In the name of the Father, and of the Son, X and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The man was sick. Everyone knew it. At that time, no one probably knew the cause. Today he may have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and treated, but in his day, he only felt the primary symptom—swelling of his arms and legs from a build up of excess fluids beneath the skin. The problem was that his heart was bad. It was not pumping enough oxygen-rich blood to his organs. And now his body was retaining water, robbing him of mobility in his arms, legs, hands, feet, and fingers. It was probably painful for him, but most certainly it was scary. He saw the outward effects of a problem of which he knew neither the source nor the cure. He must have been certain that this was a death sentence, that there was nothing he could do to help himself.
Doctors at that time could not help him either. Those who care for the body had no answers. So he begins hanging around the houses of those who were supposed to be care takers of the soul. As was the custom of the day, he frequented the houses of the Pharisees hoping beyond hope that by some miracle their prayers could cure him or at least prepare his soul for his immanent death.
He had no right to enter into the house of the most prominent and influential people in the community. He came out of humility for an ultimate, last-resort appeal for mercy. He made no presumption of belonging in that company. He didn’t pretend that he was one of the popular people invited to that house as an honored guest. He made no dash for a seat at their table. He waited outside with the animals, standing as it were among the oxen and donkeys.
But on one Sabbath Jesus of Nazareth, who was passing through that town on his way to Jerusalem, was invited to that house. Jesus was known to heal people—even on the Sabbath—and so every eye was on Him the moment He arrived. Those who invited Him were looking for a reason to accuse Him. But those who were sick and diseased were looking to Him for mercy. What would Jesus do? The scene was set for suspense. The Pharisee believed he had put Jesus in a moral and spiritual predicament. On the one hand if Jesus healed anyone, they could accuse Him of breaking God’s command to rest on the Sabbath, on the other hand, if He did not heal anyone, then they could prove to the community that He either didn’t have the power or the compassion to heal.
But the one greater than Solomon was there that day. The fullness of the wisdom and mercy of God rested in Jesus, and He was not stumped by the predicament. He called the man with dropsy to himself. This was no ox or donkey. This was a child of God. Jesus rescued him from the pit of his infirmity. The Pharisees didn’t like it, but they had no rebuttal. Because they knew that if one of their animals had fallen into a pit on the Sabbath, they would have rescued it. Upset that Jesus had slipped through their trap, they moved on to the meal.
As they were going to the table, Jesus wasn’t finished teaching. He had healed the man with dropsy, but He still wanted to use that man as an illustration to teach about a worse ailment. After seeing the struggle for the best places at the table, Jesus tells a parable. The point of the parable was to show that the honored guests were no better off than the sick party crasher. In fact, they were worse, because they didn’t recognize their illness. At least the man with dropsy knew who he was, knew his hopeless situation, knew he was sick, knew his life hung in the balance. What the Pharisees failed to see was that they had a heart disease that caused them to swell with pride before God and their neighbors. It was a disease that inhibited their viability as children of God, it put their very life in danger. Their heart was not pumping the life-giving blood of God, but rather the sin-polluted blood of their forefather Adam. The symptoms were painful to them, but they didn’t realize that the pain came from within. They had always blamed those around them for their ailments. They blamed those around them for their unhappiness, assuming it was because everyone was so greedy or gossipy that they were not more popular, more respected. They blamed their colleagues for holding them back in their careers. They blamed their children for bringing disruption and chaos to the family. They blamed their spouses for not satisfying their every physical and emotional desire. They blamed God for their weaknesses and infirmities. They were mad at the world, mad at their neighbors, and mad at their God as they swelled with pride. They assumed that because they thought themselves important, that everyone else should think they were important too. They kept jostling and jousting for worldly prestige and accolades, using and stepping on whomever they needed to pull themselves higher. They were puffed up with pride and didn’t know it. It was a death sentence, and there was nothing they could do to save themselves. It sounds oddly familiar.
Priests at that time could not help them either. Those who were supposed to care for the soul, forgot about God’s promise and God’s Messiah. Their sacrifices were empty show. Their prayers, when they made them, were vain, thoughtless repetitions. Their temple was a den of robbers, a market for false indulgences. They sought to pay for God’s aid by either good works or offerings. To our shame it also sounds oddly familiar.
But one greater than the Temple came in the flesh. A priest in the order of Melchizedek. The true shepherd of souls. The heavenly physician who not only diagnoses the real cause of problems, but also applies the cure and medicine of immortality. The Lamb of God, who came to be the sacrifice for sin. The master of the feast and the heavenly bridegroom. Jesus not only has the wisdom to issue divine judgments, He has also the will and the power to heal all those who are sick and in need of mercy.
Ever since Jesus entered into the world, ever since He was incarnate and tabernacled among us, all eyes have been on Him. The devil and the world looked to catch him in a predicament, a legal conundrum. The devil asserted that sin brings death. People sinned, therefore all people should die and go to the eternal pit of hell. He had a point.
The scene was set for suspense. How would God answer? The Father had called the wedding feast. The hosts of heaven and earth looked on. The devil was waiting to stand up and cry foul if this Bridegroom dared to come to earth and presume to take the highest seat. But Jesus did not presume to come in glory. This would not have rescued man from the pit of sin. Someone had to die. He humbled himself and took on the form of a servant. He shirked heavenly and earthly glory. He took the lowest seat, the servant’s seat, the seat of a worm and no man. And in a plot that interested the angels and baffled the demons, He died. In a celestial turn of events, after the crucifixion, on the Sabbath of all Sabbaths, after the resurrection, He who invited all to the banquet descended into hell, approached Satan, who presumed the best place as lord of this world, and said, “Give place to the man, Jesus.” And to Jesus, He said, “Friend, go up higher.” In Jesus’ death and resurrection, God has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted the lowly.
The wedding feast God has called is for all those who are humble of heart, those who repent and believe in the sacrifice of Jesus. God applies the sacrifice to you by water and the Word, by the Body and Blood of the sacrificed Lamb. You are no ox or donkey. You are the beloved of God. And in another turn of events, you find that you are not invited to the heavenly Feast as an honored guest. You are the holy, unblemished bride. You are the reason the feast was thrown in the first place. Your heart has been healed. And now, by your cleansing, by your Baptism, it pumps God’s blood through your body. Your arms, legs, hands, feet, and fingers now have mobility for God’s will—to love Him and serve your neighbor. Your sinful dropsy has been healed. Your Bridegroom and Lord has had mercy. The banquet is set. “Friend, come up higher.”
In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.
Rev. Michael N. Frese
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana
He heals a man with dropsy and then teaches about pride/humility. the healing has to do with the healing of pride. Water puffs up the man, pride puffs up the man. Jesus heals with a touch in order to teach that He can heal the pride in us.
He was humble and humiliated. We are prideful and seek after glory. But by his humility, he rescues us from our sin. He “pulls us out of the pit.”
In pride, Adam and Eve sought a place not given to them in the banquet of the garden of Eden.
550,000 diagnosed per year in the US.
5 mil. suffer from this in US
Congestive heart failure.
building up of fluid in the organs and under the skin.