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Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Gospel
LUKE 11:14-26
A Man Cured of the Dropsy.
1 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. 2 And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. 3 And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? 4 And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go; 5 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? 6 And they could not answer him again to these things. 

In this passage of story we find,

I. That the Son of man came eating and drinking, conversing familiarly with all sorts of people; not declining the society of publicans, though they were of ill fame, nor of Pharisees, though they bore him ill will, but accepting the friendly invitations both of the one and the other, that, if possible, he might do good to both. Here he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees, a ruler, it may be, and a magistrate in his country, to eat bread on the sabbath day, v. 1. See how favourable God is to us, that he allows us time, even on his own day, for bodily refreshments; and how careful we should be not to abuse that liberty, or turn it into licentiousness. Christ went only to eat bread, to take such refreshment as was necessary on the sabbath day. Our sabbath meals must, with a particular care, be guarded against all manner of excess. On sabbath days we must do as Moses and Jethro did, eat bread before God (Exod. xviii. 12), and, as is said of the primitive Christians, on the Lord's day, must eat and drink as those that must pray again before we go to rest, that we may not be unfit for that.

II. That he went about doing good. Wherever he came he sought opportunities to do good, and not only improved those that fell in his way. Here was a certain man before him who had the dropsy, v. 2. We do not find that he offered himself, or that his friends offered him to be Christ's patient, but Christ prevented him with the blessings of his goodness, and before he called he answered him. Note, It is a happy thing to be where Christ is, to be present before him, though we be not presented to him. This man had the dropsy, it is probable, in a high degree, and appeared much swoln with it; probably he was some relation of the Pharisee's, that now lodged in his house, which is more likely than that he should be an invited guest at the table.

III. That he endured the contradiction of sinners against himself: They watched him, v. 1. The Pharisee that invited him, it should seem, did it with a design to pick some quarrel with him; if it were so, Christ knew it, and yet went, for he knew himself a match for the most subtle of them, and knew how to order his steps with an eye to his observers. Those that are watched had need to be wary. It is, as Dr. Hammond observes, contrary to all laws of hospitality to seek advantage against one that you invited to be your guest, for such a one you have taken under your protection. These lawyers and Pharisees, like the fowler that lies in wait to ensnare the birds, held their peace, and acted very silently. When Christ asked them whether they thought it lawful to heal on the sabbath day (and herein he is said to answer them, for it was an answer to their thoughts, and thoughts are words to Jesus Christ), they would say neither yea nor nay, for their design was to inform against him, not to be informed by him. They would not say it was lawful to heal, for then they would preclude themselves from imputing it to him as a crime; and yet the thing was so plain and self-evident that they could not for shame say it was not lawful. Note, Good men have often been persecuted for doing that which even their persecutors, if they would but give their consciences leave to speak out, could not but own to be lawful and good. Many a good work Christ did, for which they cast stones at him and his name.

IV. That Christ would not be hindered from doing good by the opposition and contradiction of sinners. He took him, and healed him, and let him go, v. 4. Perhaps he took him aside into another room, and healed him there, because he would neither proclaim himself, such was his humility, nor provoke his adversaries, such was his wisdom, his meekness of wisdom. Note, Though we must not be driven off from our duty by the malice of our enemies, yet we should order the circumstances of it so as to make it the least offensive. Or, He took him, that is, he laid hands on him, to cure him; epilabomenos, complexus--he embraced him, took him in his arms, big and unwieldy as he was (for so dropsical people generally are), and reduced him to shape. The cure of a dropsy, as much as any disease, one would think, should be gradual; yet Christ cured even that disease, perfectly cured it, in a moment. He then let him go, lest the Pharisees should fall upon him for being healed, though he was purely passive; for what absurdities would not such men as they were be guilty of?

V. That our Lord Jesus did nothing but what he could justify, to the conviction and confusion of those that quarrelled with him, v. 5, 6. He still answered their thoughts, and made them hold their peace for shame who before held their peace for subtlety, by an appeal to their own practice, as he had been used to do upon such occasions, that he might show them how in condemning him they condemned themselves: which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, by accident, and will not pull him out on the sabbath day, and that straightway, not deferring it till the sabbath be over, lest it perish? Observe, It is not so much out of compassion to the poor creature that they do it as a concern for their own interest. It is their own ox, and their own ass, that is worth money, and they will dispense with the law of the sabbath for the saving of. Now this was an evidence of their hypocrisy, and that it was not out of any real regard to the sabbath that they found fault with Christ for healing on the sabbath day (that was only the pretence), but really because they were angry at the miraculous good works which Christ wrought, and the proof he thereby gave of his divine mission, and the interest he thereby gained among the people. Many can easily dispense with that, for their own interest, which they cannot dispense with for God's glory and the good of their brethren. This question silenced them: They could not answer him again to these things, v. 6. Christ will be justified when he speaks, and every mouth must be stopped before him.

Humility Recommended.
7 And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, 8 When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; 9 And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. 10 But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. 11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. 

Our Lord Jesus here sets us an example of profitable edifying discourse at our tables, when we are in company with our friends. We find that when he had none but his disciples, who were his own family, with him at his table, his discourse with them was good, and to the use of edifying; and not only so, but when he was in company with strangers, nay, with enemies that watched him, he took occasion to reprove what he saw amiss in them, and to instruct them. Though the wicked were before him, he did not keep silence from good (as David did, Ps. xxxix. 1, 2), for, notwithstanding the provocation given him, he had not his heart hot within him, nor was his spirit stirred. We must not only not allow any corrupt communication at our tables, such as that of the hypocritical mockers at feasts, but we must go beyond common harmless talk, and should take occasion from God's goodness to us at our tables to speak well of him, and learn to spiritualize common things. The lips of the righteous should then feed many. Our Lord Jesus was among persons of quality, yet, as one that had not respect of persons,

I. He takes occasion to reprove the guests for striving to sit uppermost, and thence gives us a lesson of humility.

1. He observed how these lawyers and Pharisees affected the highest seats, towards the head-end of the table, v. 7. He had charged that sort of men with this in general, ch. xi. 43. Here he brings home the charge to particular persons; for Christ will give every man his own. He marked how they chose out the chief rooms; every man, as he came in, got as near the best seat as he could. Note, Even in the common actions of life, Christ's eye is upon us, and he marks what we do, not only in our religious assemblies, but at our tables, and makes remarks upon it.

2. He observed how those who were thus aspiring often exposed themselves, and came off with a slur; whereas, those who were modest, and seated themselves in the lowest seats, often gained respect by it. (1.) Those who, when they come in, assume the highest seats, may perhaps be degraded, and forced to come down to give place to one more honourable, v. 8, 9. Note, It ought to check our high thoughts of ourselves to think how many there are that are more honourable than we, not only in respect of worldly dignities, but of personal merits and accomplishments. Instead of being proud that so many give place to us, it should be humbling to us that there are so many that we must give place to. The master of the feast will marshal his guests, and will not see the more honourable kept out of the seat that is his due, and therefore will make bold to take him lower that usurped it; Give this man place; and this will be a disgrace before all the company to him that would be thought more deserving than he really was. Note, Pride will have shame, and will at last have a fall. (2.) Those who, when they come in, content themselves with the lowest seats, are likely to be preferred (v. 10): "Go, and seat thyself in the lowest room, as taking it for granted that thy friend, who invited thee, has guests to come that are of better rank and quality than thou are; but perhaps it may not prove so, and then it will be said to thee, Friend, go up higher. The master of the feast will be so just to thee as not to keep thee at the lower end of the table because thou wert so modest as to seat thyself there." Note, The way to rise high is to begin low, and this recommends a man to those about him: "Thou shalt have honour and respect before those that sit with thee. They will see thee to be an honourable man, beyond what at first they thought; and honour appears the brighter for shining out of obscurity. They will likewise see thee to be a humble man, which is the greatest honour of all. Our Saviour here refers to that advice of Solomon (Prov. xxv. 6, 7), Stand not in the place of great men, for better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither, than that thou shouldest be put lower." And Dr. Lightfoot quotes a parable out of one of the rabbin somewhat like this. "Three men," said he, "were bidden to a feast; one sat highest, For, said he, I am a prince; the other next, For, said he, I am a wise man; the other lowest, For, said he, I am a humble man. The king seated the humble man highest, and put the prince lowest."

3. He applied this generally, and would have us all learn not to mind high things, but to content ourselves with mean things, as for other reasons, so for this, because pride and ambition are disgraceful before men: for whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; but humility and self-denial are really honourable: he that humbleth himself shall be exalted, v. 11. We see in other instances that a man's pride will bring him low, but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit, and before honour is humility.