Jesus Heals A Man With Dropsy


“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 dropsy. 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 away. “Then he asked them, “If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?” And they had nothing to say.”  Luke 14:1-6

One thing we know about Jesus is that He never refuses an invitation to eat from anyone, regardless of who they are or what their intentions are.

We must note that the KJV tells us that Jesus went ‘to eat bread on the Sabbath’.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The Jews took only two meals on weekdays, but they had three meals on the sabbath’; that extra meal was celebrated after the morning worship and was the big meal of the entire week. ‘The only restriction upon those feasts was that the food had to be cooked the day before.’

Jesus was doing a bit of table talk as He ate in the house of a prominent Pharisee. They were having a Sabbath meal and from the very beginning, the Pharisees had been watching Jesus to see what He would do. They are obviously looking for any excuse to accuse Jesus of something, anything, Luke 6:7.

We know the customs then which were observed around the dinner table were quite different from today. The Greeks and the Romans ate their meals in the reclining position either on the floor or on low couches, drawn up against low tables. The tables were U-shaped which allowed the servants to serve food around the table more easily.

At the head of the table was placed the honoured guest and with the Jews, this was reserved for the rabbis. The other guests were seated around the table in descending order of importance. On most occasions, the exact hour of the meal was never announced, so some guests came in earlier, and others would come in later.

The Pharisees had this down to a tee, especially those who were in prominent positions. They would time their arrival so that they could make an unsuspicious entrance and in the presence of everyone else, they would receive the chief seats.

I think this is an amusing scene because at this particular feast, the Pharisees were scrutinising Jesus’ every move, they were closely observing Him.

However, at the same time, Jesus was observing them. He was watching them slyly manoeuvring around the table for the place of honour. It was after observing them, that he would go on to share a rather condemning parable concerning humility, Luke 14:8-11.


The ‘abnormal swelling of the body’ indicates dropsy, ‘hudropikos’ which is a symptom of a disease of the heart, liver, kidneys, or brain. The term stems from the Greek word hydro, describing water.

It involves fluid retention and swelling in the body cavities or in the limbs. There was no cure or medicine available in those days. This is the only miracle of this kind recorded in the Gospels.

The Man

Notice that this man appears before Jesus but doesn’t ask to be healed. We know nothing about this man or where he came from. Was he deliberately invited by the Pharisees in order to trap Jesus or was he one of the Pharisee’s family members? The text doesn’t tell us.

Notice also, that Jesus points the man with dropsy out to the Pharisees and the experts in the Law and tries to reason with them. It is Jesus who initiates this whole event concerning the man, Jesus knows exactly what these religious leaders are thinking, Luke 5:22-24.

He asks them ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not? Jesus healed a few people on the Sabbath, Mark 1:21 / Luke 4:38 / Luke 6:6 / Luke 13:14 / John 5:9 / John 9:14. He clearly taught that the Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.’ Mark 2:27.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Like human vultures, those evil men were waiting for Jesus to fall into their trap; but he took it all in at a glance, snaring them with one of their own devices, a dilemma. If they said, ‘Yes,’ they had no case; if they said, ‘No,’ they would have spoken a lie. ‘The law did not condemn such acts of mercy, and they undoubtedly saw the point of the Master’s question.’

The Healing

Jesus was a master at silencing people without saying too much. Jesus could have told the man, ‘Come back after sundown and I’ll heal you,’ but He didn’t. He silenced them and went ahead and healed the guy.

Jesus took hold of him, healed him, and sent him away. By taking hold of him, Jesus demonstrated His power to heal the man. Normally any cure for any disease takes time, but here once again, we see Jesus healed the man perfectly and instantly.

It is not clear why Jesus sent the man away because the text doesn’t tell us. I guess it is possible that Jesus didn’t want the man to be there because He was about to rebuke the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. It is also possible that Jesus didn’t want to embarrass the man or want him to become the centre of attention.

We can only imagine how this man’s life has now changed after Jesus healed him. I’m sure there would have been much rejoicing and I’m sure he would have gone on to tell others what happened to him and possibly encourage others to go and see Jesus to be healed, Matthew 15:30.

Jesus astounded them by healing a man who was suffering from dropsy on the Sabbath. Jesus now goes ahead and asks another question, ‘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?’

He quotes their own law and practice to them, Exodus 21:33, which says it was perfectly permissible to rescue an ox or a donkey which had fallen into a well.

But notice there was no response. It is very clear that they weren’t willing to admit that they valued their laws and property more than they valued human life.

Jesus’ point is simply this, if it was lawful to save an ox on the Sabbath, then surely it was also lawful to save the life of a man on the Sabbath, Luke 13:15.

Jesus asked two questions and received no answers, He totally silenced the critics. They had no power; they were powerless to answer him Luke 6:6-11 / Matthew 12:9-14 / Mark 3:1-6.

The Pharisees and teachers of the law were often directed by the traditions of men and made those traditions the same level of importance as the commandments of God.

This is something we must be careful of even today because very easily and very quickly traditions can become law, Mark 7:8-9 / 1 Corinthians 4:6.