Luke 14:1-6 records a healing miracle found in no other Gospel. “Now it happened, as He went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath, that they watched Him closely. And behold, there was a certain man before Him who had dropsy. And Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’ But they kept silent. And He took him and healed him, and let him go. Then He answered them, saying, ‘Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?’ And they could not answer Him regarding these things.”
Jesus had been invited to eat with a ruler of the Pharisees. The man with dropsy was not likely one of the invited guests, and clearly was there to request healing from Jesus. Dropsy is an obsolete term for the swelling of soft tissues as the result of the accumulation of excess water under the skin in the spaces within the tissues. The term used today is edema, most commonly occurring in the feet and legs. There were and are many causes, but in Jesus’ time, it was apparently incurable. Surrounded by the religious echelon, Jesus asked them, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” This was not a rhetorical question, as there was no specific law regarding healing or not healing on the Sabbath days, and the answer required a knowledge and understanding of God’s compassionate and merciful heart. Jesus knew the answer but was challenging the calloused legalistic thinking of the religious leaders. They didn’t say a word. Jesus took the man and healed him, and let him go his way.
Jesus turned His attention to the Pharisees and scribes and again challenged their hardened hearts and minds. “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” They would have known the laws in Exodus 21:33-36 that Jesus was referring to. “And if a man opens a pit, or if a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls in it, the owner of the pit shall make it good; he shall give money to their owner…” But there wasn’t anything specific about the Sabbath day, and they couldn’t stretch their brains or their hearts outside of the tiny religious box they had confined themselves in. Again, they were not able to answer Him.
Earlier, in Luke 13:11-17, Jesus healed a woman in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. The small-minded ruler of that synagogue was furious. He addressed the people present and said, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.” In verses 15-17, Jesus let him have it, and publicly corrected him. “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?” Jesus Christ knew God’s Word so well, and its true application. He was referring to Exodus 23:12: “Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may rest…” He then brought the true heart and spirit of the law to this situation, expressing how people are more important and of greater value than animals. “So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.”
Jesus knew that “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) The account in Luke 14 moves into parables, in which Jesus taught humility, and reproved the religious leaders for their snobbishness and rejection of the truth, as well as their rejection of Him. He addressed commitment, foresight, preparation and discipleship. Luke 15 moves into three parables all clearly emphasizing the value of one person to God, a concept the religious leadership of Israel were unable to grasp.