Words of Faith 9-25-18
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched.  There in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy.  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 away.
 Then he asked them, "If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?"  And they had nothing to say.
As Jesus was moving toward Jerusalem, He began to have more and more contact with the religious people called Pharisees. We think we know these people, but it may surprise you to learn that in most ways these were the people closest to Jesus in teaching and belief.
The Pharisees believed in the Bible and in holy living. They believed in the resurrection of the dead at the end of the age and the coming of Messiah. They believed in the existence of angels and demons.
The problem was not so much what the Pharisees believed, but that they often did not practice on the inside what they advocated on the outside. The changes they practiced on the exterior were not matched by genuine change on the interior. The changes on the outside did not grow out of an inward transformation. That is why Jesus referred to some of the Pharisees as "religious actors" or "mask wearers.” This is the great danger of religion.
We saw in the last chapter that some of the Pharisees were "not far from the Kingdom of God.” Some Pharisees were trying to warn Jesus not to go into the city but there were others who were gathering information with which to accuse Him once He got there. In our text, a "prominent Pharisee" invited Jesus to a banquet. The Greek means a "ruling Pharisee" so this man was probably part of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. It isn't hard to figure out that this dinner appears to have been a rather clumsy set up.
What was going on? It was the Sabbath. Clearly, Jesus was being carefully watched. He got to dinner and there was a man in front of Jesus who had dropsy. Dropsy is a condition of edema in which fluids build up in the body and limbs. It is usually related to a heart condition and is quite noticeable to an observer. Jesus really could not have missed it.
For this man to be "in front of Jesus" at the banquet, meant that he was not in a normal seat. He was in the serving area at the front of the U-shaped triclinium table. Interesting.
So how does such a sick man find his way into the serving lane of a banquet at the home of a prominent religious leader? It all looks a little too coincidental, doesn't it? Now this would be just another "Sabbath Controversy" except that Jesus used the setting to teach several Kingdom principles. Jesus clearly saw to the deeper problem, which was not the heart condition of the man with dropsy, but the heart condition of those at the table.
Jesus will teach some powerful things out of this situation. But first Jesus had to deal with the sick man and the issue of the Sabbath. He simply asked, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?" Just what is the Sabbath really about? But they remained silent.
When there was no response, Jesus took hold of the man, healed him, and sent him away. The Greek means that Jesus "seized" the man. I would like to think Jesus hugged Him. This is not at all beyond the understanding of the Greek. The man clearly did not belong among those in this group. He had no seat. There was no place for him. He had been invited to this religious gathering to be used. No one really cared about him. He was being used to bait Jesus and create a controversy. He needed a healing hug.
Finally, Jesus gave a rabbinical teaching. If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?" And they had nothing to say. There was no answer. Is God more concerned for an ox than a person needing healing?
These religious folks were setting a trap for Jesus so they could be "offended" and He could be accused. One has to wonder if the real offense for Jesus was that this man had been invited not out of compassion, honor, respect, or even as an expression of God's love, but with the ulterior motive of creating an accusation.
This was a religious "sting operation,” religion at its worst. When people are used to trap others or used for any reason, because of their money or because of their misfortune, we see the dark side of religion. When religion parades the sick or exploits the hurting we know this cannot be the Kingdom.
At the heart of this, Jesus was saying, "Don't miss the real point here." Don't hide behind religious rules and so miss very people that God gave the Sabbath to in His loving-kindness. Don't miss the people that God loves desperately enough to reach out to through His Word and through the Prophets. Don't miss the love of God expressed in His very presence in Temple and in the synagogue. Don't miss the presence of God right here and now. "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?" The question is so silly it does not even merit an answer.
Father, give me clarity to know what is most important. Help me to see with Your eyes. In Jesus' name.