Have you ever asked a question that you knew the answer to? Teachers do this often (although, while teaching, I have been known to occasionally ask questions that I didn’t know the answers to). Parents double-check children’s understanding of the expectations of an event before they head out of the house. “Refresher courses” confirm that we haven’t lost knowledge due to lack of use (or misuse).
After a couple of lessons about Jesus healing a woman on the Sabbath (Luke 13:10-17), let’s look to the next chapter for another event:
One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way.
Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” And they had nothing to say.
Luke 14:1-6 NIV
Uh-oh – it’s the Sabbath, again! And Jesus is again in the presence of those who are likely to hold Him to a bunch of extra rules. Luke even says that Jesus “was being carefully watched”. The NASB has a footnote that suggests that they may have been watching Him “maliciously”.
Again, we find someone who is sick. The NASB suggests “edema”, and you may know this condition as “dropsy” [Black, p. 262].
Now, having read Luke 13, we might wonder why a similar lesson is included here in the next chapter. But let’s be realistic: How many times does God need to teach you or me something before it sticks? We might have heard the truth multiple times, but until we’re ready to accept it and practice it, the truth doesn’t do us much good. It takes some humility to make sure that we aren’t being prevented from learning by our own stubbornness.
Here, Jesus gives others a chance to show their understanding of God’s will by asking them a question. Of course, Jesus knows the answer: this is a “teachable moment”, as we might call it today, so He gives the audience a chance to show that they have learned the lesson.
I wonder if those in attendance at this dinner had already heard about Jesus healing the woman in the previous chapter. If so, had they learned the value of people (or procedures) from Jesus already, or did they just hear that lesson and not accept it? Even if those to whom Jesus is talking here weren’t present at the healing from chapter 13, they probably should have been able to figure out the answer from what they knew of God in the Scriptures.
Now, maybe they felt stuck (like the questions that Jesus was asked when people were trying to trap Him), but notice what their choices are: they can stick to their traditions and leave this man sick for another day (scoring points with their buddies who are sticklers for these extra rules), or they can give the right answer and show that they do understand God’s purpose for the Sabbath.
Regrettably, as we see from these verses, I’m afraid that these potential students of Jesus missed the opportunity. Like a bunch of kids in school, staring sullenly at their desks when the teacher asks them a question, they said nothing.
Jesus doesn’t let this keep Him from showing God’s love to the sick man, though. He still heals the man, and then He reminds the audience about their own priorities. His illustration to explain the lesson here is slightly different from the one that He shared in the previous chapter. In chapter 13, it was about giving an animal water. Here, it is about rescuing an animal (or even a child!) from a well. These Pharisees and experts (or “lawyers”, NASB) would recognize the problems that would result from a living being getting trapped in a well, and – hopefully – they would have enough basic human compassion to help out. Yet, when observing someone who had been suffering – perhaps for a long time – they didn’t see the same urgency and need.
So, how about us? When God asks us a question, what is our reply? Does Jesus ask us, like He did to Peter, “do you love me more than these?” (see John 21:15-17) Does He ask us what we think that we should do in a given situation? Does He ask us whether or not we should bring justice and mercy? (see Zechariah 7:9)
When God asks us a question, sometimes the answer is academic (simply identifying the truth, and confirming that we have learned the lesson), but most of the time I think that the answer will require us to do something about it. God’s lessons aren’t meant to just be abstract or theoretical: they are meant to inform and guide our everyday decisions. If we need to study up so that we’re ready to respond correctly, that’s OK, but once we’ve learned the lesson, it’s time to do something with it!
From Sunday School lesson prepared for April 24, 2022
- The Lookout, April 24, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.
- The College Press Commentary, Luke, by Mark C. Black. College Press Publishing Company, © 1996.