Monday, August 23, 2010
Luke 14:1-14 has Jesus at dinner at the home of a leading Pharisee. The early verses, which are left out of this coming Sunday's Gospel, set the stage for what follows. Putting this miracle here is a mark of Luke's skill in arranging his material. I have always paid more attention to the issue of healing on the sabbath than to the dropsy that needs healing.
The New Interpreter's Study Bible has a revealing footnote about it. Dropsy is a swelling of the body due to an excess of fluid (today known as "generalized edema"). Persons with dropsy suffered from an insatiable thirst in spite of the fact that their bodies already retained too much fluid. For that reason in the ancient Mediterranean world dropsy was used as a metaphor for greed, a way to describe the rich elite who wanted yet more money and more prestige, the very people whom Jesus addresses in the following verses.
Jesus not only heals this man's dropsy but wants to help the dinner guests recognize their greed by noting how they push themselves into the more desirable seats. He goes even further to encourage hospitality to the least and the left-out.