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Luke 5


The Calling of the First Disciples Four Fishermen Called as Disciples The Unexpected Catch Jesus Calls the First Disciples The First Four Disciples are Called
5:1-11 5:1-11 5:1-11 5:1-3 5:1-3
      5:4 5:4-7
The Cleansing of a Leper Jesus Cleanses a Leper A Leper Healed Jesus Heals a Man Cure of a Man Suffering from a Virulent Skin Disease
5:12-16 5:12-16 5:12-16 5:12 5:12-14
      5:15-16 5:15-16
The Healing of a Paralytic Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralytic Forgiveness of Sins Jesus Heals a Paralyzed Man Cure of a Paralytic
5:17-26 5:17-26 5:17-26 5:17-20 5:17-25
The Calling of Levi Matthew the Tax Collector Call of Levi Jesus Calls Levi The Call of Levi
5:27-32 5:27-32 5:27-28 5:27-28 5:27-28
        Eating With Sinners in Levi's House
    5:29-32 5:29-30 5:29-32
The Question About Fasting Jesus is Questioned About Fasting On Fasting The Question About Fasting Discussion on Fasting
5:33-39 5:33-39 5:33-39 5:33 5:33-35
      5:36-39 5:36

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. There are three separate and unique accounts of Jesus' calling fishermen as disciples.

1. Mark 1:16-20 and Matt. 4:18-22

2. John 1:40-42

3. Luke 5:1-11


B. Whether these accounts are parallel eyewitness accounts or subsequent accounts of different callings is uncertain.


C. Luke 5 shows Jesus' power

1. over nature (cf. Luke 5:1-11)

2. over disease (cf. Luke 5:12-26)

3. over sin (cf. Luke 5:27-32)


D. John 21:1-14 describes a time when Jesus helped these fishermen catch fish. It is very similar to this account, however, there are differences. I believe they are two separate occurrences (possibly like the cleansing of the Temple in John), one at the beginning of Jesus' ministry and one after His resurrection.



 1Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; 2and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. 3And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. 4When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." 5Simon answered and said, "Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets." 6When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; 7so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. 8But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, "Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" 9For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; 10and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men." 11When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.

5:1 "the crowd was pressing around Him" Jesus' preaching/teaching/healing ministry caused large crowds to follow Him; most of them tried to touch Him.

"listening to the word of God" This is a Lukan phrase (cf. Luke 5:1; 8:11,21; 11:28; and Acts 4:31; 6:2,7; 8:14; 11:1; 12:24; 13:5,7,44,46,48; 16:32; 17:13). It is used only once in each of the other Gospels. It reflects a Septuagint idiom.

Sometimes we modern believers think the "word of God" is only the Bible, but in reality, the phrase has a much wider meaning. It refers to all that God has communicated to us. Some of it is recorded in the Bible. Psalm 19:7-11 and 119 are OT examples of how the Jews understood this phrase. The NT understanding can be seen in Luke 1:2; 8:11-15,21; 11:28; 24:44. Thank God for the words we do have! We must act on them and not worry about what we do not have. We have all we need for salvation and the Christian life. We must resist our curiosity.

▣ "by the lake of Gennesaret" This body of water goes by several other names.

1. "Chinneroth"

2. the Sea of Galilee

3. the Sea of Tiberias

4. sometimes just "the sea" (cf. Matt. 13:1; Mark 4:1, from the Septuagint of Num. 34:11; Jos. 12:3)

It is a body of water about twelve miles by eight miles and is 680 feet below sea level, surrounded by low rolling hills. The etymology of the term Gennesaret is uncertain. Because it is the name of a land area west of the lake that was very fertile, some suppose it means "princely garden."

5:2 "He saw two boats" This Greek term can be used of any size boat. The fact that this boat was manned by several men in Luke 5:2, 4, and 5 implies that at least one was a large fishing boat.

▣ "were washing their nets" Fishing normally was done on the Sea of Galilee at night. Apparently these men had been fishing all night and simply were washing and repairing their nets (cf. Mark 1:19) for the next night.

5:3 "He got into one of the boats" The press of the crowd was so great that Jesus got into the boat as a means of protecting Himself (cf. Mark 3:9; 4:1) and possibly as a way of amplifying His voice to the large crowd.

▣ "Simon's" He will be the leader of the Apostolic group. Jesus changes his name to Peter (Cephas) in Matt. 16:16-18. He is first called Peter in Luke's Gospel in Luke 6:14.

▣ "He sat down and began teaching" This is the normal position for rabbis when teaching (cf. Luke 4:20; Matt. 26:55), but in this context it would have been safer to sit than stand in a boat.

5:4 "Put out into the deep water" These are both aorist active imperatives. It was the wrong time of day, the wrong place, and the wrong depth to catch fish, yet Peter obeyed (after arguing briefly, cf. Luke 5:5)!

5:5 "Master" The Greek term epistatēs literally means "one placed over." The term was used of one in charge. This term is also used by Luke in Luke 8:24,45. Luke never uses the term rabbi because he is writing to Gentiles (cf. Luke 5:5; 8:24,45; 9:33,49; 17:13).

"we worked hard all night and caught nothing" Why did Luke record this incident out of all the things Jesus said and did? One reason is that this chapter has a series of incidents that show Jesus' power over (1) nature; (2) disease; (3) sin. This would have confirmed His new teachings about Himself and the present Kingdom of God. He not only spoke with authority, He acted with authority (cf. Luke 4:32,36).

Still (noting this is still Luke, not John) one wonders whether this is not a slap at human effort, energy, merit, and knowledge. These professional fishermen tried their best with no results, but Jesus' word was overwhelmingly productive.

5:6 "they enclosed a great quantity of fish" Jesus, being Lord of all creation, understood well the habits of fish and could control them (cf. Matt. 17:27). This is not an example of a great fisherman, but Jesus, God's agent of creation and Spirit-filled Messiah!

5:8 "when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus' feet" The phrase is literally "fell at the knees of Jesus." He fell down in the middle of the fish! Peter, who knew fishing, recognized the miraculous nature of this event and the power of the person!

▣ "Lord" When we interpret the Gospels we must remember they were written well after the events. Those who wrote knew the full story. It is difficult to know how much of their full gospel knowledge is read back into their accounts of Jesus' life and ministry. The term "Lord" is a good example. It is obvious that this term takes on divine attributes after the resurrection (cf. Acts 2:36; Rom. 10:9-13; Phil. 2:9-11), but also culturally it could simply be a polite address comparable to our "mister " or "sir " (cf. Matt. 18:26; Luke 7:6; 9:57; John 4:11). It is possible that Luke intentionally plays on this ambiguity (cf. Vincent Taylor, The Names of Jesus, p. 42, examples Luke 7:13,19; 10:1,39,41). This account here is a good illustration. What did Peter mean by kneeling before Jesus and calling Him Lord? It is obvious adoration, but was it worship to Jesus as the incarnate Son of God, the Messiah (cf. Luke 9:20)?

▣ "I am a sinful man" The closer we get to God, the more we recognize our own sinfulness (cf. Job 42:5-6; Isa. 6:5). There is also the reassurance that God loves and works with sinful, fallen, marred people (e.g. Moses, David, Apostles). Fallen mankind's only hope is the gracious character of God and the self-giving work of Christ.

5:9 "For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish" The miracle astonished the helpers also.

5:10 "James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon" These would become the inner circle of Jesus' disciples. All of them were middle-class businessmen from Galilee.

▣ "Do not fear" This is a present middle (deponent) imperative with the negative particle, which usually means stop an act already in process. This is a characteristic Lukan phrase (cf. Luke 1:13,30; 5:10; 8:50; 12:32; Acts 18:9; 27:24).

▣ "you will be catching men" This Greek phrase implies "catching them alive." This may be an allusion to Jer. 16:16 about YHWH sending fishermen and hunters into the world to find and restore His people. It is possible that the early church's symbol of a fish for Christianity is related to

1. the acrostic, "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior"

2. catching fish, used as an evangelistic metaphor


5:11 "they left everything" After a tremendous catch of fish like this, which was worth so much, they left them. The question has been raised, did they leave them to rot? Obviously not. There were other workers of Zebedee, or possibly they were used to feed the crowd.

Here again, one wonders how much this phrase is meant to symbolically characterize true faith (cf. Luke 5:28; 14:33).

▣ "followed Him" This is probably not the first time they had heard, seen, and talked with Jesus. We learn from John's Gospel that Andrew had introduced them earlier (cf. John 1:29-42). I am sure they had heard Him preach and teach. Possibly they had seen Him perform miracles. It is significant to realize they left everything and immediately followed Him! This was a rabbinical way of acknowledging their officially becoming disciples of Jesus (cf. Luke 5:27-28; 9:23,49,57,59,61; 18:22,28).


A. These accounts are paralleled in Mark 1:40-45; Matt. 8:1-4; and Mark 2:14-17; and Matt. 9:9-13.


B. These incidents show Jesus' revolutionary attitudes and actions toward lepers and publicans so different from the rabbis of His day.


C. Luke purposefully chose incidents which showed Jesus' power

1. over nature (Luke 5:1-11)

2. over disease (Luke 5:12-26)

3. and over prejudice and human sin (Luke 5:27-32)



 12While He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man covered with leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." 13And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately the leprosy left him. 14And He ordered him to tell no one, "But go and show yourself to the priest and make an offering for your cleansing, just as Moses commanded, as a testimony to them." 15But the news about Him was spreading even farther, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.

5:12 "He was in one of the cities" Leviticus 13:46 and Num. 5:2-4 forbade lepers from involvement in normal Israeli society.

▣ "a man covered with leprosy" Luke, the medical doctor, uses several medical terms in this passage.

1. in Luke 5:12 he denotes the severity of the illness by use of a technical term

2. in Luke 5:18 he uses the technical term for "paralyze"—different from Matthew and Mark who used the more popular term

3. in Luke 5:31 Luke uses the medical term for "well"


▣ "leprosy" There were many illnesses covered by this term. Whether it is modern leprosy is uncertain. Leprosy (or whichever skin disease was meant) was seen in Judaism as an illness given by God as punishment (possibly because of Uzziah, cf. 2 Chr. 26:16-23).

▣ "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean" This man obviously had heard of Jesus' power, but was uncertain of His willingness. This is an example of a third class conditional sentence which means potential action, contingent on other actions.

5:13 "He. . .touched him" Technically this would have made Jesus ceremonially unclean. Jesus' life showed the priority of people over Jewish rules and ceremonial cleanliness.

5:14 "He ordered him to tell no one" Jesus veils His deity in the Synoptic Gospels until the great redemptive events are complete. See full list in the texts at Luke 8:56. Jesus did not want to be known as a healer only. The gospel was not yet complete. Jesus was offering more, far more, than physical healing. From Mark 1:45 we learn this man disobeyed.

▣ "go and show yourself to the priest" This refers to regulations found in Lev. 14:1-32. Jesus wanted

1. to witness to the priest

2. to show that He did recognize and fulfill the Mosaic law

Luke records another leper who was told to do the same thing in Luke 17:14.

5:15 "the news about Him was spreading even farther" Fallen, sick, lonely humanity will go anywhere for help and hope.

5:16 "But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray" Jesus, God's Son Incarnate, set the example for believers' prayer lives (cf. Luke 3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18,28). If Jesus needed to get away and pray to face life, how much more do we!

 17One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing. 18And some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him. 19But not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. 20Seeing their faith, He said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven you." 21The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, "Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?" 22But Jesus, aware of their reasonings, answered and said to them, "Why are you reasoning in your hearts? 23"Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins have been forgiven you,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? 24But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins," — He said to the paralytic — "I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home." 25Immediately he got up before them, and picked up what he had been lying on, and went home glorifying God. 26They were all struck with astonishment and began glorifying God; and they were filled with fear, saying, "We have seen remarkable things today."

5:17 "One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law" See parallels in Mark 2:3-12 and Matt. 9:1.

▣ "Pharisees" See Special Topic below.


▣ "teachers of the law" This seems to be parallel with "the scribes" of Luke 5:21 (see Special Topic at Luke 5:21). Most of them were Pharisees, but not all. They were the experts in applying the oral and written law to the practical matters of everyday life. In a sense they took over the role of the OT local Levites. These "biblical lawyers" became the rabbis of today's Judaism.

▣ "from Jerusalem" We learn from rabbinical literature that Jerusalem was considered a separate district of Judah. These were Jewish representatives from "headquarters"! In essence these biblical experts convened to examine Jesus.

▣ "and the power of the Lord was present for Him" Notice in Luke 4:14 it says "power of the Spirit." We must remember the close interpersonal relationship between the persons and work of the Triune God (see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY at Luke 3:22). Notice also the term "Lord" in this text refers to YHWH. Jesus was YHWH's agent in creation, redemption, and judgment.


There are several related Greek manuscript variants in Luke 5:17. These are attempts by scribes to clarify the sentence.

1. It seems a staggering statement to say Pharisees and scribes from every village of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem came to hear Jesus (cf. MSS אi1, Ac, B, C, L, W and the Vulgate and Syriac translations), so scribes changed the sentence to refer to those who were being healed (cf. MS א* and some Coptic and the Armenian translations).

This shows that the later scribes, as well as modern westerners, do not understand Eastern literature (hyperbole).

2. The "him" is singular and refers to Jesus (cf. MSS א, B, L, W), but some scribes thought it referred to those being healed and made it plural (cf. MSS A, C, D, and the Vulgate, Peshitta and Armenian translations). UBS4 gives "him" an "A" rating, which means "certain."


5:18 "paralyzed" Luke, the Gentile physician, uses the technical, medical term (Hippocrates, Galen), while Matthew and Mark use the common vernacular.

5:19 "they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles" Most homes had outside stairs where the roof was accessible. The roof was a place of socializing and even sleeping in the hot season of the year. Can you imagine what it must have been like for those people sitting in the crowded home when the roof started falling in on them?

5:20 "Seeing their faith" "Their" refers to the friends as well as the paralytic man.

The term "faith" is a major NT term (cf. Luke 5:20; 7:9,50; 8:25,48; 17:5,6,19; 18:8,42; 22:32). The Greek noun is pistis and the verb is pisteuō. This term is translated into English by three words—faith, believe, trust (see Special Topics at Luke 1:45). The concept is crucial for an understanding of salvation (cf. John 1:12; 3:16) and the Christian life (cf. Heb. 11:1,3,6).

The Hebrew equivalent is emeth, which originally referred to someone in a stable stance, but it developed the metaphorical extension of someone who is dependable, loyal, trustworthy, and faithful.

Faith is not something we do, but it is the hand that receives the gifts of God (cf. Eph. 2:8-9). It is not a work, but a receptive attitude of need and thanksgiving. We are not dependable, loyal, trustworthy, or faithful, but God is! We trust His trustworthiness; we faith His faithfulness. The hope of all fallen humanity is the unchanging character of God, His mercy and grace towards His rebellious human creation.

These friends believed Jesus, as God's representative, would act graciously toward their friend and they would do anything to get their friend to Jesus (cf. Luke 7:9,50; 8:48; 17:19; 18:42). Oh, that friends had that kind of love and concern today!

▣ "your sins are forgiven" The grammatical form is a Perfect passive indicative. This was an astonishing statement. It was meant to provoke a dialogue with the religious leaders who were present. In rabbinical Judaism, sin and sickness were related (cf. John 5:14 and James. 5:13-15, however, not all sin is related to sickness, cf. John 9:3). Human guilt causes many physical ailments.

5:21 "scribes" See Special Topic below.


▣ "Who can forgive sins, but God alone" This was exactly Jesus' point! Jesus was clearly, unambiguously giving them the sign they asked for. He is clearly proclaiming His Messiahship.

5:22 "But Jesus, aware of their reasonings" Does this imply that

1. Jesus overheard them

2. Jesus knew their theology

3. Jesus read their minds

The end of Luke 5:22 implies #3.

5:23-24 The man's healing was an outward sign for these religious leaders of the purpose, power, and person of the Messiah (cf. Luke 4:18-19). Instead of praise and adoration (which they initially gave, cf. Luke 5:25-26), their hearts will turn to self-interest, even murder (cf. Luke 22:2; Matt. 12:14; 26:1; Mark 14:1; John 5:18; 7:1,19; 8:37,40; 11:53).

Healing can occur without faith. Jesus healed people as a means of

1. getting the attention of His hearers

2. demonstrating the power and compassion of God and His Messiah

3. training the disciples

Forgiveness of sin, however, is never possible without personal faith.


5:24 "Son of Man" This term is Jesus' chosen self-designation. In the book of Ezekiel (example 2:1; Ps. 8:4) it means simply "human being," but in Dan. 7:13-14 it derives an added connotation of deity (cf. 1 John 4:1-3). This term was not used by rabbinical Judaism and, therefore, it did not have militaristic, nationalistic, exclusivistic connotations. See fuller note at Luke 6:5.

The parallel in Matt. 9:8 has the phrase "glorified God, who had given such authority to men." The comment accentuates the human aspect of "Son of Man." One wonders how much the more developed Gnosticism of Luke's day is reflected in Luke choosing those aspects of Jesus' life and teachings which reflect His humanity.


▣ "has authority on earth to forgive sins" This was the central question of the Jewish leaders. Where did Jesus get His power and authority (see Special Topic: Authority at Luke 20:2)? They could not deny His miracles or the power of His teaching, so they tried to attribute His authority to the Evil One.

5:26 "they were filled with fear" Jesus was filled with the Spirit before birth (cf. Luke 1:15). Elizabeth and Zacharias were filled with the Spirit so they could better understand His person and birth (cf. Luke 1:41,67), but the Jews (i.e., Nazarites) are filled with anger (cf. Luke 4:25) and their leaders are filled with fear (cf. Luke 5:26) and rage (cf. Luke 6:11).

Luke continues this theme in Acts.

1. The disciples are filled with the Spirit (cf. Luke 2:4; 4:8,31; 9:17; 13:9).

2. The Jewish leaders (Sadducees) were filled with jealousy (cf. Luke 5:17).

3. The Jewish crowd at Pisidian Antioch was filled with jealousy (cf. Luke 13:45).

One's reaction to the gospel determines what one is filled with.

 27After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, "Follow Me." 28And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him.

5:27 "a tax collector named Levi" We know from Mark 9:9 that he was also called "Matthew" (gift of YHWH). We also know from Mark 2:13 that he was "son of Alphaeus." Apparently Jesus did not change his name, but he had one Jewish name and one Galilean name.


▣ "tax booth" This occupation was a position purchased from both the Romans and the Herods and was open to great abuse. Obviously Levi collected Herodian and Roman taxes on the major road known as the Via Maris. He was completely ostracized by the local Jews from all religious and social events because of this. Luke chooses to record several events involving these social pariahs (cf. Luke 3:12-13; 5:27-28,29-32; 7:34; 15:1-2; 18:9-14; 19:1-10). This was Luke's way of assuring his Gentile readers that YHWH and His Christ would include them by faith also.

▣ "'Follow Me'" This is a present active imperative. The fact that Jesus would call a tax collector to follow Him was absolutely amazing to the people of Capernaum and even to the disciples. It was surely a symbol that the gospel was open to all people.

5:28 "And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him" Apparently he had heard Jesus preach. He acted in the same way as James, John, and Peter (cf. Luke 5:11).

 29And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them. 30The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?" 31And Jesus answered and said to them, "It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. 32I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."

5:29 "Levi gave a big reception. . .a great crowd of tax collectors" Luke records many dinners which Jesus attended, always for the purpose of teaching and revealing Himself (cf. Luke 7:36; 9:12; 10:38; 11:37; 14:1; 19:7; 22:14; 24:30; 24:41). Because Capernaum was on a major road, there was a large number of tax collectors.

Everyone else in town would be shocked that Jesus would associate with, even eat with, this group and their outcast friends (another insight into the gospel, cf. Luke 7:34; 15:1-2).

Jesus ate with the socially and religiously outcast as a way of initiating a religious dialogue with them. They flocked to Him because He acted so different from the self-righteous rabbis and scribes. Eating was a special event in the Ancient Near East which expressed friendship and acceptance. They would have reclined on their left elbow around a low horseshoe-shaped table with their feet behind them (this has been challenged by J. Jeremias in his book The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, pp. 20-21. He asserts the Jews did not regularly follow the Mediterranean custom of reclining, except during feast days). In the Near East others who were not invited to the meal could come in to the dining area and stand around the walls or at the door or windows and listen to the conversation.

One wonders how much eschatological symbolism should be read into this context. Is this feast a foreshadowing of the Messianic banquet which will include outcasts (cf. Matt. 8:11; Luke 13:29, possibly reflecting Isa. 59:15b-21)? If so, then there is the theological insight that temporal fellowship with Jesus mirrors eschatological kingdom fellowship. Sinners are reconciled now and in eternity! All sinners are welcome (and all are sinners, even the OT covenant people, cf. Rom. 3:9-18).

5:30 "Pharisees" These Pharisees were present at the dinner, but were not a part of the dinner. It seems unusual, but in the ancient world anyone could come and stand around the walls or look in the windows and participate in the conversation without being an official guest at the dinner. Apparently "the Pharisees" was another name for "the scribes," who were mentioned earlier in this context. They were a group of committed Jews who followed a particular tradition affirming the Oral Tradition of the Jews (the Talmud). Notice that they confronted the disciples and not Jesus Himself. Jesus, by eating with these notorious sinners, was expressing fellowship and friendship. John the Baptist had come earlier as an ascetic and the Jewish leaders had rejected him; now they rejected Jesus, who came as a more social person (cf. Matt. 11:19; Luke 7:34). They even accused Jesus of being a "wine-bibber," which meant a "glutton" or "one who over-drinks." Quite often religious conservatism has an ugly and self-righteous side.

For a discussion of the origin and theology of the Pharisees, see Special Topics: Pharisees at Luke 5:17 and Scribes at Luke 5:21.

▣ "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners" The verbs are both present active indicatives, which implies a regular activity. I think many "church people" would ask this same question today, which shows how easy it is to forget the purpose of Jesus' coming.

5:31 "It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick" The parallel in Mark 2:15-17 is helpful. I would like to insert a note from my commentary on Mark 2 (see

"2:17 "those who are sick" They had a sense of need that was essential for faith (cf. Matt. 5:3-4) and Jesus was their healer and friend (cf. Luke 7:34; 19:10).

▣ "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners" This is an ironic, possibly sarcastic, statement like Mark 7:19. This statement was not meant to imply that the religious leaders were righteous (cf. Matt. 5:20) and, therefore, did not need to repent, but rather that Jesus' message (cf. Mark 1:14-15) was more appealing to those who sensed their own spiritual need. Jesus uses proverbial statements often in His teaching (cf. Mark 2:17,21,22,27; 3:27; 4:21,22,25; 7:15; 8:35,36,37; 9:40,50; 10:25,27,31,43-44). No one is more blind than those who think they see!

In his book, The Method and Message of Jesus' Teachings, Robert H. Stein makes a good point about this statement:

'Although the term "totalitarian" has many negative connotations, Archibald M. Hunter's use of this term is an accurate one and describes well the total commitment that Jesus demanded of his followers. On the lips of anyone else the claims of Jesus would appear to be evidence of gross egomania, for Jesus clearly implies that the entire world revolves around himself and that the fate of all men is dependent on their acceptance or rejection of him. . .according to Jesus, the fate of man centers around him. Rejection of him means eternal judgment; acceptance of him means acceptance by God. The pivotal point of history and salvation, Jesus claims, is himself. To obey him is to be wise and escape judgment, but to reject his words is to be foolish and perish, for his words are the only sure foundation upon which to build (Matt. 7:24-27).' (p. 118)."

▣ "well" This was used as a technical medical term for "wholeness."

5:32 "repentance" The Greek term "repentance" means a change of mind. The Hebrew term for "repentance" means a change of action. Both are required for true biblical repentance. It is turning from (repentance), as well as a turning to (faith). We can see this so well in Mark 1:15, where it says "repent and believe" (cf. Acts 3:16,19; 20:21). This shows the positive aspect of faith and the negative aspect of repentance. Jesus said it so well when He said "unless you repent you shall all likewise perish" (cf. Luke 13:3). See SPECIAL TOPIC: REPENTANCE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT at Luke 3:3.

 33And they said to Him, "The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink." 34And Jesus said to them, "You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? 35But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days." 36And He was also telling them a parable: "No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. 38But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, 'The old is good enough.'"

5:33 In the parallel (and probably the original account) Mark 2:18 has the Jewish leaders asking Jesus' disciples a question (cf. MSS אi*,2, A, C, D, and the Vulgate and Syriac translations), but in Luke it is a statement (cf. MSS P4, אi1, B, L, W, and several Coptic translations). The UBS4 translation committee said Luke's statement was "almost certain" (B rating) to be the original. Later, scribes changed the form to make it conform to Mark's account.

▣ "fast" The Pharisees and John's disciples were culturally conditioned to fast twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays (cf. Luke 18:12). The Mosaic Law had only one fasting day a year, the Day of Atonement (cf. Leviticus 16). These twice-a-week fasts are a good example of developed traditionalism (cf. Zechariah 7-8). Fasting loses its spiritual value when it becomes mandatory and draws attention to itself (cf. Matt. 6:16-18). See Special Topic following.


5:34-35 "the bridegroom" The question of Luke 5:34 expects a "no" answer. There is so much OT imagery involved in the concept of "bridegroom." In the OT YHWH is the bridegroom or husband of Israel. However, it is never a Messianic title. In this context Jesus is the bridegroom and the church is the bride (cf. Eph. 5:23-32). In Luke 5:35 "the bridegroom is taken away" refers to a time when a separation will occur.

Now, as interpreters, we have two choices. First, we can see this as a cultural metaphor about a time of joy connected to a wedding. No one fasts during a wedding! Second, we can see it as parabolic of Jesus' time on earth and His coming crucifixion. Mark (who recorded Peter's sermons in Rome and developed them into the first Gospel) would have known the full implication of these metaphorically-laden terms (in Judaism the bridegroom was a metaphor, not of the Messiah, but of the coming Kingdom of God). Is this a prediction of Jesus' death? He has clearly revealed His Messiahship and deity through His words and deeds (i.e., exorcism, healings, forgiving of sins). His followers will fast in an appropriate way and at an appropriate time.

5:36 The Markan (2:21) and Matthean (9:16) parallels help us understand this parable by noting that the patch is from an unshrunk piece of cloth (it will shrink). The new patch (Jesus and the gospel) will destroy the old clothing (Judaism).

There has been much discussion about how to apply this truth. It seems to emphasize the need to be flexible in one's faith. However, one must be careful as to the nature and extent of this flexibility. It is a condemnation of rabbinical Judaism's literalistic interpretation of the Oral Tradition. God help us! Sometimes we are more committed to our traditions and legalisms than we are to God (cf. Isa. 29:13). This parable is paralleled in Mark 2:19-20 and Matt. 9:16-17.

5:37 "wineskins" This referred to goats being skinned in such a way as to allow the skins to be used as a container for liquids (i.e., water, Gen. 21:15; milk, Jdgs. 4:19; and wine, Jos. 9:4,13). These newly-tanned skins would have elastic qualities. When these skins became old, the fermentation process and expansion of the new wine would cause them to split. Judaism was unable to receive Jesus' insights and corrections and, therefore, was about to be made null and void. The new covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38) has come in Jesus! Nothing can remain the same.

5:39 The fifth century a.d. Western family of manuscripts, D (Bezae), omits Luke 5:39 because

1. it is omitted by Mark 2:22 and Matt. 9:17

2. it seems to give priority to the OT (cf. Metzger, A Textual Commentary, p. 139)

Where did Luke get the closing comment? It is not from Mark. It is not in Matthew, so possibly not in "Q" (Quell, saying of Jesus possibly written by Matthew). Luke apparently interviewed many people. It must be oral tradition.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is Luke 5 such an important chapter in showing Jesus' power and preeminence?

2. Why did Jesus want the leper to show himself to the priest?

3. Why did Jesus tell the leper not to tell anyone?

4. Why did Jesus say, "Your sins are forgiven"?

5. Why was Jesus' invitation for a tax collector to become a disciple so radical?


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