Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 14:1 - 14:4

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 14:1 - 14:4


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DISCOURSE: 1537

THE MAN CURED OF THE DROPSY

Luk_14:1-4. And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath-day, that they watched him. And behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath-day? And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go.

ALTHOUGH the Gospel requires those who embrace it to become dead to the world, it does not forbid us to maintain occasional and friendly intercourse with unenlightened men. St. Paul rectifies a mistake which had arisen in the Church upon this very subject, and tells us that to renounce all connexion with the ungodly, would be to exclude ourselves from the world altogether [Note: 1Co_5:9-10.]. But peculiar caution is necessary when we are in their company; and the most effectual way of counteracting their pernicious influence is, to labour to do them good. This we may learn from our Lord’s own example in the history before us. He was in a Pharisee’s house, whither he had been invited to dinner; and his conduct there will afford us many useful lessons. We shall consider,

I.       The character of those who entertained our Lord—

The lawyers and Pharisees professed a high regard for religion, and on this occasion appeared to act a very friendly part. But they soon manifested,

1.       Their inveterate malignity—

[Under the mask of friendship they were traitors at heart. They “watched”our Lord’s words and actions, not with a desire to receive instruction, but with a determination to seize an opportunity of traducing his character and destroying his life. Such was their employment on the Sabbath-day, when they should have been more particularly in the exercise of all holy affections. Such was their return to our Lord for all his condescension and kindness. And such was their conduct while they wished to be esteemed as patterns of sanctity and virtue. Would to God that this spirit had died with them! But are there none in this day like-minded with them? Do none, who appear friendly in their outward conduct, occupy themselves with watching the words and actions of a godly person, marking any frailty with critical acuteness, and animadverting upon it afterwards with malicious pleasure? Do none even on the Sabbath-day attend the public ministration of the word, with this captious disposition, disdaining to receive instruction, and seeking only to find some expressions which they may report and ridicule?]

2.       Their utter want of candour—

[Our Lord put a simple question to them, “in answer” to what he knew to be passing in their minds. There was but one answer that could possibly be given to it. But they knew that a just reply would subvert their own superstitious notions, and justify our Lord in a conduct which they wished to condemn. Unable to maintain the sentiments they professed, and unwilling to acknowledge their error, they held their peace. What a base and disingenuous spirit was this! Yet, how many resemble them! If we address the consciences of some, how backward are they to acknowledge the plainest and most unquestionable truths! If they be compelled to give their assent to any position which militates against their practice, they shew, in the very mode of assenting, a fixed determination to resist every inference that may be drawn from their concession. If invited to consider calmly the most important and most obvious truths, they will “shun the light lest their deeds should be reproved.” They have no ears to hear, no eyes to see any thing that condemns themselves; but are all eye, and all ear, when a religious person is to be exposed. Nor is this character found only among the profane; but often among those who affect a great regard for religion, and sometimes even among those, whose office calls them to propagate and defend it [Note: The lawyers, as well as Pharisees, are mentioned in the text.].]

Difficult as the path of Jesus was hereby rendered, he was enabled to preserve himself unblameable in

II.      His conduct towards them—

In every part of our Lord’s demeanour he was a pattern of all perfection. On this occasion in particular we cannot but admire,

1.       His wisdom—

[Conscious as he was of the rectitude of his ways, he was nevertheless concerned to obviate the prejudices which subsisted in the minds of others. On this account he put the question respecting the sanctification of the Sabbath, before he proceeded to work the miracle; and again, after he had wrought it, appealed to them respecting their own practice. Thus, though he did not convert, he at least confounded them, and prevented those clamours which they would otherwise have raised against him. Worthy is this example to be followed by all who embrace the Gospel. We cannot extirpate the prejudices of men; but we should blunt the edge of them. We should condescend to reason even on the most obvious truths, and to defend, by argument, the most blameless conduct. We should endeavour to “cut off occasion from those who seek occasion” against us [Note: 2Co_11:12.]. We should “shew out of a good conversation our works with meekness of wisdom [Note: Jam_3:13.];” and prevent, as much as possible, “our good from being evil spoken of [Note: Rom_14:16.].”]

2.       His fortitude—

[When he saw their obstinacy, he was not deterred from doing his Father’s will. He would do good, even at the peril of his life, rather than lose the opportunity afforded him. He therefore healed the man of his dropsy, and dismissed him, lest he also should be exposed to their murderous rage. Thus should we act, whenever we are opposed in the way of duty. While we labour to disarm our adversaries by a meek and gentle behaviour, we must not fear them. We should say, like Nehemiah, “Shall such a man as I flee?” We should be ready to face any danger and suffer any extremity rather than decline from the path which God, in his word or providence, has marked out for us.]

Three cautions naturally arise from this subject:

1.       Let us be on our guard when in the company of the ungodly—

[The more friendly the world appear, the more are we in danger of being ensnared by them. While they continue carnal, they cannot but retain a rooted enmity against spiritual things. Though, therefore, considerations of honour, interest, or consanguinity, may restrain their anger, they will “watch for our halting [Note: Jer_20:10.];” they will seek to find some matter of offence in us, that they may seem the more justified in following their own ways [Note: Psa_35:19-21; Psa_35:25.]. Let us then be doubly on our guard when in their company. Let us “keep our lips as with a bridle,” and pray to God to “lead us because of our observers [Note: See Psa_5:8. in the marginal translation.].”]

2.       Let us study that not even our good may be evil spoken of—

[A thing may be good in itself, and yet be imprudent as to the manner in which it is carried into execution. The primitive Christians were at liberty respecting the eating of meats offered to idols; yet in the use of their liberty they might offend their weaker brethren, and sin against Christ. It is a great part of Christian prudence to discern persons, times, and circumstances, that we may be able to adapt ourselves to the exigencies of the occasion. Let this, then, be our endeavour; let us “walk in wisdom toward them that are without,” and endeavour to “put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. by well doing [Note: 1Pe_2:15.].”]

3.       Let us proceed without fear in the way of duty—

[Daniel and the Hebrew Youths would not conform to the sinful practices of others, notwithstanding they were threatened by the tyrants of their day. Our Lord also was continually opposed by the most malignant adversaries; yet both he and they chose to persist in what was right at the risk of their lives, rather than violate the dictates of their conscience. Thus let us be ready to live or die for God. Let us willingly “endure the contradiction of sinners against ourselves.” Let us put away that “fear of man which bringeth a snare [Note: Pro_29:25.];” and continue “steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord [Note: 1Co_15:58.].”]