Luke Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Jesus is preaching to a crowd by the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and sees two fishing boats (with their owners) at the water’s edge. One of them is Peter‘s boat, and Jesus climbs into it. He moves it a little ways back from shore, and continues to teach the crowd from the boat. Once he finishes speaking, he tells Peter to sail the boat farther out into the water and let down the nets, so they can go fishing. Peter replies a little tiredly that they had been fished all night and hadn’t caught a thing, but agrees to try again anyway. They let down the nets and when they bring them back up, they’re so overflowing with fish that the nets start start to break. They hurriedly signal the other boat that had been on the shore to come and help, and the two boats load themselves up with so much fish that the weight threatens to sink them. Peter is amazed by it, and falls at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” His fishing partners, the brothers James and John, are also overwhelmed. Jesus tells Peter not to be afraid, and that from now on he will catch men. Peter, James, and John leave their fishing business to become Jesus’ disciples. (cf Matthew 13, Matthew 4, Mark 1)

One day, a man with leprosy comes up to Jesus and says, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” “I am willing,” Jesus replies. “Be clean!” The man is healed, and Jesus orders him to go to the temple and make the appropriate sacrifices of thanksgiving, but not to tell anyone about who healed him. However, the man disobeys and tells everyone, and news of the miracle spreads like wildfire. (cf Matthew 8, Mark 1)

On another day, Jesus is teaching a crowd, including some Pharisees and teachers of the law, “and the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick.” Some men with a paralyzed friend try to approach him, but the house is so crowded that there’s no room for them and no way they can squeeze their way to the front, so they go up to the roof and remove a few tiles to make a hole. They lower the paralyzed man on a mat down through the hole, right in front of Jesus. Jesus sees their great faith, and tells the man his sins are forgiven. The Pharisees are watching the whole thing with surprise and disapproval, and think Jesus’ words are blasphemy. Jesus knows what they’re thinking, and says, “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’, or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” He tells the man to get up, take his mat, and go home, and the healed man obeys. Everyone is amazed. (cf Matthew 9, Mark 2)

Afterwards, Jesus is walking and sees a tax collector named Levi (Matthew) sitting at his tax booth. Jesus tells Matthew, “Follow me,” and Matthew gets up, drops everything, and goes with Jesus. They go to Matthew’s house and have a large dinner, and many of Matthew’s tax collector friends come and join them. The Pharisees accuse Jesus of eating with sinners, and Jesus answers that it’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but only the sick. He says he hasn’t come to call the righteous, but rather to call sinners to repentance. (cf Matthew 9, Mark 2)

The Pharisees then assert that John the Baptist’s disciples fast often, and so do the Pharisees’ disciples, but Jesus and his disciples “go on eating and drinking.” Jesus says that the guests of the bridegroom don’t fast while the bridegroom is with them. But when the bridegroom is taken away, then they will fast. He says, no one patches an old garment with cloth from a new garment, because you will have torn the new garment, and the cloth won’t match. He says that no one pours new wine into old wineskins, because the new wine will burst the skins. The wine will be wasted and the skin will be ruined. New wine must be poured into new skins. “And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’” (cf Matthew 9, Mark 2)

Commentary

Luke almost always calls Peter “Simon”, or sometimes “Simon Peter”, but I’m going to continue to refer to him as Peter for continuity purposes. I know there were mentions back in Matthew and Mark of Jesus getting into a boat and preaching from offshore, but I absolutely could not find the chapter number. Sorry. [EDIT: It is at the beginning of Matthew 13.] I’m still doing the thing of putting the links to identical or very similarly-worded stories in regular text, and links to dissimilar stories (i.e. the events are recognizably the same, but the descriptions are markedly different) in italics.

So, Jesus recruits Peter, James and John as his first three musketeers. Luke makes no mention of Peter’s brother Andrew, who Matthew and Mark wrote was recruited at the same time as Peter. Andrew seems to be kind of a non-entity throughout all three books, actually; the apostles are always listed in order of importance, which usually coincides with the order in which they were recruited. Andrew seems to be the exception to the rule, in that he was the second one recruited (according to Matthew and Mark, anyway), but is definitely not second in command (eg he’s not invited to the transfiguration (though Peter, James, and John are), doesn’t go with Jesus to Gethsemane (though once again, Peter, James, and John do)). Anyway, he’s a puzzler.

Back to the other disciples, Luke’s story here is quite different from the way Matthew and Mark told it. According to Luke, Jesus knew Peter quite well already, before ever asking him to follow him. And apparently, James and John were business partners with Peter, which nobody ever mentioned before. That actually makes it a lot more believable that they would drop everything to follow Jesus, if they knew him so well already before ever being asked. Apparently they were on friendly enough terms that Jesus could borrow Peter’s boat with no notice.

In Luke’s rendition of the lowering-the-man-on-the-mat story, the roof is tile instead of thatch. Luke also likes to use to lots of heavy-handed foreshadowing, like the statement that Jesus was full of healing power at the beginning of the story before the leper was even there, and Jesus reacting to the Pharisees’ unspoken accusations of blasphemy before they had a chance to say it out loud.

Levi and Matthew are the same person. I don’t know what the deal is with Peter and Matthew having multiple names; the nearest I can figure is that one name must be their name in Hebrew and the other must be their name in Greek. I’m going to continue to refer to Matthew/Levi as Matthew to minimize confusion. According to the notes, Matthew’s tax-booth thing was probably a toll booth type thing at the entrance to the city, to collect customs on incoming goods.

Re: the parable of the cloth and the wineskins. Luke’s description of these makes a little more sense than the way Matthew and Mark explained it, which just left me baffled. So, I guess the old garment is supposed to be the old law, and the new garment is the new law, i.e. Jesus’ law. It’s dumb to cut up new clothes to patch old ones, because really you do it the other way around, and cut up the old clothes to patch the new ones. So I guess it means that the old law should be made to fit into the new law, rather than trying to fit the new law into the old law. And then with the wineskins, the new wineskin and new wine is the new law, and the old wineskin and old wine are the old law. When you pour the new wine/law into the old wineskin/law, it doesn’t work because the old law can’t contain it and you wind up losing both. So the new law (and wineskin) basically have to stand by themselves. Or something like that. According to the notes, the line at the end about people claiming to like the old wine better even after tasting the new is a dig at hidebound people who are reluctant to switch over.

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