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Oedema and the water well

One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. And - take notice of this - there was a man before him who had oedema. And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” And they could not reply to these things.  Luke 14: 1-6

Here in Jersey – as elsewhere, actually – many folk suffer from various types of oedema – fluid retention of various kinds and varying degrees of seriousness. Oedema most often seems to arise in the legs – peripheral oedema – and it’s very unpleasant.

Chronic oedema is now extremely common in severely obese patients. And, of course, all patients with generalised oedema appear to be obese and have a high Body Mass index.

Two thousand years ago – at a dinner party one Sabbath day – one of the guests had oedema. See bold above. Things don’t change very much, do they? Dinner parties. Folk with water retention.

Such was the reputation of Jesus for his ability to heal folk that the dinner part host and the arriving guests expected Jesus to heal this man, gross though he was. They did expect that – but, at the same time, they didn’t.
‘It is of the heart of sin that men use what they ought to enjoy and enjoy what they ought to use.’ (Augustine of Hippo, theologian, 350-430)

It was a Sabbath day dinner party. To heal on the Sabbath (rare as that would have been – then as now) was to work. And work on a Sabbath day was against the law. A criminal offence in Galilee.

Interestingly, Jesus asked the host and assembling guests for advice about this fluid-full man. “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” Their answer never came. They were watching Jesus silently. They remained silent.

Jesus then did three things to the man: he took hold of him; he healed him; he sent him away. Maybe this is better expressed (the original Greek verbs allow it - epilambanomai; iaomai; apolyo): he hugged him; he cured him; he set him free. 

The host and guests remained silent. But not Jesus. He asks them their views about a parallel situation.

The parallel has to do with a well – a water well - into which has fallen a son – or an ox.

Yes, you noticed, a water well. A man has fallen down a water well. No doubt he’s so immersed in water that he’s full of water. So full that he will drown in that very thing that is absolutely essential to the life of all of us.

And Jesus actually uses a water-well-type verb when he asks them about “immediately pulling him out” and that “on a Sabbath day.” “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him up – draw him out?"
‘The essence of sin is my right to my claim to myself.’ (Oswald Chambers, preacher and teacher, 1874-1917)

But did you notice the “son” and the “ox”? Why did Jesus use the two specific parallels. Could it be that the Jews at the Sabbath dinner party (at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, a Jewish political-religious party) were being reminded that a “son” would be “one of us” – a Jewish boy?

And an “ox”? One of “them”? One of the “not-God’s-chosen”, one of the defiled?

Either way, who would leave the obese, odema’d son or ox immersed in water, drowning in what he knew was essential to life but which had immersed him completely, and wait until the next day before fishing him out?

Richard Syvret’s physical peripheral oedema is heart-related. His real oedema necessitates the God-man at the top of the well.

Richard Syvret

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