Dining With Enemies 1 — Cruel Ploy, Clever Play
Updated: May 4, 2020
Chan Gin Kai
One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way. (Luke 14:1-4)
Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee. Now it wasn’t mentioned whether Jesus was invited by the Pharisee, or he invited himself, like he did with Zacchaeus the tax collector (Luke 19:1-10). But why would Jesus want to dine with his enemies?
He must have known he would be “carefully watched”, and indeed he was. The Pharisees had on many occasions observed what he did and deliberately posed questions to trap him. They just needed to catch him making one wrong move, or one bad answer to nail him (pardon the pun).
In fact, that’s what they did at the sham of a trial before the Sanhedrin the night Jesus was arrested. They couldn’t find anything wrong with Jesus, so they remembered something he had said before, and twisted it against him.
Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” Yet even then their testimony did not agree. (Mark 14:57-59)
Looking at the circumstances, it is not hard to conclude that this prominent Pharisee had most likely invited Jesus, and he had gathered other similarly sinister friends. It was the Sabbath, and surprise, surprise, amongst the guests was a man with abnormal swelling of his body. How convenient! They must have heard about Jesus healing on the Sabbath and deliberately invited this sick person. The meal was a trap.
This was cruel, not just to Jesus, but to the sick man too. Imagine being invited to dinner so that your sickness could be used as a ploy to trap someone else. He must have felt so made use of when he learnt the truth.
Nothing is too below the belt for the wicked. They’ll pretend to care for your pain, but use it for their gain. They may offer you a meal but demand your very life. We live in a cruel world, but we have a real friend in Jesus.
And so we come back to the question we asked earlier, why did Jesus accept the invitation to eat with his enemies?
Just as Jesus was “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 11:9) because he saw their need for salvation, he felt the same for the Pharisees too. To him, even the proudest and most wicked deserve a chance, and here was an opportunity to help them. And if we read the whole account up to verse 24, we’ll see that he taught them a few lessons over just one meal. He cleverly turned the ploy of the enemy into a pulpit for God.
They were people who wanted him dead, but he loved them nonetheless. When Jesus taught that we need to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48), it wasn’t just a noble sounding philosophy. He meant it, and he lived it.
We don’t know if the prominent Pharisee and his other Pharisee friends were impacted by Jesus' lessons, but perhaps some other dinner guests might have been. One thing is for sure though, the sick man certainly benefited.
Jesus was in the den of his enemies, and they were waiting to pounce. They wanted to catch him heal on the Sabbath, and he knew it. So what did he do? Whisper to the sick man to meet him secretly after dinner so he could heal him? Schedule an appointment for the next day?
No, Jesus healed the sick man, there and then.
The sick man might have been used in a cruel ploy, but we can always trust Jesus to cleverly turn things around. To the Pharisees, the man was a pawn they could abuse; to Jesus, the man was a friend he desired to heal.
This same chess game is played in the cosmic battle between Satan and God. We know Satan has no power over God, and he knows that too. So he deviously makes use of us. He tempts us to sin so that we’ll hurt God; he ruins our lives to break God’s heart. To Satan, we are pawns he can abuse; to God, we are children He desires to heal.
The world and its wicked ways will wreck; Satan and his secret schemes will shatter. Through God, we will emerge victorious.
Read more about ‘Dining With Enemies’:
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. He serves actively in the Central Christian Church and describes himself as “just a sinner who wants to get right with God”.