Summary: Jesus ate with all kinds of sinners, including the Pharisees. One such occasion is recorded in Luke 14:1-14. In this lesson we'll examine the disastrous dinner with a focus of learning who will sit around the Lord's table.
The meal table is the main social center of the home. Think of some of your warmest memories and many of them will be associated with meal-time. In our text, the entire passage is centered around and on a meal table. The great question discussed was who will sit around God’s table in the kingdom? The Pharisees had one idea and obviously, Jesus had another.
The Setting (v. 1a):
Following the Sabbath day activities at a local synagogue, Jesus “went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees” (v. 1a).[i] Luke is the only gospel writer to include accounts of Jesus eating with Pharisees (cf. 7:36; 11:37). In each of these situations the motives for inviting Jesus were less than honorable. Rather than being occasions for friendly conversation and warm hospitality these meals where punctuated by hostility and contempt on the part of the Pharisees and this meal would be no different.
The Setup (vv. 1b-6):
As Jesus entered the home, the other invited guests, “were watching Him carefully” (v. 1b). With great emphasis Luke declares, “And behold, there was a man before Him who had dropsy” or as the NIV renders it, “abnormal swelling of his body” (v. 2). This is the only record of this disease in the New Testament and quite appropriate coming from the pen of the physician (ref. Colossians 4:14). This poor, pitiful man was not invited out of goodwill; rather, he was a pawn in the Pharisee’s game to entrap Jesus. On a previous occasion, “the scribes and Pharisees watched Him, to see whether He would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse Him” (Luke 6:7).
The Pharisees believed healing on the Sabbath violated the fourth commandment’s prohibition of not working on the seventh day (ref. Exodus 20:8-11). “‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?’” (v. 3; cf. Luke 6:9) Jesus asked. Uninterested in a theological discussion, or coming to a proper understanding of God’s will for Sabbath keeping “they remained silent” (v. 4a). Their one and only goal was entrapping Jesus. Without waiting for the Pharisees to respond, Jesus graciously, took the man, “healed him and sent him away” (v. 4b).
With the man gone, our Lord asked a second question of the Pharisees, “‘Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on the Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?’” (v. 5).[ii] The Lord defended Sabbath healings by showing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees’ own actions (cf. Luke 13:15-16). No matter what the Pharisees taught or demanded of others, they made exceptions for themselves. They believed it was permissible for them to help a fallen animal or family member on the Sabbath day. Therefore, should not the same principle be applied to all suffering people as well? Our Lord’s argument silenced the naysayers, “And they could not reply to these things” (v. 6; cf. Luke 13:17). The apostle John reasoned, that because of Jesus’ Sabbath day healings the Jewish leaders, “were persecuting [him… and] were seeking all the more to kill him” (John 5:16, 18; cf. Luke 6:11).