Bible Commentaries
Luke 5

Godbey's Commentary on the New TestamentGodbey's NT Commentary

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verses 1-11



Luke 5:1-11 . “And it came to pass, while the multitudes were pressing on Him to hear the word of God, and He was standing near the Lake Genesareth [i.e., the Sea of Galilee], and He saw two ships standing by the lake, and the fishermen having gone from them were washing their nets, and entering into one of the ships, which belonged to Simon, He requested him to shove out a little from the land, and sitting down, He was teaching the multitudes from the ship. And when He ceased speaking, He said to Simon, Lead out into the deep, and spread your nets for a draught. And Simon, responding, said to Him, Master, toiling through the whole night, we caught nothing; but at Thy word I will spread the net. And doing this, they caught a great multitude of fishes; and their net was breaking, and they beckoned to their comrades in the other ship, having come to assist them; they came, and filled both the ships, so that they were sinking. Simon Peter, seeing, fell before the knees of Jesus, said to Him, Depart from me, because I am a sinful man, Lord; because affright took hold of him, and all those who were with him, on account of the draught of fishes which they received; likewise, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were companions of Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, Fear not; from now you shall be catching men. And hauling their ships up on the land, leaving all, they followed Him.” Mark (Mark 1:20 ) says: “Immediately He called them. And leaving their father Zebedee in the ship, with the hired hands, they departed after Him.” The beautiful sea of Galilee, clear as a crystal, limpid and bright, sixteen and a half miles long, seven and a half miles wide, with seventy miles of coast, one hundred and thirty feet deep, this day abounds in a vast variety of most excellent fish. My hotel-keeper said he caught five thousand pounds at a single draught. The prophetic desolation has been on that country so long being mainly given up to the wandering Arabs, who exhibit but little skill in fishing they have accumulated in vast quantities, ready for the returning children of Abraham, who are fast coming back, and quite a number have recently gathered about this beautiful sea, so memorable in the history of our Lord. This scene took place near Capernaum, headquarters of our Savior and His disciples, and resulted in the call of Peter and Andrew who were brothers, sons of Jonah, and James and John, who were brothers, the sons of Zebedee and Salome. They were professional fishermen, and, as we see before, owned ships i.e., fishing-boats and hired hands, to serve them in their business. Hence it seems that they were doing well. While this wonderful and miraculous draught of fishes, looking like they had struck such a run of luck that they would certainly get rich quickly, was calculated so to encourage them in their business that they would certainly hold on; but grace prevails and gets the victory. They leave their ships, and their hired hands their livelihood, and with no prospect of temporal support, relying only on the good providence of God, they forsake all and follow Jesus, who has already assured them that He will make them fishers of men. How magnificantly true! Who can count the numberless host that had been won for Jesus through the living ministry of these four apostles, and their words of steel and lightning left shining in God's blessed Book? This wonderful miracle, right on the spot where they had fished all night (a better time than the day) and caught nothing; now they catch so many that they fill both ships, and they are sinking under the intolerable quantity of large and splendid fishes no wonder they tare overwhelmed with the realization that they are in the presence of a Superhuman Being; the very consciousness of the Almighty inundates them with reverential awe, and appalls them with the apprehension of the Divine presence and power. Consequently, Peter naturally deeply sensitive and excitable, shouts:

“Lord depart from me, because I am a sinful man.” Peter was not sanctified till Pentecost, three years subsequently; hence he is affrighted with the realization of his sinful nature. O what a happy choice did these four bright young men make when they exchanged their fishing-boats for the silver trumpet! The manner of their lives, inured to the hardships of sea and land, toiling all night, exposed to the chilly waters and the arduous, constant toil, had proved to them a most valuable gymnasium, which had developed in them an iron constitution, and eminently prepared them for the conflicts, exposures, privations, burdens, and toils of missionary life, far better than any theological curriculum they could have gone through. While intellectual culture is not to be depreciated, but continued through this life and, doubtless, coming eternity, the physical constitution and the spiritual experiences and enduements constitute the preponderant qualifications of a gospel preacher.

Verses 12-16

Matthew 13:2-4 ; Mark 1:40-45 ; & Luke 5:12-16 . Mark: “And a leper comes to Him, calling upon Him, and kneeling down before Him, and saying to Him, If You may wish, You are able to cleanse me. And Jesus being moved with compassion, and reaching forth His hand, touched him, and says to him, I am willing; be thou cleansed.” The Greek for “be thou cleansed,” is katristheti, which is in the imperative mode, passive voice, and aorist tense. Therefore it literally means, “Be thou completely cleansed instantaneously;” “Be thou clean,” E.V., is too weak a translation of the word our Savior spoke.

Luke says this man was “full of leprosy,” in contradistinction to a case of leprosy occupying a part of the body. No wonder he was exceedingly importunate, as he was leprous all over.

“And charging him, He immediately sent him away, and says to him, See that you tell nothing to any one; but go, show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded for a testimony unto them.” The lepers in Palestine still have their separate quarters in the cities, dwelling to themselves, as in the days of Christ. I met them at Shechem and at Jerusalem. The popular idea that the separation is because of the contagion of the disease is utterly incorrect. It is not contagious. If it were, what would become of the priests, who, in the discharge of their official duties, are in constant contact with it? See the law of the leper (Leviticus 14:0), and you will find that when the priest made the examination, and pronounced it leprosy, the victim must go away from society, and live in the leprous quarters. It was well understood among the Jews that leprosy was utterly incurable by human agency. Hence when God, the only Healer, had mercy on the poor leper, he must go to the priest, submit to his diagnosis, and receive from him a certificate of healing, before he was allowed to go into society. While leprosy is not contagious, and not so understood where it is prevalent this day as I came in contact with them, laying a coin on each arm reached forth in supplication, both hands having been eaten off by leprosy yet it is incorrigibly hereditary, from the fact that, like scrofula, it is a blood trouble, affecting every corpuscle of blood in the system, so that it is invariably transmitted to the succeeding generation. Leprosy is a most vivid emblem of inbred sin, which is not necessarily contagious, but inevitably hereditary. Infants born of leprous parents are bright and sprightly, exhibiting no signs of the disease. Yet, soon or late, it is certain to make its appearance, if they do not meet the Healer. So infants born into the world have no actual sin, but have inherited the sinward tendency, which, if not eradicated by grace, will certainly develop into actual transgression. The bite of the rattlesnake when a little thing, soon after evacuating the egg, will not hurt you. But the time will come when he will poison and kill you. While the leprous taint in the blood emblematizes inbred sin in the irresponsible infant, the eruptions on the body represent actual transgressions. e what a striking symbol, not only of inbred sin, but the awful spiritual death which supervenes! You have leprosy in your blood, and feel vigorous and healthy. Before you are aware, it develops on your finger and it drops off; continues its work of destruction till your hand drops off at the wrist. It begins on your face; takes away your nose, and then an eye; reaches your brain, and, fortunately, death comes suddenly to your relief. The reason why the law of Moses required them to live separate was because of the awful loathsomeness of the disease indescribable, horrific, living death! Leprosy, fortunately for us, is not common in America, though I have seen cases of it; but quite common in the Bible lands, where I met them during both of my tours, thus, like everything else in those countries, so wonderfully corroborating the Bible.

“And He, having gone out, began to proclaim everything, and spread abroad the history, so that He was no longer able to come publicly into the city; but was off in desert places, and they continued to come to Him from all parts.” Luke: “But He was away in the deserts, and praying.” Why was Jesus so much opposed to their publishing His mighty works, and why could He not come into the city at this time, but must hide away in the deserts i.e., in an uninhabited region of country? From time immemorial, the Jews had all understood that Christ was to be their King. At that time the nation was in deep distress, because thirty years had elapsed since the death of Herod the Great, and during which they had no king, but had been reduced to a Roman province, and were ruled by a proconsul sent out from Rome, thus their liberties gone and their people subject to the Gentiles. Hence, throughout the Hebrew nation, there was a deep sigh, and a perpetual cry to God to break the Roman yoke, restore to them their independence, and give them a king of Hebrew blood to reign over them. These wonderful miracles, when published abroad, raised the people on tiptoe to crown Him King of the Jews. In that case the Roman authorities would have killed Him before He had completed the work He Came to do.

Hence, in order to prevent His own coronation, and the sudden outbreak of a terrible, bloody war, which would have interrupted His ministry and expedited His death, He found it necessary to avoid the multitude. These intervals, which He spent off in the desert in communion with His Father, were wonderful times of refreshing to His spirit, and invigoration for the arduous work and terrible ordeals which awaited him.

Verses 17-26


Matthew 9:2-8 ; Mark 2:1-12 ; & Luke 5:17-26 . Mark: “And again He came into Capernaum during those days, and it was heard that He is at home. And immediately the multitudes came together, so that there was no room, not even at the door; and He continued to speak the word to them.” Luke says: “The Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come out of every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting around.” In that day they had no newspapers, steam-engines, telegraphs, nor telephones, the news only going on the back of a camel, a fleet horse, or a swift pedestrian; yet, to our inextricable puzzle, the tidings flew everywhere with astounding velocity, notifying the people, as here Luke says, not only in the cities, but all the villages, that Jesus has come back from His retirement Into Capernaum, His headquarters, and is again preaching to the multitudes, healing the sick and casting out demons.

“They come to Him, carrying a paralyzed man, borne by four. Not being able to reach Him, on account of the crowd, they took up the roof where He was, and lifting it out, let down the bed on which the paralyzed man was lying down.” Luke says: “Mounting up on top of the house, they let him down through the tiles, along with the bed, in the midst, in the presence of Jesus.” The houses in that country have flat roofs, covered with stone, with stairways ascending up, and tiling arranged for removal at their option, when they wish to go out on the roof. The first time I ever entered Jerusalem, my guide escorted me through a lofty mansion by internal stairways, leading up through the roof, giving me a grand view of the city, which was impossible from the streets. As there is no doubt but this was Peter's house in Capernaum, and the home of Jesus, the presumption is, it was not very high, the multitude being outside. These importunate friends of the paralytic, pressing their way through the crowd, use a ladder to climb the house from the outside, reaching the solid stone roof, cemented together so that it looked like a single great limestone rock covering the house, as I have so often seen and walked over them; coming to this movable door, take up the tiles, and let the man down, lying on his bed, lowering him to the very presence of Jesus, in the midst of His sermon.

“And Jesus, seeing their faith, says to the paralytic, Child, thy sins are forgiven.” Here we have a wonderful demonstration of prevailing faith.

There is no doubt but the paralytic had faith in Jesus to heal him, as these four friends, all round him during the long journey while carrying him on his bed, heaving like volcanoes, had inundated him with an atmosphere red- hot and electrified with indefatigable faith, so that, if he didn't have it before, he certainly had imbibed it from his company by the time he reached the feet of Jesus; yet we have no allusion whatever to the faith of the patient, but it is unequivocally certified that the healing resulted from the faith of his four friends, who certainly abundantly proved their faith by their works in thus bringing him to the presence of Jesus, despite every conceivable difficulty. O that the perishing myriads all round us could only have friends enough to carry them to Jesus on the pinions of a faith that will take no denial! What a transcendent inspiration to all Christian workers, this notable case, where Jesus healed the man responsive to the faith of his friends!

Luke 5:21 . “And the scribes and Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this One who speaketh blasphemies? Who is able to forgive sins except God alone? And Jesus, knowing their thoughts, responding, said to them, Why do you reason in your hearts? Why is it easier to say, Thy sins are forgiven, than to say, Arise and walk? But in order that you may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, He said to the paralyzed man, I say unto thee, Arise, and taking up thy bed, go to thy home. And immediately arising in presence of them, taking up that on which he was lying down, he departed to his own home, glorifying God. And ecstasy seized all, and they continued to glorify God; and they were filled with fear, saying, That we have seen paradoxical things this day.” While the Jewish Church was awfully unspiritual, and the preachers, as a rule, without an experimental knowledge of God, they held pertinaciously to the cardinal truths of the Bible, one of which here very lucidly crops out; i.e., that none but God can forgive sins. Many modern Churches, who are depending on priestly absolution, water baptism, sacraments, and good works, to take away their sins, would do well to heed this fundamental truth, here enunciated by the fallen clergy of apostate Judaism; i.e., that none but God alone can forgive sins. Therefore we must all pass by our own works, Church rites, water baptism, clerical intercession, and everything else, and go to God alone, on our knees, and stay till He, for Christ's sake, forgives all our sins, and witnesses to the same by His blessed Holy Spirit. In this case, Jesus avails Himself of the smaller work i.e., bodily healing which was visible to mortal eyes, and incontestably demonstrated by the uprising of the patient, and the carrying of his bed away to his home, in order to illustrate the greater work i.e., the forgiving of his sins which either directly or indirectly had brought on him the paralysis, which is not hereditary, like leprosy, which typifies inbred sin; and consequently, as it originates from violation of the hygienical laws, represents actual sins, which must be removed by pardon, while original sin can only be expurgated by the cleansing blood of Jesus and the refining fire of the Holy Ghost. It is highly probable that this paralytic was a very bad case, of long standing, and extensively known by those people. Hence, his sudden and perfect healing, so clearly demonstrated, produced an intense excitement, not only filling the people with delight to see the mighty work, but Overawing them with profoundest reverence in the realization of the Divine presence.

Verses 27-28


Matthew 20:9 ; Mark 2:13-14 ; & Luke 5:27-28 . Mark: “And He went out again by the sea; and all the multitude came to Him, and He continued to teach them. And passing along He saw Levi, the son of Alpheus, sitting at the toll; and He says to Him, Follow Me. And rising, he followed Him.” Luke: “And leaving all things, rising, he followed Him.” Matthew: “Jesus, going on from thence, saw a man sitting at the toll called Matthew, and says to him, Follow Me, and rising up, he followed Him.” This took place in the city of Capernaum, the home of Jesus, Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew, who is also called Levi. Here we have the very brief account of the conversion and call to the apostleship of Matthew, one of the writers of our Lord's Gospel. He and John were apostles among the original Twelve, Mark serving as Peter's amanuensis and Luke that of Paul. Matthew's conversion, here so briefly given, is quite remarkable. He is not only in the bloom of youth, bat the incumbent of a lucrative office. He is no poor man, but he is rich, living in affluence, with the broadest possibilities of worldly aggrandizement spread out before him. He suddenly and unhesitatingly leaves all for a life of toil, poverty, and persecution, and a cruel death to wind up. Suddenly converted, we never afterward hear of his wavering. In the distribution of the world among the apostles, pursuant to the Commission, receiving Ethiopia as his field of labor, he faithfully went, and preached heroically till he sealed his faith with his blood, and flew up to join his Master in celestial glory.

We have now followed our Lord through the first year of His ministry, all of which He spent in Galilee, His home and favorite field, except about two months at the beginning. The Feast of the Passover, instituted and perpetuated to commemorate the Divine mercy shown to Israel the last night of their sojourn in Egypt, when the destroying angel came down and slew the firstborn in every house in all the land, but in mercy passing over the houses of Israel besprinkled with the blood of the slain lamb, symbolic of the “Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.” Our Savior gave special attention and peculiar honor to this institution, beginning His ministry at a Passover, and winding it up at another three years subsequently, two Passovers intervening in the interim. Now, the first year of His ministry having passed away, the fame of His mighty works having filled Palestine and mightily stirred the Gentile world, till all eyes are turned toward Him, most momentous inquiries are everywhere ringing from the popular lip, “Is not this the Shiloh of prophecy, the Christ of God, the Savior of the world, and the Redeemer of Israel? If He is not truly the Messiah who is to come, He is certainly the greatest prophet whom God has ever given to Israel.”

Verses 29-39



Matthew 10:1-17 ; Mark 2:15-22 ; Luke 5:29-39 . Luke “And Levi made a great feast for Him in his own house; and there was a great multitude of publicans and others who were sitting with them. And the scribes and Pharisees were murmuring to His disciples, saying, Why do you eat and drink with publicans and sinners? And Jesus, responding, said to them, They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Levi is a name of Matthew, the author of the first Gospel. He was a rich Jew, holding the office of publican i.e., collector of the Roman revenue living at Capernaum. Jesus passed by one day, spoke to him, and said, “Follow Me.” Unhesitatingly leaving all, he becomes a disciple of our Lord, and was afterward promoted to the apostleship. The publicans, as a rule, were proverbial for wickedness, dishonesty, and popular odium, as the Jews loathed the Roman Government, whose financial officers they were. We see how dearly Matthew loved his unsaved companions. Consequently he makes a great feast, and compliments them with an invitation, at the same time inviting Jesus and His disciples, hoping by this costly festival to bring them under the influence of the sinner’s Savior; thus giving us all an example we would do well to appreciate, also answering the hackneyed question, “How shall we reach the masses?” Give them a kind invitation, like Matthew, to come to a feast especially prepared for them in your own house, meanwhile you do your utmost, by prayer and timely conversation, to win them for God and heaven. We observe the same phenomenon this day which confronted Jesus and His disciples, thus intimately associated with the publicans and sinners at Matthew’s feast; i.e., the scribes ( i.e., the pastors) and Pharisees ( i.e., the influential and official members of the popular Churches) rejecting, contemptuously, drunkards, harlots, and other notorious reprobates, especially if they have no money. Matthew says: “Going, learn what this is, I wish mercy and not sacrifice. For I came, not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” What does our Lord mean by mercy and not sacrifice? When you are utterly destitute, bankrupt, and broken-hearted, there is a wide, open door for Jesus to come in. With this He is delighted. So long as you realize your own possessions, you bank on them, and expect to win Divine favor by your contributions. In this way million’s plunge into hell. God is not poor. He does not need your money, nor anything else you have. He wants you, and not your possessions. Jesus wants immortal intelligence to glorify Him through all eternity.


Mark 2:18 . “And the disciples of John and Jesus were fasting. And they come and say to Him, Wherefore do the disciples of John and the Pharisees, and Thy disciples do not fast?” Fasting, in both dispensations, is not only a concomitant, but an auxiliary of prevailing prayer. Elijah, Moses, and Jesus all fasted forty days, Divinely kept in a spiritual rapture, the physical organism abiding in status quo. The disciples of Jesus, during His personal appearance, were an exception to this general rule, because of its disharmony with the power, the glory, and the infinite and extraordinary privilege peculiar to the immediate companions of the Omnipotent Savior; as fasting has a melancholy and lugubrious influence upon its votaries somewhat incompatible with that paradisiacal felicity characteristic of the Divine presence.


“And Jesus said to them, Whether are the sons of the bride’s chamber able to fast as long as the bridegroom is with them? So long a time as they have the bridegroom with them they are not able to fast.” The sons of the bride’s chamber here mentioned as the men who have charge and are commissioned to the work of preparing the chamber in the house of the bridegroom for him to bring the bride into his own home; i.e., the great work of getting the bride ready and the bride chamber in order for the coming of the Bridegroom when He will take the bride to His heavenly home. We are betrothed to Christ in regeneration, and married to Him in sanctification. Jesus makes the application to His own disciples, and especially the twelve apostles, who were then laboring in the evangelistic field, destined soon to broaden out and encompass the whole world; thus calling out the bride from every nation under heaven, getting her sanctified, robed, and ready to meet the Bridegroom. Hence, God’s holy people, preaching the gospel of full salvation to the ends of the earth, “are the sons of the bride chamber,” faithfully laboring to get the bride ready for the Coming of the Bridegroom. Our Lord here fully settles the problem in reference to the expediency of fasting in our dispensation, when He states “And the days will come when the Bridegroom must be taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.” Hence you see from this Scripture the pertinence of fasting ever since our Lord ascended into heaven. In His presence there was too much sunshine and glory for His disciples to fast. Since His departure, the widowed Church has not ceased to fast and pray for the return of our Lord.


Luke 5:36 . “And He spoke a parable to them, That no one putteth a piece of new garment on an old garment; as in that case the new tears it, and the piece which was from the new does not harmonize with the old. No one puts new wine into old bottles; as in that case the new wine will burst the bottles, and it will be poured out, and the bottles will perish; but the new wine is to be put into new bottles, and both will be preserved.” Every conceivable entity has both an exterior and an interior, which are equally indispensable to its existence. In the lucid and diversified symbolism of the gracious economy we have the most beautiful and perfect elucidation of both of these hemispheres, constituting the grand globe of full salvation. The new patch sewed on the old, thread-bare garment is too heavy and strong. It tears out all the fabric with which it is connected, making the hole several times its former size, and if repeated would actually tear the old garment all to pieces. What are we to do in this case? Let the old garment wear out, and never patch it. Oh! so our Lord has something better for us than the old tagged garment, and wants to take us out of the patching business altogether. He has for us the “best robe,” snowy white, washed in the blood of the Lamb, which will never get old and never wear out. Counterfeit religions are always patching up an old experience. Be sure you get this royal robe, which the King of glory furnishes His faithful bride without money and without price, which will never get old, nor wear out, nor need patching, but will shine with ever-brightening splendor through the flight of eternal ages. The garment represents the exterior of a Christian character, while the wine and the bottle typify the interior. You must keep your mind off the glass bottles of modern times, and contemplate the leather bottles, the only kind in use in the days of our Savior. It is wonderful how the Orientals never change, but perpetuate the customs and institutions of the Bible times. On the streets of Jerusalem, Hebron, Joppa, and all Palestinian cities, we constantly see the water- carriers bending under a whole goat-skin, full of water, thus carrying it from the fountain to supply the various demands. The fermentation of new wine, Increasing its bulk will break the old leather bottle, which is not strong enough thus to endure the pressure. While, of course, these strong metaphors illustrate the fact that Christianity is not simply a patch on Judaism, or some new wine poured into the old Mosaic bottles, but a de novo institution, such an interpretation merely reaches the surface, leaving the grand interior unexplored. The bottle is the heart. In a genuine conversion, God gives you a new heart. (Ezekiel 36:26) God’s work, like Himself, never gets old. Hence the bottle He gives you is always new. Wine symbolizes the Holy Ghost, whom you receive as an indwelling Comforter in sanctification; of course, He can never get old. Therefore you see, with a true regeneration, you get the new bottle, which will never get old; while in the genuine. sanctification, you receive the new wine of the kingdom, which will never ferment nor get old. Hence, you should have nothing to do with the old bottles of a backslidden experience, nor the old wine of a counterfeit sanctification. The reason why the dead, worldly Churches are so timorous of sanctification preached in their pulpits, is because they are afraid the new wine will burst up their old bottles. But that is just what ought to be done. The bottle which the new wine will burst is of no account. The Lord’s genuine new bottles are elastic enough to hold a hundred-fold without detriment. The very thing we need in the fallen Churches is a glorious, Holy Ghost revival, whose first work is the bursting up of all those old bottles, and tearing up their old garments, thus showing them their need of the new. Then what a glorious time for all of us, when they all get new robes, bright and beautiful; new bottles, and all filled with the delicious, sweet, new wine, bright as ever sparkled from the grapes of Eshcol!

“And no one drinking the old immediately wishes the new; for He says, The old is better.” How is this? We find it universally illustrated. The heathens constantly meet our missionaries with the response, “Your religion suits you; but ours is ‘better’ for us.” Roman Catholic hears a Pentecostal sermon, but turning away, says his dead formality and priestcraft are “better.” As Luke says, he does not “immediately desire the new, but says the old is better.” Go into a dead, formal Church anywhere, and preach the living power of full salvation, and the people at first get angry, become sullen, and say their old religion “is better.” Go ahead, wait on the Lord, till these people get pungently convicted, and they will change their mind and want the “new.” Now remember, Jesus does not say “the old is better,” but that dead professor says it, and he is mistaken; for he soon changes his mind, when conviction strikes him like lightning, and takes it all back, turns round, seeks and finds the new bottle i.e., the new heart and never stops till he gets it filled with the new wine ( i.e., the Holy Ghost), in the rich and glorious experience of entire sanctification.

Bibliographical Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Luke 5". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament".