Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 32: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. And it happened that he entered into the house of a certain ruler of the Pharisees on a Sabbath, to take food, and they watched him. 2. And, lo, a certain man who had a dropsy was before him, 3. And Jesus answering said to the lawyers 288 and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath? 4. But they were silent; and he took and cured him, and sent him away. 5. And he answering to them said, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox that shall fall into a pit, and will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath-day? 6. And they could not answer him to these things.
This narrative contains nothing more than a miracle which Christ performed, in order to correct the superstitious observance of the Sabbath. For he did not, intend, as some imagine, absolutely to abolish the Sabbath, but only to point out, that neither the works of God, nor the duties of charity, violate the holy rest which is enjoined by the law. Whether or not those very persons had purposely brought the dropsical man to that place cannot be known with certainty. He unquestionably could not be present at the table by accident, nor break into a private dwelling without the permission and consent of the owner. It is therefore probable, that he was placed there with the concealed design of tempting Christ, which, on their part, was as foolish an action as it was wicked; for they had already known by experience what Christ was accustomed to do, whenever a similar occasion presented itself.
3. Is it lawful to cure on Sabbath? The meaning of this question is, ought the curing of a man to be reckoned among the works which violate the Sabbath? If they had said that the observance of the Sabbath is violated in this way, the reply was obvious, that it is a work of God. Now the law of the Sabbath goes no farther, than that men shall rest from their own works. Christ first puts the question to them, and he does so for the purpose of guarding against offense. It would not have been necessary for him to pacify them, if they had not been instigated by hardened malice. Not that he always laid himself under this restriction; for in many cases he did what had been enjoined on him by the Father, without attending to the offense that might arise from it. But he intended to show by this example, that he did not inconsiderately perform miracles on Sabbath, because he was prepared to assign a reason for what he did. They, on the other hand, make it evident by their silence, that their desire of finding fault is stronger than their zeal for the law; and therefore Christ treats with utter indifference their opinion about his action, because it was evident that they intentionally sought out an occasion of offense.
5. Which of you shall have an ox or an ass? Though they did not deserve that Christ should take pains to remove the offense, yet he shows that he did nothing inconsistent with the observance of the Sabbath. And this he undoubtedly does, not so much with the view of instructing them, as of protecting himself against their slanders; for he knew that they were too much blinded by virulent hatred to yield submissively, to argument, but wished to triumph over their malice, by compelling them through shame to be silent. If we are at liberty to relieve brute animals on Sabbath, it would be unreasonable that we should not perform a similar office of kindness to man, who is formed after the image of God.
“Aux Docteurs de la Loy;” — “to the Doctors of the Law.”