Jesus Responds to Callous Critique with Compassion

"I can actively seek to demonstrate compassion in response to the physical needs of those around me with the resources I have been blessed with."

Luke 14:1-6

One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy.  And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” And they could not reply to these things.


Jesus goes to the home of a Pharisee on the Sabbath to have dinner. Evidently, this was more than post-Sabbath fellowship. Maybe Jesus was invited under false pretenses since it says that the Pharisees were watching himcarefully. We might think that they are watching him to learn from him or to follow his example, but based on other interactions that Jesus had with the Pharisees, they were likely watching in order to trip him up or to rebuke him for eating with and receiving tax collectors and sinners. A man with dropsy (today known as edema) stood before him, and Jesus’s first words were a response to the Pharisees, though we don’t see a question posed in the text. Perhaps Jesus heard their thoughts as he had done in the past.

His response was in answer to the question whether it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. If they answered yes, then they would not charge Jesus with wrongdoing for healing the man. If they said no, then they would be going against the law that permitted rescue of a fallen animal (Deuteronomy 22:4). If that is permissible, how much more would it be permissible to rescue a man from pain and suffering on the Sabbath. Surely healing a sick man for his physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being would be a more worthy endeavor. Jesus exposed the Pharisees’ callousness toward the man in need of healing. His response was a rebuke for their willingness to do more for their animals on the Sabbath than they would be willing to do for a human being.

It’s almost a gut reaction, an involuntary impulse, to rescue someone in danger. We instinctively reach out to catch a stumbling toddler. We yell, “Look out!” when a stray ball flies over a fence and into a crowd. We’re a little slower when it comes to people with physical or mental limitations. We draw back. We hesitate. We excuse ourselves from sacrifice or generosity with our resources because compassion wanes in the face of fear, ignorance, and insensitivity.

I live in a city with obvious needs on every corner. Too often I have gone out of my way to avoid helping a fellow image-bearer rather than pushing aside fear and ignorance in order to serve. To help me become mindful of showing compassion to these fellow image-bearers, I have started to keep a stash of small bills in my purse or car so that I can give to the beggar on the street corner. How I pray for compassion like that of the Savior, who demonstrated that it’s always the right time to do the right thing. No, I can’t heal a man of dropsy, but I can actively seek to demonstrate compassion in response to the physical needs of those around me with the resources I have been blessed with.


Thoughtful Questions:

  • How might Jesus’s example affect how you respond to suffering in our society?
  • How might you demonstrate compassion toward those with physical needs?