The Gospel of Luke: a commentary & meditation 
"They were watching Jesus"

Scripture: Luke 14: 1-6

1 One Sabbath when he went to dine at the house of a ruler who belonged to the Pharisees, they were watching him. 2 And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. 3 And Jesus spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?" 4 But they were silent. Then he took him and healed him, and let him go. 5 And he said to them, "Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well, will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?" 6 And they could not reply to this.

Meditation: Would that Christians today would be as attentive to honoring  Sunday as the Lord's Day as the Pharisees were attentive to observing the Sabbath as a holy day!  The gospels record seven incidents in which Jesus heals on the Sabbath.  You would think Jesus' miracles on the Sabbath would draw admiration and gratitude from all.  Unfortunately, each incident seemed to incite increasing hostility from the religious leaders.  They were certain that Jesus was a dangerous and irreligious man, a Sabbath-breaker, who must be stopped at all costs! Why did the Pharisees invite Jesus to dinner on the Sabbath, after he had already repeatedly broken their Sabbath regulations?

Luke, the physican and keen observer of the human condition, notes the disposition of the Pharisees as they bring Jesus into their table fellowship. Body language often communicates more truthfully than words. Luke says the scribes and Pharisees were watching Jesus, no doubt with great suspicion. They wanted to catch Jesus in the act of breaking the Sabbath ritual so they might accuse him of breaking God's law. Jesus' attention and affection, however, was fixed on meeting the needs of a man who had dropsy. How did such a pitiable man get into this dinner party?  In the hot, arid climate of Palestine, homes were open and people freely dropped in without much ado.  It would be uncharitable to exclude beggars.  And if a rabbi came to dinner, it would be expected for him to speak a few words.  So, famous rabbis obviously drew crowds wherever they went.

Jesus already knew that his hosts wanted to catch him in the act of breaking their Sabbath rituals. So when Jesus gave his defense, they treated him with cold silence. They were ensnared in their own legalism and could not understand or see the purpose of God. Why did God give the commandment to keep holy the Sabbath and enjoined his people to refrain from work on that day?   The "Sabbath rest" was meant to be a time to remember and celebrate God's goodness and the goodness of his works, both in creation and redemption.  It was a day set apart for the praise of God, his work of creation, and his saving actions on our behalf.  It was intended to bring everyday work to a halt and to provide needed rest and refreshment. It was not, however, intended to put a stop to love of God and love of neighbor.  The law of love supercedes the law of rest!  Jesus shows the fallacy of the Pharisees' legalism by pointing to God's intention for the Sabbath: to do good and to heal. God's word has power to heal and to set free from ignorance, error, intolerance, and prejudice. Do you honor the Lord's Day with appropriate rest and worship, and do you treat your neighbor with love and compassion at all times?

"Lord, may I honor you in my work and in my rest and in the way I treat my neighbor.  Fill me with your love and keep me free from a critical and intolerant spirit that I may seek the good of my neighbor in all situations."

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 (c)1999 Don Schwager