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Sunday, July 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Luke 5

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-39

V 1-11 Miraculous Draught of Fish: Call of the Disciples —There is no trace of this miracle in Mk and Mt, but the call of the disciples is paralleled in Mark 1:16-20; Matthew 4:18-20, so far neglected by Lk. The conclusion is the same in all three Synoptists, and it is unlikely that the disciples were called twice. It has been suggested that Lk has taken great liberties with chronology by anticipating the miracle of John 21:1-14 in order to provide a suitable setting for the call of the disciples; but the two incidents are altogether different. Others suggest, on account of the similarity between 5:3 and Mark 4:1; Matthew 13:1-2 (followed in both by the Parable of the Sower), that Lk has anticipated the time of the miracle in order to throw light on 10b. It may be noted that this is not the only instance of Mk’s omission of incidents that do honour to Peter. The miracle is of a nature likely to impress fishermen; note the progress from ’Master’ in 5 to ’Lord’ in 8. Christ’s miracles were done that men might recognize in him virtus divinitatis, and it is a quality of divine power that all creatures should be subject to it ( ST III, 44, 4). Peter has fished all night, the proper time for fishing, without success; Jesus fishes in daylight, the wrong time, with marvellous success. To a Semitic mind, power of command over the sea and its inhabitants would suggest divine power; cf.Genesis 1:1 ff. and Ps 92. This may give the key to Peter’s exclamation, 8b. The thought. of the Spirit of God dominating the primeval waters, the Creation, the subjection of creatures to man (cf.Ps 8), man’s loss of this power through sin (cf. Romans 8:18-23), Peter’s failure and our Lord’s succes: all this leads up to the conclusion that Jesus stands in very special relationship to God. It is worth noting that the first disciple called by our Lord begins with an avowal of sinfulness; though Jesus has cured the sick and reigned over the lower nature, his true mission is to cast out sin and make God reign in the souls of men. Despite Peter’s declaration he is called to be associated with the work of Christ. But the force of the incident is this: that Peter and his fellow-disciples are to remember that the plan and method of that work are of God’s design. As in the capturing of fish, so in the capturing of men for God’s Kingdom, God’s way will be found at variance with human standards: a lesson Peter and the rest were very slow to learn. As for Jesus, so for his associates, absolute surrender to the will of God is required.

11. The lesson goes home. The call is not restricted to Simon; but Simon is clearly made the leader, for to him alone is addressed ’Fear not! from henceforth thou shalt catch men’.

12-16 Healing of the Leper —(Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45). Here Lk takes up again the thread of Mk which he had dropped in order to insert 5:1-11. Mt inserts the Sermori on the Mount before this incident. Lk’s omissions of the signs of emotion and severity in Jesus noted by Mk are characteristic. But he makes the retirement to the desert, apparently caused by the unwelcome attention of the crowd in Mark 1:45, a voluntary withdrawal, indeed a matter of. habit (according to the grammatical construction of the Greek).

V 17-VI 11 A Series of Disputes with Adversaries — Having thus shown how Jesus gathers around him a little group of sympathetic followers whom he chooses as fellow-workers, Lk proceeds to bring out the contrast that there was another group hostile from the very first. Here begins the description of our Lord’s relations with the Scribes and Pharisees, the representatives of official Judaism. It is crystallized in a series of disputes which result in two effects: the adversaries begin as various factions but unite against Jesus, and end by a determination to destroy him (6: 11, more strongly stated in parallels Mark 3:6; Matthew 12:14). Here again Lk follows the order of Mark 2:1-; Mark 3:6, while the parallels in Mt are scattered. The reader is referred therefore to the commentaries on Mt and Mk except for the peculiarities of Lk to be noted.

17-26 Healing of the Paralytie —(Mark 2:1-12; Matthew 9:1-8). The chief differences between Lk and Mk are that while Mk does not mention the presence of the Scribes and Pharisees until late, Lk prepares the scene in his usual orderly manner. Note his introduction: having gathered his audience he writes ’the power of the Lord [Yahweh] was that he [Jesus] should heal’, as though again to indicate that God is directing affairs. The difference of DV and Vg here is due to the reading a?t??? ’them’ instead of the more probable a?t?? ’him’. Lk’s literary emendations have sacrificed the vivid character of Mk’s narrative. He omits the graphic description of digging a hole through the earthen roof of the house, and makes our Lord address the paralytic as ’Man’ instead of the affectionate ’Son’. The presence of Scribes and Pharisees from Judaea and Jerusalem is perhaps the reason of ’Judaea’ in 4:44; but in 5:17 Judaea must be accepted in its restrictive sense. 23. As in Mk the comparison is not between miracle and miracle but between the saying and the external manifestation of the saying’s result. As forgiveness of sins shows no external manifestation, it does not lay the speaker open to ridicule if he falsely claims to forgive sins. But healing of disease must be externally shown. Our Lord vehemently rejects the accusation of blasphemy, and will not allow that his words of forgiveness have been merely declaratory. For ’Son of Man’, see § 746d.

27-32 Call of Levi the Publican —(Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17). Like Mk, but unlike Mt, Lk refrains from identifying Levi with Matthew; he adds the phrase ’leaving all things’, 28, which is reminiscent of 5:11. 30. Read ’the Pharisees and their Scribes ’following the preferable reading of Mark 2:16 ’the Scribes of the Pharisees’; the Sadducean party also had its own Scribes who were laxer than the former in interpreting the Law.

32. Lk adds that to which Jesus calls sinners, penance µeta??77a, change of mind or conversion. The word has already been mentioned in John’s preaching, 3:3; cf. 1:16-17. It will be noted that the account of these disputes serves to bring out the nature of our Lord’s mission. Having just laid claim to the power of absolving men from their sins, a claim to divine power in the eyes of the Pharisees, 21, he now throws own a challenge to his adversaries by choosing for his intimate disciple a man like Levi, one of that class hated all over the ancient world for its antisocial activities. Lucian groups them with adulterers, procurers and people who overturn the world. Levi was rather a Portitor or collector of the customs tax called portorium (probably for Herod Antipas) than a publicanus,i.e. one of the rich financiers who farmed the government taxes. Apparently Levi has done well; he is rich enough to hold a great feast (d??? reception) to celebrate his calling, at which Jesus and his disciples mix with Levi’s colleagues and other guests, classed as ’publicans and sinners’ by Mk. This (in Lk) appears to give rise to a double complaint: first about incurring ceremonial defilement by mixing with people who are careless of the legal requirements of Judaic Law, secondly about the failure to observe the fast.

33-39 Dispute about Fasting —(Matthew 9:14-17; Mark 2:18-22). Each of the Synoptists approaches this incident from a different angle. In Lk the disciples of John do not appear on the scene except in the words of the opponents of Jesus; in Mt it is the disciples of John who make the objection. Lk adds the interesting detail about the special prayers of John’s disciples; he remembers this in 11:1, at the beginning of the instruction on prayer. He understands the objection in the same way as Mk and Mt: if Jesus is setting himself up as a religious leader in Israel, teaching and gathering followers, why does he not follow the example of accepted leaders like’ the Pharisees or John’ the Baptist, instead of mixing with such doubtful characters as the publicans? The fast in question is evidently not the Day of Atonement, which was the one annual day of obligatory fasting for all, Leviticus 16:29. We know that the Pharisees had special fast days (cf. 18:12) and it is not surprising that the followers of such an ascetic as John fasted. There were four or five fasts kept by the devout, such as the anniversary of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the day in question seems from 34 (cf.Matthew 9:15) to have been an occasion of mourning. As in Mk and Mt, Jesus answers with one of’ those striking illustrative parables which mark all his encounters with Pharisees, cf. 31b. There is strong allegorization in the parable of 34, where Jesus makes the striking claim that his presence with his disciples creates a new situation which calls for joy rather than mourning (fasting); cf. 10:23. Not that he condemns fasting as such; far from it, for the days shall come when fasting will be suitable for his disciples—a veiled prediction of his Passion. But the present situation is like a wedding feast, he the bridegroom, the disciples like ’the children of the bride-chamber’,i.e. the guests or rather the friends of the bridegroom whose business it is not to be sad but to celebrate the marriage of their friend.

36-39. With Mk and Mt, Lk adds further parabolic utterances (Lk alone here uses the name ’parable’) by which Jesus explains his attitude to the traditional observances of Judaism. Note 36: ’no one having torn a patch from a new garment putteth it upon an old garment’, rather different from Mark 2:21 and Matthew 9:16; but it brings this parable into line with the second: both new garment and old ruined, like new wine and old skins both lost. 38b. ’and both are preserved’, a gloss from Matthew 9:17. The meaning of these parables is much disputed, but it seems to be this: Jesus is indeed setting up as a religious teacher, but not like his adversaries. Everybody had noticed this already; cf. 4:32, ’they were amazed at his teaching, for his word was with authority’, and ’not as the Scribes’, adds Mark 1:22. Jesus now says that his teaching is such that it must be put into new men, i.e. into minds not fixed in the grooves of traditional prejudices. His call of Levi, a publican, has just demonstrated this. He does not condemn the old Mosaic observances (as Mt makes, clear in 5:17-20 and Lk will indicate later, 16:16-18); they are good in themselves but they have served the purpose for which God gave them. Indeed, if allegory is pressed here, they must be judged to be getting rather old and worn-out. Note the concluding words of Lk in 39 (proper to him; cf.John 2:10), where our Lord seems to express a feeling of sympathy for the Jews who find a difficulty in contemplating the abrogation of what they had been taught to look on as sharing the very eternity of God himself. Jesus has yet to make them realize that the Mosaic Dispensation loses nothing of its honour in finding its perfection and completion in him. But it would be false to conclude from these parables that he has any intention of preserving it: to add the Gospel on to the frame-work of the old observances would only spoil both.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Luke 5". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/luke-5.html. 1951.
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