Home      Back to Trinity 17




The Healing of the Man with a Dropsy
by Richard Chenevix Trench
Chapter .
Chapter 21 from The Miracles of our Lord
LUKE xiv. 1-6.
All which is most remarkable in the circumstances of this miracle has been already anticipated in others, chiefly in the two just considered, to which the reader is referred. [ Ch. 19  Restoring the Man with the Withered Hand; Ch. 20 The Restoring of the Woman with the Spirit of Infirmity.]  Our Lord in His great long-suffering did not even at this late period of His ministry treat the Pharisees as wholly and finally hardened against the truth; but still seeking to win them for His kingdom, He had accepted the invitation of a chief among them ‘to eat bread’ in his house.  This was upon the Sabbath, with the Jews a favourite day for their festal entertainments: for it is an entire mistake to suppose that the day was with them one of rigorous austerity; on the contrary, the practical abuse of the day was rather a turning of it into a day of riot and excess.  The invitation, though accepted in love, yet had not been given in good faith; in the hope rather that the close and more accurate watching of His words and ways, which such an opportunity would afford, might furnish matter of accusation against Him.  Mischief lurked in the apparent courtesy which was shown Him, nor could the sacred laws of hospitality defend Him from the ever-wakeful malice of His foes.  They ‘watched Him.’

‘And behold, there was a certain man before Him which had the dropsy.’  Some have even suggested that this sufferer was a design placed before Him.  But although it is quite conceivable of these malignant adversaries that they should have had such a snare as this, still there is no warrant for ascribing to them such treachery here; and the difficulty which some find, that if no such plot had existed, the man would scarcely have found his way into the house of the Pharisee, rests upon an ignorance of the almost public life of the East, and a forgetting how easily in a moment of high excitement, such as this of our Saviour’s presence must have been, the feeble barriers which the conventional rules of society might oppose to his entrance would have been overthrown (Luke vii. 36, 37).  At any rate, if such plot there was, the man himself was no party to it; for the Lord ‘took him, and healed him, and let him go.’

But before He did this, He justified the work which He would accomplish, as more than once He had justified similar works of grace and love wrought upon the Sabbath, and demanded of these Lawyers and Pharisees, interpreters of the law, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day?’  Here, as in so many matters of debate, it only needs for the question to be rightly stated, and all is so clear that the possibility of its remaining a question any longer has for ever vanished [Tertullian]; there can be but one answer.  But as this answer they would not give, they did what alone was possible, ‘they held their peace;’ for they would not assent, and they could not gainsay.  He proceeds: ‘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?’  Olshousen: ‘As on other occasions (Matt. xii. 11; Luke xiii. 15), the Lord brings back those present to their own experience, and lets them feel the keen contradiction in which their blame of Christ’s free work of love sets them with themselves, in that , where their worldly interests were at hazard, they did that very thing whereof they made now an occasion against Him.’  We may observe, that as in that other case, where the woman was bound, He adduces the example of unbinding the beast (Luke xiii. 15) –so in this, where the man was dropsical, a sufferer from water, the example He adduces has an equal fitness.  [Augustine]  ‘You grudge that I should deliver this man on such a day from the water that is choking him; yet if the same danger from water threatened ought of your own, an ass or an ox you would make no scruple of extricating that on the Sabbath.  Why then do you not love your neighbour as yourselves?  why are you unwilling that he should receive the help which you would freely render to your own?  ‘And they could not answer Him again to these things.’  They were silenced, but not convinced; and the truth, which did not win them, did the only other thing which it could do, exasperated them the more; they replied nothing, biding their time (cf. Matt. xii. 14).