Once, a leader of the Pharisees invited Jesus to dine at his home. It was on the holy day of rest called sabbath. While He was there, people were watching Him. And there also was someone there that had too much fluid in his body and looked swollen.
Jesus saw him and asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Can you heal someone on the holy day of rest?” But they said nothing. Then Jesus took the sick man’s hand, healed him, and let him go.
And He said to them, “If the ass or ox of any of you falls into a well of water on the holy day of rest, which one of you will not immediately pull it out?”
They couldn’t answer that, for saying that they did would make them, in their opinion, trespassers of the law, and saying that they did not would make them liars and heartless people.
Let us see how this is written in the Bible.
And it came to pass,
as he went into the house
of one of the chief Pharisees
to eat bread
on the sabbath day,
that they watched him.
(they paid close attention to Him
hoping to trap Him)
After a Sabbath morning service, it was not uncommon to invite guests over for a meal. Here Jesus is a guest in the house of a prominent Pharisee. Others from his party are also present.
Jesus was not invited to have a nice meal together and exchange ideas about the synagogue service, but to try to find something to accuse Jesus of. They paid close attention to Him, hoping that He would say or do something that they could use.
there was a certain man before Him
which had the dropsy
Then there was a man before Jesus who had dropsy. (Dropsy or edema is the build-up of an abnormal amount of fluid in the tissue or in one of the body’s cavities. Body parts swell as a result. Generally this indicates a serious internal disease).
Did this person come of his own accord?
Or is it perhaps the case that the Pharisees lured him in, to be able to put a snare on Jesus? This Bible passage does not tell us.
It is understandable that the sick man is hoping to be healed, but Jesus does initially not turn to the sick person. He first addresses his opponents and asks them a question.
He sees through the situation and knows their motivation. That is why He asks them whether or not it is permissible to heal someone on the Sabbath.
And Jesus answering
spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees,
saying, Is it lawful (permissible)
to heal on the sabbath day?
They should very well know that as their job was to explain God’s Word.
They may now answer Jesus. But it gets very painful for them.
Because if they say ‘yes’, they go against their own interpretation of the law.
If they say ‘no’, they are merciless to their fellow human beings.
So They said nothing for fear of exposing themselves.
And they held their peace
(they were silent).
The Pharisees like to keep the letter of the law.
But Jesus makes it clear that we must understand the law spiritually (Compare Romans 7:14 and 1 Corinthians 2:14). From there we must act, in love and truth, towards God and our fellow man. We should not apply God’s law harshly, but lovingly and mercifully.
And he took him, and healed him, and let him go
Jesus heals the sick person, no matter of what the lawyers and pharisees would think or say.
But because He knew their thoughts, He taught them a lesson.
And answered them, saying,
Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit,
and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?
And they could not answer him again to these things.
Jesus has patience with his opponents.
He teaches them a lesson, to make clear to them what the law is about: loving the Lord above all things, and your fellow man as yourself (Matthew 22:34-40; Compare Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18).
In other words, if you already want to help your son or cattle on the Sabbath, will you not want to help a sick person? Of course! You should! That really does not go against God’s commandment.
Matthew 12:7 NASB
But if you had known what this means,
‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’
you would not have condemned the innocent.
Jesus here puts merciless observance of the rules, against mercy.
▪ Ask God to write His law of truth and love in your heart as well.
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