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Thursday, November 30th, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
Luke 5

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Verses 1-7


This chapter shows us in four phases how one becomes a follower following the example of the Lord Jesus. For this purpose, the events in this chapter are brought together, without Luke taking the chronological order into account. It begins with self-judgment (Luke 5:1-1 Kings :), followed by cleansing (Luke 5:12-Nehemiah :) and forgiveness and strength (Luke 5:17-Lamentations :), after which the call to service can follow (Luke 5:27-Jonah :). The chapter concludes with as a result of all previous events the presentation of the new which replaces the old (Luke 5:35-Malachi :).

An Amazing Catch of Fish

The Lord preaches the Word of God by the lake of Gennesaret. Because the crowd presses around Him, He is almost pushed into the sea. He then does not use His Divine power to keep people at a distance, as in Luke 4 (Luke 4:30), but He resorts to one of the two boats He sees lying there.

While He brings the Word of God, the fishermen wash their nets. They apparently just came back from the catch. What do they come back at a nice moment, although they are disappointed that working all night has yielded nothing. But they will experience great things. The Lord goes aboard one of the boats without asking. He is the Lord. It is the boat of Simon Peter. Simon does not ask him what he does.

The Lord asks Simon to put out a little way from the land. Simon obeys immediately. He makes his boat and his strengths and his time available. He will be quite tired after a night of fishing, but if the Lord asks him, he will make an effort again. This is how Simon participates in the work of the Lord. He gives Him the opportunity to sit in his boat and teach the people from his boat. Do we also make available our resources, powers and time so that the Lord can do His work to bless others?

There comes an end to the Lord’s speaking. He knows what the people are able to bear. Now it’s time for something else. He is going to reward Simon for his cooperation. He tells him to put out into the deep water and let down his nets for a catch. It is not an attempt to catch something, because he is already states the result.

As an experienced fisherman, Peter cannot help to point out to Him that they have fished all night, but that all their efforts have been fruitless. They did it as they always did and they are experienced fishermen. He knows that it won’t work during the day if it doesn’t work at night. Simon, however, begins his reaction with acknowledging the Lord as a “Master”, that is, his Superior. It is the title of someone who stands above others. The word used here for “master” is only found in this Gospel (Luke 5:5; Luke 8:24Luke 8:45; Luke 9:33Luke 9:49; Luke 17:13).

This acknowledgment opens the way to blessing. Peter has already acknowledged that the old, tried and tested method does not work. Now he must do it the way the Lord indicates. Because the Master says so, he will let down the nets. This is faith in the Word of the Lord. The result of obedience is blessing, a great blessing. The Lord has put so many fish into their nets that they cannot keep the mass. Human resources are too small to receive the blessing that the Son of God gives.

There is so many fish that the other boat is also filled with fish. Both boats are filled to the brim with fish. The boats are so full that they begin to sink. The Son of God blesses with a full, overflowing measure.

After the resurrection of the Lord, Peter is again instructed to cast out the net and then the net does not tear (John 21:11). The fact that it is after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus indicates that the new has come. Only those who are numbered come into the net.

Verses 8-11

Fishermen of Men

Simon Peter acknowledges that the Lord has brought the fish into the net. He suddenly finds himself facing the almighty and omniscient God. The proof of His power brings him to His feet. In His light he sees himself as a sinful person. He acknowledges that he cannot be with Him. At the same time, he is at the Lord’s feet. He is close to Him. This makes him feel that the Lord will not send him away. He knows that the Lord accepts a broken spirit and does not despise a broken and a contrite heart (Psalms 51:17). This conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit presents the greatness of Christ. A person who sees this will see himself as a sinner.

At the same time, the Holy Spirit also represents the attractiveness of Christ. He is the Man to Whom the word of Proverbs 19 applies perfectly: “What is desirable in a man is his kindness“ (Proverbs 19:22). This word can be put as a heading above this Gospel, that presents Him as Man. The Lord is full of kindness to receive convicted sinners. He longs for them. The man who sees this, knows that He does not repel a convicted sinner, but accepts him. Several have said that they have sinned or that they are a sinful man, but have not done so at the feet of the Lord Jesus, trusting in Him, and therefore they never have found peace.

Peter’s boat put out two times in one day on the lake. One time at night, because then the chance of a good catch is greatest and one time during the day, when the chance of a good catch is considerably smaller. The environment is the same on both occasions, also the men and also the material. Only one thing is different: the second time is Christ on board. That makes the big difference in the result.

Amazement because of the great catch has seized Simon and all who are with him. It makes a deep impression on them. James and John are also mentioned by name. They are professional colleagues of Simon and even partners. They share in the catch and in the amazement. They will also be called by the Lord to follow Him at the same time as Peter.

A calling is always personal. Luke shows how the Lord calls Simon, but it also applies to the others. The Lord calms Simon, who is lying at His feet. He need not be afraid of His greatness. Seeing Christ and trusting His word means giving room to the perfect love that casts out fear (1 John 4:18). At the same time, this is the right attitude with which the Lord can move forward. Therefore He then tells Peter that from this moment on he will become a fisherman of man. Through Peter’s personal experience, he can now go catching men by impressing them with the greatness of Christ and their own sinfulness.

The fishermen finish their daily work neatly, they pull the boats ashore. Then they leave everything and follow Him. It’s written down so simple, but what an event! The encounter with the Lord Jesus and His calling have resulted in an enormous change in their lives. There is no consideration, no request to say goodbye first. The calling of the Lord is decisive. They can leave the consequences to Him.

Verses 12-16

Cleansing of a Leper

Acknowledgment of sins, as we have seen with Peter in the previous history, is not enough. It is the first necessary step, but it must be followed by something else. There must also be knowledge of cleansing. We learn this in the healing of the leper. Therefore, the first thing the disciples experience in following the Lord is the encounter with “a man covered with leprosy”. Leprosy is a picture of the sins in which man lives. The man is covered with leprosy. He has come to the point that there is nothing clean on him. In this condition he can be declared clean (Leviticus 13:12-1 Chronicles :).

In the picture he is the sinner who no longer seeks excuse for his sins. He acknowledges that he is hopelessly lost. The only thing he can hope for is the Lord’s grace. The law can only establish leprosy and set the conditions for someone who has been cleansed of leprosy. It is impossible for the law to cleanse a leper from his leprosy. That is the great power of grace that is present in Christ.

When the leper sees Him, he falls on his face and begs Him to make him clean. The leper is convinced that the Lord can do it, but he does not know if He wants it. The man does not appeal to His grace in vain. The Lord touches him and speaks with Divine authority: “I am willing; be cleansed.” On this command the leprosy immediately leaves him. Here grace works cleansing, as first with Peter the conviction of sin (Luke 5:8). Thus, the Lord is able to solve the problem of sins in the life of every human being and to cleanse him of his sins. Therefore He has accomplished the work on the cross.

In the offering the man must make for his cleansing, he gives testimony of this. He may not give publicity to his healing. However, the Lord wants a testimony of cleansing to be given to the religious leaders. Therefore He sends the man to the priests. The priests will have to acknowledge what happened to the leper. In so doing, they will have to acknowledge the intervention of God, that is to say, that the Lord Jesus is God. After all, who can cleanse leprosy but God alone (2 Kings 5:7)? In the offering the man must make, he also honors God for the cleansing.

The healing of the leper will not have gone unnoticed. Anyone who knew him will have seen him healed. As a result, the Lord is spoken of in an ever wider environment. Many want to hear Him and be healed by Him of their diseases. Grace attracts people. Grace also flows generously from Him.

The Lord, as the dependent Man, also takes time for fellowship with God in prayer. To do so, He withdraws into loneliness. After that, He will serve man again.

Verses 17-26

Healing of a Paralyzed Man

The Lord continues to serve people. We see that in this history, where a new element emerges that is important for the formation of subjects of the kingdom. The two previous histories are about something to be taken away: fear because of sin and leprosy as a picture of sin. In this history it is also about something that is taken away, but also about something that is given. Sins are forgiven and strength is given.

When the Lord is somewhere, always something happens. What happens results from His teaching. First the circumstances are painted. The Lord is teaching. Among His hearing are Pharisees and teachers of the law. They have come from far and wide to hear Him. Also, the power of the Lord is present to perform healing. It is a scene full of spiritual life.

Then we see four men who want to bring their paralyzed friend to the Lord on a bed. These men care about the paralyzed. They transport him on a bed, which means that they do not drag him to the Lord, but use a means that is pleasant for the paralyzed. They also know that the only chance of healing is to be found with Him. That is why he has to go there. They work for their friend and act in faith in Christ.

When they reach the place where He is, they find a crowd that is blocking the way to Him. Often people form a blockade to go to Christ. But their faith is persevering and inventive. If not in the usual way, through the door, then in an unusual way, through the roof. The friends break open the roof and let the bed with their paralyzed friend sink down in front of the Lord. There they wanted to bring him and there he is.

The Lord Jesus followed in the spirit all the actions of the friends. He knows and sees their faith. He answers their faith by speaking these wonderful and beneficent words of forgiveness to their friend. He sees their friend’s true problem and He solves it first. It is possible that his paralysis is the result of a certain sin. The leper in previous history needed cleansing. This man needs forgiveness. Leprosy means that contact with others is not allowed, because a leper is an outcast. In this person we see that sin paralyzes, so that contact with others is not possible.

This word about the forgiveness of sins brings the scribes and Pharisees into opposition. They hear something that sounds slanderous to their ears. This does not fit in their theology. Only God can forgive sins. Who does this Man think He is? It is obvious that Someone is speaking here Who presumes Himself to be God. In their observation, that only God can forgive sins, they are absolutely right. At the same time, with all their theological knowledge, they are completely blind to the glory of the Lord Jesus, that He, Who stands before them, is truly God. They do not need to speak out loud their aversion of Him to let Him know what is going on in them. As the true God He knows the deliberations of their hearts. By pronouncing this, He proves Who He is.

He puts them in place with some questions. “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins have been forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?” (Luke 5:23). For these people, both the one and the other is impossible. For Him it is both possible. Only God can forgive sins. The Lord Jesus forgives them. He is God, but He forgives them as the Son of Man, as He Who is on earth to bring there the mercy of God. He does not only forgive, He also heals. In this way He shows that He is the Messiah, for He fulfills what is written in Psalm 103: “Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases” (Psalms 103:3). He is the proof that God visits His people.

He orders the man to pick up his stretcher and go home. The result is immediate. The man stands up before their eyes. With the words the Lord speaks, He also gives the strength to the man to obey. The man is not going to sit down and discuss whether he will be able to do it. He believes His word and acts.

The Pharisees and teachers of the law observe it. They cannot deny this wonder, but it does not change anything to their enmity. They don’t repent through it. The forgiven and healed man carries with him the full result of what the Lord has done. His heart is liberated and his body healed. He is now carrying the stretcher that carried him. The Lord has forgiven him his sins and given him strength to walk. Thus he goes to his home, glorifying God. What will he have told at home about everything the Lord Jesus said and did! The first area where God’s glory must be mentioned is the area where we are “at home”.

All those who have seen what has happened are filled with fear. They glorify God, and fear fills them. They inwardly have no part in Christ. They hear words with their ears and perceive events with their eyes, but it has no effect on their heart. All they say is that they have seen remarkable things today. They are people of the day. The impressions have faded away again tomorrow.

Verses 27-32

The Calling of Levi

The Lord leaves the house where He has taught the Word and healed a paralyzed man. Outside he sees a tax collector sitting. His name is Levi, the same as the later evangelist Matthew. Levi is at the tax booth. He is collecting money. That is his job and he likes to do it. Tax collectors have the opportunity to benefit themselves very much if they collect the tax on behalf of the Romans.

While Levi is collecting money or waiting for people to pay taxes, the Lord calls him. The Lord knows him. He knows that his heart is empty, even though he has so much money. Then He says to him: “Follow me”. That is a liberating call. As soon as Levi hears the calling voice, his heart and his spirit are turned away from the money.

The order that Luke writes down is remarkable. First we read that Levi leaves everything behind, that is, his heart releases the money. Then we read that he gets up and follows the Lord. After the lessons of self-condemnation in Peter (Luke 5:8), of cleansing the leper (Luke 5:13) and of forgiveness which gives strength to the walk in the paralyzed man (Luke 5:24), we see here the fourth that grace does: it gives a new, attractive object in the Person of Christ.

Levi also immediately shows that he is converted. We see in Him the result of following the Lord. He has changed from someone who takes from others to someone who gives to others (Psalms 112:9). He who has received grace now also shows grace to others. The object of His service is the Lord. He gives a big reception “for Him” in his house. He makes his house available to Him. The Lord Jesus is the center and attraction point for others who are also attracted by Him.

In Levi’s actions, the Pharisees and scribes see another reason to say something to the detriment of the Lord Jesus. They grumble against the disciples. They do not address the Lord Himself directly, but they address His disciples. In their eyes they are as bad as their Master. Of course they mean it as criticism of Him. They do not understand anything about the reception that Levi organized. They grumble because of the company in which the disciples find themselves. How can they, as people who say they want to live for God, eat together with such low sunken persons? This is how people who have no sense of grace react. They lift themselves up and look down on others.

The Lord responds them. He points out that, as healthy people, they do not need help from a physician. You don’t call a physician if you feel healthy. They feel good, they are not leprous or paralyzed, they do not feel like a sinner and do not seek help. The people who are in a bad state and are aware of this, do need the help of a physician. He is the great Physician. He has no message for those who believe of themselves that they are righteous.

For sinners who realize how miserable they are, He has a message. He proposes the way of salvation to them by telling them that they will be saved if they repent from their sinful way and believe in Him. The Lord does not turn the sinners who come to conversion into new law keepers, but into attendants of the bridegroom [literally “sons of the bridal-chamber”] and fresh wineskins in which the wine of joy is poured, as we find presented in the following verses.

The Pharisees have no eye for that. They are like the eldest son who does not want to take part in the feast because of the return of the youngest son and therefore willingly stays outside the house of music and dance (Luke 15:25; Luke 15:28).

Verses 33-35


The stubborn righteous let not themselves to be beaten. They have another question for Him. They know that John has disciples and that he has given his disciples strict living conditions, including fasting and prayers. That fits in perfectly with their line, because in this way they also teach their own disciples. Now when they look at His disciples, they see a behavior there that is not appropriate in their eyes. His disciples do nothing but eat and drink. Just look at the big reception that Levi made and in which they did partake well.

This too is a reaction of people who don’t understand anything of grace. People of the law always disallow the freedom in which the Lord leads His disciples. By the way, in the next part (Luke 6:1) we see that this kind of meals is not a daily meal for the disciples, because there we see that they are hungry. Freedom which the Lord gives never leads to debauchery, but to an enjoyment of what He gives. Those who live in freedom refuse to accept food from the hand of the devil, as the Lord Jesus has shown at the temptation in the wilderness (Luke 4:4).

The Lord explains why He does not let His disciples fast. The reason is that He is with them. He is the Bridegroom. The bride is not mentioned. He does talk about the attendants of the bridegroom. These are His disciples. The Lord points out that there will come days when He will not be with them. By this He means the days of His death and His stay in the grave as He will have been expelled from the world. These will be days of deep sorrow for His disciples (John 16:16-Song of Solomon :). Then they will fast.

Verses 36-39

Old and New Things

To make clear to His opponents the difference between His service and that of John and the whole Old Testament, He speaks to them in a parable. He compares what He says and what He has come to bring on earth, with a new garment. This new garment does not match the old one. The old is Judaism in which everything is regulated by the law. The law has not brought blessing to the people, but loss of blessing and condemnation; for the law has been broken by the people.

The Lord has not come to tell people to keep to the law. He could have done that, for He Himself kept the law perfectly. But if He had taught the people the law, nothing would have changed to man’s nature. Man, with his whole being, is a lawbreaker and therefore guilty of punishment. He can only receive blessing if he is approached on a totally different basis, namely on the basis of grace. That grace Christ came to bring. In him the grace of God appeared, bringing salvation to all men (Titus 2:11). This grace is the essence of Christendom, just as the law is the essence of Judaism.

It is impossible to put the new garment of Christianity into the old garment of Judaism. They completely exclude each other. The new must replace the old and not be linked to it. It is as with the old covenant that must be replaced by the new covenant (Hebrews 8:13). Law and grace do not go together. Where attempts are made to mix law and grace, neither is taken seriously and both are violated. Then the law is no longer a law, and grace ceases to be grace. In grace the power and the joy of the Spirit, of which wine is a picture, is active, just as in the law the power of man is active.

The new wine of the Spirit cannot be in the old packaging. The old packaging represents a person who lives on the basis of the law. The power of the Spirit of God in grace cannot be locked up within the statutes of the law. The old things are the forms of man according to the flesh. The new is the power of God according to the Holy Spirit. The old man must make way for the new man.

The new wine must be put in fresh wineskins. This means that the new power and joy of the Holy Spirit only suits those who have received the grace for lost sinners. They no longer try to be righteous before God on the basis of the law, for they have realized that life according to the law is impossible because man is a sinner. For those who acknowledge this, Christ has come with His grace. He who has accepted grace is a new creation, a new skin, in which the Holy Spirit as a fresh wine brings strength and joy.

The Lord knows how difficult it is for a human being, and certainly for a Jew, to depend on grace alone. It means that man condemns himself and acknowledges that he is not able to do anything good. It is very difficult for a person to come to that conclusion. Much rather he wants to achieve himself, commit himself to keep the law, earn the salvation himself. As long as he says “the old is good [enough]”, he rejects grace.

The Bridegroom is present and although this should have been a cause of joy, because the power of God is present, man prefers the old because it makes man important and not the power of God. The old is so familiar that we are afraid to hand it in to get instead something new that is unknown. We only hand in the old if we recognize the Lord in the new. The standard should not be how we have always seen it, but the standard should be the light that God gives through His Word. If we shut ourselves off from the power of God’s Word we will freeze in traditions.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Luke 5". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/luke-5.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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