Healing Man’s Hardness of Heart
“It happened that when he went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread, they were watching him closely. And there in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy. And Jesus answered and spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?’ But they kept silent. And he took hold
of him and healed him, and sent him away. And he said to them, ‘Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?’ And they could make no reply to this” (Luke 14:1-6. All texts are from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted).
by Erwin Kalinski
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What is Dropsy?
Dropsy is an old term for the swelling of soft tissue due to the accumulation of excess water. In years gone by, a person might be said to have dropsy. Thus, the person might have edema or
swelling due to congestive heart failure.
Both forms of this disease occur in Palestine, that with water called anasarca, depending on cardiac or renal disease, and the form confined to the abdomen, usually the result of liver infection. The man Jesus eventually healed was evidently able to move about since he had entered into the Pharisee’s house (Luke 14:2).
The scriptures do not state why Jesus was invited to the home of the Pharisee. The Pharisee may have liked Jesus, or he may have been curious to learn more about him. We also do not know why a man with dropsy was present. He may have been a servant in the household. Providentially, Jesus used this occasion to teach a great moral lesson concerning the Sabbath
day, and thus the Millennial Age. Jesus performed this miracle in Perea, located in the southern part of Palestine.
Jesus’ Miracles of Healing
Jesus performed four types of miracles: exorcism, healing, control of nature, and resuscitation. Jesus performed many
miracles but not all were recorded. John 21:25 says, “If
they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.”
Thirty-six of Jesus’ miracles were recorded and seven of these were performed on the Sabbath day. The miracles consisted of 6 exorcisms, 18 healings, 9 with nature, and 3 resuscitations.
Please see the chart listing the miracles of Jesus at the beginning of this issue.
Jesus and the Sabbath
Jesus performed miracles on the Sabbath day because he was the Lord of the Sabbath. “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath day” (Matthew 12:8). Jesus knew that the miracles he performed were just a sample of the miracles mentioned in Isaiah 35:5,6: “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened … the ears of the deaf will be unstopped … the lame will leap … and the tongue of the mute will shout.”
When Jesus healed the man with dropsy on the Sabbath, he was not trying to irritate the Scribes and the Pharisees. We can be thankful that Jesus only broke the Pharisees’ rules and did not break God’s Sabbath (Matthew 5:20).
Jesus, Sabbath Miracles, and Pharisees
There was a fundamental disagreement between Jesus and the Pharisees about man’s relationship with the Sabbath. Bro. Russell explains in Reprint 3316:4: “The Sabbath was made for man — was made for the benefit of mankind, for men’s physical, mental, and moral rest and recuperation and strengthening. The Pharisees viewed the day as though God specially desired to have the Sabbath day observed, and had created man for that particular purpose. Evidently, they were in error, and our Lord had the proper conception of the Law and fulfilled it accurately.”
Concerning our Lord’s interactions with the Pharisees regarding the Sabbath, Bro. Russell wrote the following in Reprint 2434:1: “We are not to consider that our Lord performed so many of his miracles on the Sabbath, apparently in preference to other days, as signifying any disrespect to the day, nor as signifying a desire to provoke the Pharisees. Rather, we may suppose that the performance of the notable miracles on this day was largely in order to thus point out the great seventh day Sabbath, the Millennial day, the seventh thousand year period of earth’s history, when the antitypical and far greater miracles and blessings will come to mankind. ‘These things [miracles]
did Jesus, and manifested forth [beforehand] his [coming] glory’” (John 2:11).
Man’s Healing Was Symbolic
Not only was Jesus healing of the man’s dropsy literal, but it was also symbolic. Due to the effects of sin, man’s heart has become cold, even stony. The hardness of man’s heart can be traced back to that of Satan. Satan’s desire for lordship led him to become the father of lies and the first murderer, deceiving Eve into disobedience and the penalty of death (John 8:44, Genesis 3:17-19). He cared not for the impact of the condemnation upon man but only for becoming like the Most High (Isaiah 14:14).
Since the fall, Satan has been at work stirring up evil and hardness in men’s hearts through selfishness. This can be seen with Cain. When God asked Cain where his brother Abel was,
Cain’s response reeked of callousness: “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4.9). As selfishness grew in men prior to the flood, so did the hardness of man’s heart. This hardness is captured in Genesis 6:5: “the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Following their release from bondage, God gave Israel His law and covenant at Mt. Sinai. Moses expressed the essence of this law in Deuteronomy 6:5-6: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words … shall be on your heart.” God desired Israel to keep His law in their hearts that He might bless them continually. “Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29).
However, God knew the end from the beginning and prophesied through Moses that earthly blessings would lead Israel to pride of heart and they would forget to serve the Lord.
“When you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you
have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God who brought you … out of the house of slavery” (Deuteronomy 8:12-14).
Israel’s heart became proud and hard, no longer willing to be led by their God. “‘Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote’” (Isaiah 29:13). Jesus confirmed Israel’s hardness of heart by applying Isaiah’s prophecy to Israel in his day (Matthew 15:8, Mark 7:6). This hardness was seen when Jesus healed the man with the withered hand. “After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, he [Jesus] said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And he
stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees … immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against him, as to how they might destroy him” (Mark 3:5,6).
Healing Man’s Heart in the Kingdom The final healing that The Christ will do in his earthly kingdom will be to heal man’s heart.
Man’s heart must become like God’s to be both acceptable and obedient to Him. This test for mankind is expressed in the parable of sheep and goats in Matthew 25. Individuals of the
sheep class receive everlasting life because their heart is healed and they demonstrate this in lovingkindness to those less fortunate. “Then the righteous [sheep] will answer him, ‘Lord,
when did we see you hungry, and feed you, or thirsty, and give you something to drink? And when did we see you a stranger, and invite you in, or naked, and clothe you? When did we
see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’ The King will answer and say to them … ‘to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me’” (Matthew 25:37-40). The healing of their hearts will help them become righteous.
How will God through Christ heal man’s heart without violating man’s free moral agency? First, by removing his stony heart. “I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19). “I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). The overwhelming goodness of Christ’s kingdom will break the stoniness of man’s heart by providing man’s every need, raising them from the tomb, and removing all causes of selfishness.
“The LORD of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain.” Mankind’s response will be, “This is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation” (Isaiah 25:6,9).
Second, God will cause all men to know His word and His law. “‘They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all
know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,’ declares the LORD … ‘I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more’” (Jeremiah 31:34). This knowledge will
lead to a change in man’s behavior. “They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah
11:9). Mankind will be willing to learn God’s ways. “Many peoples will … say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach
us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths” (Isaiah 2:3).
Third, God will pour His holy Spirit upon all mankind that man might not only understand God’s law but might have it written on his heart (Joel 2:28). “And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them” (Ezekiel 11:19). “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you … I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:26,27).
These three actions under the New Covenant will convert mankind from being rebels against God into becoming God’s people. “‘ This is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jeremiah 31:33). “They shall be My people, and I will be their God; and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good and for the good of their children after them” (Jeremiah 32:38-39).
This transformation of heart will lead Israel and all mankind back into the position of earthly sons of God. Their hearts will be knit
together with one another and with their God in the bonds of agape love, a copy of their God and of His dear Son.