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the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Luke 5

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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Verses 1-11

And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,

In our exposition of Matthew 4:18-22, we have shown, as it appears to us, that this was quite a different occasion from that, and consequently that the calling of the disciples there and here recorded were different callings. This one, as we take it, was neither their first call, recorded in John 1:35-42; nor their second, recorded in Matthew 4:18-22; but their third and last before their appointment to the apostleship. These calls are to be viewed as progressive stages in their preparation for the great work before them, and something similar is observable in the providential preparation of other eminent servants of Christ for the work to which they are destined.

Verse 1. And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon Him, [ epikeisthai (G1945)] - literally, 'lay upon Him' "to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret."

Verse 2,3. And saw two ships ... And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's ... And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship - as in Matthew 13:2.

Verse 4. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught - munificent recompense for the use of his boat!

Verse 5. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, [ Epistata (G1988)] - betokening not surely a first acquaintance, but a relationship already formed.

We have toiled all night - the usual time of fishing then (John 21:3), and even now.

And have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. Peter, as a fisherman, knew how hopeless it was to "let down his net" again at that time, except as a mere act of faith, "at His word" of command, which carried in it, as it ever does, assurance of success. This is a further proof that he must have been already and for some time a follower of Christ.

Verse 6 And when they had this done they enclosed a great multitude of fish: and their net brake Verse 6. And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fish: and their net brake, [ dierreegnuto (G1284)]. This should have been rendered, 'was breaking,' or 'was beginning to break;' for evidently it did not break.

Verse 7. And they beckoned unto their partners which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink, [ buthizesthai (G1036)] - 'were sinking,' or 'were beginning to sink.'

Verse 8. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man. O Lord. Did Peter then wish Christ to leave him? Verily no. His all was wrapped up in Him. (See John 6:68.) 'Twas rather, 'Woe is me, Lord! How shall I abide this blaze of glory? A sinner such as I am is not fit company for Thee.' Compare Isaiah 6:5.

Verse 9,10. For he was astonished, and all that were with him ... And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not. This shows that the Lord read Peter's speech very differently from many learned and well-meaning commentators on it.

From henceforth - marking a new stage in their connection with Christ.

Thou shalt catch men. 'What wilt thou think, Simon, overwhelmed by this draught of fish, when I shall bring to thy net what will dim all this glory?'

Verse 11. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all and followed him. They did this before (Matthew 4:20); now they do it again: and yet after the Crucifixion they are at their boats once more (John 21:3). In such a business this is easily conceivable. After Pentecost, however, they appear to have finally abandoned their secular calling.


(1) Did Jesus give His disciples this miraculous draught of fish after they had toiled all the previous night and caught nothing? Did He do the same thing after His resurrection in precisely similar circumstances? Did He heal the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda, who had endured his infirmity thirty and eight years, but not until he had long vainly endeavoured to obtain a cure by stepping into the pool? In a word, Did He let the woman endure her issue of blood twelve years, sad spend all that she had upon physicians, only to find herself worse instead of better, before she found instant healing under His wings? Let us not doubt that "all these things happened unto them for ensamples, and are written for our admonition on whom the ends of the world are come," to the intent we should not doubt that at evening time it shall be light, that God will hear His own elect that cry unto Him day and night, though He hold out long, as if deaf to them.

(2) If the exclamation of Peter, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord," be compared with that of Isaiah, when the thrice-Holy One was revealed to him in his temple-vision, "Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips ... for mine eyes have seen the King the Lord of hosts" (Isaiah 6:5), can any right-thinking mind fail to see that such a speech, if from one creature to another, ought to liars been met as Paul met the attempts of the Lycaonians to do sacrifice to him and Barnabas, when he ran in among them, exclaiming with horror - "Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God" (Acts 14:14-15); and that when Jesus, instead of rebuking it, only comforted His trembling disciple with the assurance that wonders far surpassing what he had just witnessed would follow his own labours, He set His seal to views of His Person and character, which only the Word made flesh was entitled to accept? In fact, the more highly they deemed of Him, ever the more grateful it seemed to be to the Redeemer's spirit. Never did they pain Him by manifesting too lofty conceptions of Him.

(3) 'Simon,' says Dr. Hall most admirably, 'doth not greedily fall upon so unexpected and profitable a booty, but he turns his eyes from the draught to Himself, from the act to the Author, acknowledging vileness in the one, in the other majesty: "Go from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." It had been a pity the honest fisher should have been taken at his word. O Simon, thy Saviour is come into thine own ship to call thee, to call others by thee, unto blessedness; and dost thou say, "Lord, go from me?" as if the patient should say to the physician, Depart from me, because I am sick. [But] it was the voice of astonishment, not of dislike; the voice of humility, not of discontentment: yea, because thou art a sinful man, therefore hath thy Saviour need to come to thee, to stay with thee; and because thou art humble in the acknowledgement of thy sinfulness, therefore Christ delights to abide with thee, and Will call thee to abide with Him. No man ever fared the worse for abasing himself to his God. Christ hath left many a soul for froward and unkind usage; never any for the disparagement of itself, and entreaties of humility. Simon could not devise how to hold Christ faster than by thus suing Him to be gone, than by thus pleading his unworthiness.'

(4) Did Jesus teach Simon to regard the ingathering of souls to Himself by the Gospel as transcending all physical miracles? O that the ministers of the everlasting Gospel would rise to such a view of their calling, and travail in birth until Christ be formed in men's souls! But it is not they only whom Christ's words to Peter are fitted to stimulate. "He that winneth souls is wise" (Proverbs 11:30) - be he who he may. "They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they" - whoever they be - "that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever" (Daniel 12:3). "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him" - no matter who - "let him know that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20).

Verses 12-16

And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.

For the exposition, see the notes at Matthew 8:1-4.

Verses 17-26

And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.

For the exposition, see the notes at Mark 2:1-12.

Verses 27-32

And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me.

For the exposition, see the notes at Matthew 9:9-13.

Since this discourse is recorded by all the three first Evangelists immediately after their account of the Feast which Matthew made to his Lord, there can be no doubt that it was delivered on that occasion.

Mark introduces the subject thus (Mark 2:18): "And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast." These disciples of John, who seem not to have statedly followed Jesus, occupied a position intermediate between the Pharisaic life and that to which Jesus trained His own disciples; further advanced than the one, not so far advanced as the other. "And they come and say unto him" - or, according to our Evangelist, to whose narrative we now come, they brought their difficulty to Him through our Lord's own disciples.

Verse 33

And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?

And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees? These seem to have fasted twice in the week (Luke 18:12), besides the prescribed seasons.

But thine eat and drink - or, as in Matt. and Mark, "thy disciples fast not?"

Verse 34

And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them?

And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bride-chamber (the bridal attendants), fast while the bridegroom is with them? Glorious title for Jesus to take to Himself! The Old Testament is full of this conjugal tie between Yahweh and His people, to be realized in Messiah. See the note at Matthew 22:2, and Remark 1 on that section; and compare John 3:29.

Verse 35

But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.

But the days will come, [ Eleusontai (G2064 ) de (G1161 ) heemerai (G2250 ), rather, 'But days will come,'] when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them - a delicate and affecting allusion to coming events, and the grief with which these would fill the disciples,

And then shall they fast in those days - q.d., 'In My presence such exercises were unseemly: when bereft of Me, they will have time enough and cause enough.'

Verse 36

And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old.

And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old. In Matthew and Mark the word employed [ agnafon (G46)] signifies 'uncarded,' 'unfulled,' or 'undressed' cloth, which, as it in apt to shrink when wetted, would rend the old cloth to which it was sewed:

If otherwise - if he will do so unwise a thing,

Then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was takes out of the new agreeth not with the old.

Verse 37

And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.

And no man putteth new wine into old bottles, [ askous (G779)] - 'wine-skins.' They were made usually of goat-skins, and of course would be liable to burst in the case supposed:

Else, [ ei-de-mee-ge (G1490), again] - if he does such a thing, The new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.

Verse 38

But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.

But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.

Verse 39

No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.

No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new; for he saith, The old is better. These are just examples of incongruities in common things. As men's good sense leads them to avoid these in ordinary life, so are there analogous incongruities in spiritual things which the wise will shun. But what has this to do with the question about fasting? Much every way. The genius of the old economy-of whose sadness and bondage "fasting" might be taken as the symbol-was quite different from that of the new, whose characteristic is freedom and joy: the one of these, then, was not to be mixed up with the other. As, in the one case adduced for illustration, "the rent is made worse," and in the other "the new wine is spilled," so 'by a mongrel mixture of the ascetic ritualism of the old with the spiritual freedom of the new economy both are disfigured and destroyed.' The parable about preferring the old wine to the new, which is special to our Gospel, has been variously interpreted. But the "new wine" seems plainly to be the evangelical freedom which Christ was introducing; and "the old," the opposite spirit of Judaism: men long accustomed to the latter could not be expected "straightway," or all at once, to take a linking for the former" - q.d., 'These inquiries about the difference between My disciples, and the Pharisees, and even John's ways of living, are not surprising; they are the effect of a natural revulsion against sudden change, which time will cure; the new wine will itself in time become old, and so acquire all the added charms of antiquity.'


(1) There may seem to be some inconsistency between the freedom and joy which our Lord here indirectly teaches to be characteristic of the new economy, and that sadness at His departure in Person from the Church which He intimates would be the proper feeling of all that love Him during the present state. But the two are quite consistent. We may sorrow for one thing and rejoice for another, even at the same time. The one, indeed, will necessarily chasten the other;, and so it is here. The liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free is a well-spring of resistless and commanded joy; nor is this a jot shared, but only chastened and refined, by the widowed feeling of Christ's absence. But neither is this sense of Christ's absence the less real and sad that we are taught to "rejoice in the Lord alway," "Whom having not seen we love, in whom believing we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory," in the assurance that "when He who is our Life shall appear, we also shall appear with Him in glory." (2) In all transition states of the Church or of any section of it, from the worse to the better, two classes appear among the true-hearted, representing two extremes. In the one, the conservative element prevails; in the other, the progressive. The one, sympathizing with the movement, are yet afraid of its going too fast and too far: the other are impatient of half-measures. The sympathy of the one class with what is good in the movement is almost neutralized and lost by their apprehension of the evil that is likely to attend the change: the sympathy of the other class with it is so commanding, that they are blind to danger, and have no patience with that caution which seems to them only timidity and trimming. Thee are dangers on both sides. Of many who shrink in the day of trial, when one bold step would land them safely on the right side, it may be said, "The children are brought to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth." To many reckless reformers, who mar their own work, it may be said, "Be not righteous overmuch, neither make thyself overwise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?" Our Lord's teaching here, while it has a voice to those who unreasonably cling to what is antiquated, speaks still more clearly to those hasty reformers who have no patience with the timidity of their weaker brethren. What a gift to the Church, in times of life from the dead, are even a few men endued with the wisdom to steer the ship between those two rocks!

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Luke 5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/luke-5.html. 1871-8.
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