matthew, Mark, and John are silent concerning this event, the physician, Doctor Luke, recorded the story of a man healed of dropsy. “Dropsy.” That’s how the King James and the New King James Versions, the New American Standard, and the English Standard Version translate the name of the disease. The New Living Translation speaks of a man “whose arms and legs were swollen” (Luke 14:2, NLT). The New International Version says the man had “abnormal swelling of his body” (Luke 14:2, NIV), while the Christian Standard Bible says the man’s “body was swollen with fluid” (Luke 14:1–6). Today we might say the man was suffering from edema, “swelling caused by excess fluid trapped in the body's tissues, often related to congestive heart failure, kidney disease, or cirrhosis of the liver: (mayoclinic.org).
Here’s the story. “One Sabbath, when he went in to eat at the house of one of the leading Pharisees, they were watching him closely. There in front of him was a man whose body was swollen with fluid. In response, Jesus asked the law experts and the Pharisees, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?’ But they kept silent. He took the man, healed him, and sent him away. And to them, he said, ‘Which of you whose son or ox falls into a well, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?’ They could find no answer to these things” (Luke 14:1–6).
Luke records so few details about the man and the miracle. The man’s “body was swollen with fluid,” so Jesus “took the man, healed him, and sent him away.” Inquiring minds want to know more. How sick was he? Who was he? Was he one of the Pharisees or lawyers, or was he a dignitary invited to the luncheon? And then, how did Jesus heal him? Did he touch him or just speak to him? And lastly, what became of the man? Did he become a missionary to his family and friends? Was he among the one-hundred-twenty gathered in the upper room at Pentecost? We won’t know the answers to those questions until we gather on the other shore!
Here’s what else we do know. First, this miracle occurred on the Sabbath. Luke documented four other miracles performed by Jesus on the Sabbath: The man with the unclean spirit (4:31-37); Peter’s mother-in-law (4:38-39); the man with the shriveled hand (6:6-10); and the woman disabled for eighteen years (13:10-13). Jesus seems to have been teaching the religious leaders and his disciples that “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Luke 6:5) and that He was not bound by any man-made rules and regulations.
Secondly, we know that this miracle was performed in the home of a Pharisee. This wasn’t the first time that He shared a meal with the religious elite. At an earlier diner party, Jesus sparked a controversy when He neglected their super-spiritual ritual cleansing (Luke 14:37-54). When the host had a fit, Jesus said, “You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and evil” (Luke 11:39). He followed that up with six “woe to you” statements (Luke 11:42, 43, 44, 46, 47, 52). “When he left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to oppose him fiercely and to cross-examine him about many things; they were lying in wait for him to trap him in something he said” (Luke 11:53–54).
So, why did Jesus accept the invitation to dine at the Pharisee’s home again and why did He graciously heal the man with dropsy? Why? Love. Grace. Mercy. Jesus loved the sick man, but He also loved the Pharisees, even though they hated Him and “opposed him fiercely.” Jesus showed up for dinner to mercifully heal and restore, and to demonstrate love for His enemy (Matthew 5:44).
Jesus loves the sick and the sinful. Jesus loves me too.
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.