Luke 5

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A Key Verse

Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid. From now on, you will be fishing for people.”

Luke 5:10b

What’s Happening?

The work of Jesus Christ is getting attention and drawing crowds.  Chapter Five begins with Jesus going to the lakeshore of Lake Gennesaret and finding Simon, whose mother-in-law he healed in Chapter 4, and telling him and performing a miracle of helping them catch too many fish for their boat.  But Jesus isn’t interested in making them better fishermen, he invites them to drop their livelihoods and follow him to “fish for people.”

Once he and the new disciples set out to the work of preaching and healing, Jesus spends time with two of the most outcast kinds of people in his society, first healing a man with a skin disease, probably leprosy, a disease so dangerous and feared that its victims were forced to live away from others until they died.  Later, Jesus actively seeks out a tax collector, who were reviled for working against their own people and for the Romans, and known for cheating people out of ever more money than legally required as taxes.

This Chapter’s Mini-Message

Sea of Galilee, Alex Bruda, 21st century Israel

Jesus calls disciples

5:5 Lake Gennesaret, also called the Sea of Galilee or Lake Tiberias is a large freshwater lake in Israel, about 13 miles across.  Fishing, primarily for Tilapia was an important industry for those who lived near its shores.

5 One day Jesus was standing beside Lake Gennesaret when the crowd pressed in around him to hear God’s word. Jesus saw two boats sitting by the lake. The fishermen had gone ashore and were washing their nets. Jesus boarded one of the boats, the one that belonged to Simon, then asked him to row out a little distance from the shore. Jesus sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he finished speaking to the crowds, he said to Simon, “Row out farther, into the deep water, and drop your nets for a catch.”

Simon replied, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing. But because you say so, I’ll drop the nets.”


College students from California sing “Lord, You Have Come to the Seashore,”
a hymn from 1979 by Spanish priest Cesáreo Gabaráin
So they dropped the nets and their catch was so huge that their nets were splitting. They signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They filled both boats so full that they were about to sink. When Simon Peter saw the catch, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Leave me, Lord, for I’m a sinner!” Peter and those with him were overcome with amazement because of the number of fish they caught. 10 James and John, Zebedee’s sons, were Simon’s partners and they were amazed too.

5:10 Don’t be afraid Just as angels used this phrase, Jesus also uses it to help people accept “calls,” invitation from God to do something.

Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid. From now on, you will be fishing for people.” 11 As soon as they brought the boats to the shore, they left everything and followed Jesus.

The Lepers, Seth Angle, 21st century United States

A man with a skin disease

5:12 skin disease Leviticus 13:45-46 says that those suffering from leprosy, the skin disease here, had to live outside of society.  Robert Obach suggests such people may have suffered from “deep loneliness more than physical suffering” (A Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, p. 59).  What would you find harder—being sick or being totally alone?  By healing this man, Jesus is performing two miracles, healing his skin and letting him be included back into society.

12 Jesus was in one of the towns where there was also a man covered with a skin disease. When he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged, “Lord, if you want, you can make me clean.”

13 Jesus reached out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do want to. Be clean.” Instantly, the skin disease left him. 14 Jesus ordered him not to tell anyone. “Instead,” Jesus said, “go and show yourself to the priest and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses instructed. This will be a testimony to them.” 15 News of him spread even more and huge crowds gathered to listen and to be healed from their illnesses. 16 But Jesus would withdraw to deserted places for prayer.

Jésus guérit un Paralysé, Jésus Mafa, 21st century Cameroon

Jesus heals a paralyzed man

17 One day when Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and legal experts were sitting nearby. They had come from every village in Galilee and Judea, and from Jerusalem. Now the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal. 18 Some men were bringing a man who was paralyzed, lying on a cot. They wanted to carry him in and place him before Jesus, 19 but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they took him up on the roof and lowered him—cot and all—through the roof tiles into the crowded room in front of Jesus. 20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said,“Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

5:21 Indeed, only God can forgive sins, which is what makes Jesus’ behavior so scandalous.  Jesus, Arthur Just notes, “approaches humanity holistically” here (Luke 1:1-9:50, p. 229).  Just as the leper needed healing from a skin disease and being an outcast, Jesus once again deals with soul and body together.

5:24 The Human One or in other Bible translations “The Son of Man,” is a specific title to Luke, and one he will use frequently.  This verse is the first time we see it, and it’s not immediately clear what it means.  François Bovon, a Harvard professor and leading expert on Luke says, “The Son of Man, for Luke, is primarily an apocalyptic figure,” or someone who ushers in the end of times, and an “authoritative judge,” and to Luke, “Jesus is the Son of Man” (Hermeneia: Luke 1, p. 183).  When you see this phrase in the Book of Luke, it is Jesus referring to himself.

21 The legal experts and Pharisees began to mutter among themselves, “Who is this who insults God? Only God can forgive sins!

22 Jesus recognized what they were discussing and responded, “Why do you fill your minds with these questions? 23  Which is easier—to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24  But so that you will know that the Human One has authority on the earth to forgive sins” —Jesus now spoke to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, get up, take your cot, and go home.” 25 Right away, the man stood before them, picked up his cot, and went home, praising God.

26 All the people were beside themselves with wonder. Filled with awe, they glorified God, saying, “We’ve seen unimaginable things today.”

Jesus calls a tax collector

27 Afterward, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at a kiosk for collecting taxes. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.”

5:28 Pharisees The Pharisees were a group within Judaism at the time of Jesus.  In the Gospels, including here in Luke, they are portrayed as hypocrites obsessed with rules.  Pharisees and followers of Jesus begin having serious disagreements in Acts, and it is possible that later disputes shaped the author’s attitudes about the Pharisees negatively.  It’s also important to note that “Pharisees” are not synonymous with Jews, both Pharisees and the followers of Jesus are groups within Judaism, sometimes even overlapping groups.

28 Levi got up, left everything behind, and followed him. 29 Then Levi threw a great banquet for Jesus in his home. A large number of tax collectors and others sat down to eat with them.30 The Pharisees and their legal experts grumbled against his disciples. They said, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

31 Jesus answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. 32  I didn’t come to call righteous people but sinners to change their hearts and lives.”

The old and the new

33 Some people said to Jesus, “The disciples of John fast often and pray frequently. The disciples of the Pharisees do the same, but your disciples are always eating and drinking.”

34 Jesus replied, “You can’t make the wedding guests fast while the groom is with them, can you? 35  The days will come when the groom will be taken from them, and then they will fast.”

36 Then he told them a parable. “No one tears a patch from a new garment to patch an old garment. Otherwise, the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t match the old garment. 37  Nobody pours new wine into old wineskins. If they did, the new wine would burst the wineskins, the wine would spill, and the wineskins would be ruined. 38  Instead, new wine must be put into new wineskins. 39  No one who drinks a well-aged wine wants new wine, but says, ‘The well-aged wine is better.’”

Things to Think About
  • Jesus healed both soul and body in this chapter.  He healed loneliness and guilt.  So let’s say you can’t miraculously heal the sick, are there ways you can think of to follow Jesus’ example and help those who are excluded?
  • “Jesus answered, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do'” (v. 31). Christianity, since Jesus, has not been for the perfect and good people.  Are you ever disappointed that Christians you know are not kind or don’t follow the teachings of Jesus they way you think they should?  What does Jesus’ answer about being with tax collectors and sinners teach us?
A Prayer

God of disciples and tax collectors, You do not care who I have been, you are calling me to be something new, Give me the courage to listen and to follow you, Amen.

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