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Bible Commentaries
Luke 5

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations

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Luke 5:1-3 Christ teacheth the people out of Simon’s ship.

Luke 5:4-11 The miraculous draught of fishes: Simon and the two sons of Zebedee follow him.

Luke 5:12-15 Christ cleanseth a leper,

Luke 5:16 prayeth in the wilderness,

Luke 5:17-26 answereth the reasonings of the scribes and Pharisees concerning his forgiving sins, and healeth the sick of the palsy,

Luke 5:27,Luke 5:28 calleth Levi from the receipt of custom,

Luke 5:29-32 justifieth his eating with publicans and sinners,

Luke 5:33-35 excuses his disciples from fasting for the present,

Luke 5:36-39 and illustrates the matter by a twofold parable.

Verses 1-2

It is by many interpreters thought that Luke in this history, to Luke 5:11, doth but give us a larger account of what Matthew, Matthew 4:18, and Mark, Mark 1:16, told us shortly. The sea of Galilee (as they call it) and the lake of Gennesaret were both the same, receiving the different denomination from the opposite coasts between which it was. παρὰ τὴν λίμνην had been better translated upon, or at, than by the lake, for without doubt the two ships here mentioned were upon the water, though possibly fastened as usually to the shore.

Verses 3-11

Here is a plain and orderly story, related with many circumstances, tending to show us the power and influence of God upon men’s successes, in their honest and ordinary callings, and also that God hath a command upon the fish in the sea; together with an account of Christ’s call of Simon Peter to be a preacher of the gospel. The only difficulty is to reconcile this to what Matthew tells us, Matthew 4:18,Matthew 4:19, &c. Matthew’s words are these: And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship, and their father, and followed him. Mark’s relation doth much agree with Matthew’s. The differences are in these things:

1. Matthew and Mark speak of Christ’s calling these disciples as he was walking by the sea. Luke seems to mention it as done in the ship.

Answer: Luke doth not say that Christ spake so to Simon in the ship, though he doth indeed mention those words to Simon, before he mentions their bringing the ship to land, because possibly he would give account of all that Christ did or spake together.

2. a) They might be out of the ship, walking by the sea, before he called James and John, whose call Luke doth not mention, but Matthew and Mark alone.

b) Matthew and Mark mention no ships, nor going of Christ into any, nor any draught of fishes.

Answer: Matthew saith that he saw Simon and Andrew casting their nets into the sea. But there is nothing more ordinary than for one evangelist to relate more fully what another repeateth summarily.

3. Matthew and Mark speak of Andrew being with Simon; Luke mentions Simon alone.

Answer: Luke denies not that Andrew was there, and we are sure Simon alone could not manage the nets with such a draught of fishes.

4. Matthew and Mark speak of the calling of Simon, Andrew, James, and John; Luke only of the calling of Simon.

Answer: It doth not follow from thence that they were not called during Christ’s walk by the sea after he came out of the ship: Matthew and Mark assure us they were.

5. Matthew and Mark say that James and John were mending their nets.

Answer: Luke saith nothing to the contrary, for he doth not mention their call at that instant when Simon was. That immediately after such a draught of fishes their nets should want mending, and they be so employed, is nothing at all strange. So as it was like there was a little distance of time between the call of Peter and the others; yet Luke, omitting some circumstances mentioned by Matthew and Mark, as well as adding much to this history by them omitted, saith (at least) of more than one, they forsook all, and followed him. Hence appeareth that there may be a coherent history, taking in what all three evangelists say, only allowing that Christ came upon the shore, and walked by the sea side some short time, before he called James and John.

The history instructs us:

1. How good a thing it is for men to be employed in their honest callings, though never so mean. There God meets people with blessings.

2. How much it is our duty to yield obedience to God’s commands, and how advantageous it will prove, how contrary soever they appear to our sense and reason.

3. Upon whom our blessing depends, let our labour be what it will.

4. That it is the work of the ministers of the gospel to catch men, to gain souls to God.

5. How powerful God’s calls are: They forsook all, and followed him.

For the difference between what John saith, John 1:40,John 1:41, of the call of Andrew and Simon, from what the other three evangelists say, we have spoken something in our notes:

See Poole on "Matthew 4:18", and shall add more when we come to that place in John. In short, John speaketh of another time, before that either of them were called to follow Christ.

Verses 12-15

See Poole on "Matthew 8:2", and verses following to Matthew 8:5. See Poole on "Mark 1:40", and verses following to Mark 1:45. Matthew reports this miracle done when Christ came down from the mountain, and immediately after saith, that he entered into Capernaum, Matthew 8:5. Mark also, concluding the first chapter with this piece of history, he begins the second with telling us, that he entered into Capernaum after some days. So that some think he was near Capernaum, within the bounds of it, when he wrought this miracle, but there is no certainty of that.

Verse 16

We meet with Christ often commending to us the duty of secret prayer, by his own example, as he had done by his precept, Matthew 6:1-34, and always choosing for it the most private and retired places, to teach us to go and to do likewise, often to pray to our Father which seeth in secret: and his example more presseth us, because we have much more business with God in prayer than he had; he had no sins to confess, nor to beg pardon for, no need to ask for any sanctifying habits of grace, &c. It is possible also that he withdrew into desert places oft times to avoid all show of ostentation, or dangers of tumults, and to obtain a little rest for himself. But suppose that the reason of his motion, yet the spending of his leisure hours in communion with his Father is very imitable for us. Christ had no idle hours, he was always either preaching or healing, thereby doing good to others; or praying, thereby paying a homage to God. If it could be said of the Roman, (with respect to his studies), it should be much more said of Christians, They should never be less alone than when they are alone, nor less idle than when they are most at leisure from their public employments.

Verse 17

We shall observe that the scribes and Pharisees much haunted our Saviour wherever he came, either to cavil at him, or out of curiosity to see the miracles he wrought. It seems they were many of them present at this time. But here ariseth a question or two.

1. How is it said, the power of the Lord was present with Christ to heal? had not Christ this power of healing then at all times?

Answer: Doubtless he had, for he was always the Lord that healeth us. The Divine nature once united to the human was never separated from Christ, but it did not always put forth itself, being as to that directed by his will. But as the end of Christ’s miracles was for the confirmation of his doctrine; so we shall observe, that mostly after preaching he wrought his miraculous operations.

2. Who are here meant by them? by reading the words one would think them related to the Pharisees and doctors of the law, of none of which we read that they were sick, nor do we read of any cures that Christ made upon them.

Answer: We must know that sometimes in holy writ these relative terms are put out of due order, as in Matthew 11:1, where we have these words, And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities: not in the disciples’ cities; poor men, they had no cities; but in the Jewish cities, the cities of that country: yet the verse mentions no other persons than Jesus and the twelve disciples.

So here, though the verse mentions no other persons present than the Pharisees and doctors of the law, yet there doubtless were many others, and some amongst them labouring under chronical distempers; of these the text is to be understood.

Verses 18-26

See Poole on "Matthew 9:2", and following verses to Matthew 9:8. See Poole on "Mark 2:3", and following verses to Mark 2:12. Both those evangelists record the same story with very small alterations in the phrase, nothing in the sense. Instead of the last words, We have seen strange things today, Matthew saith, they glorified God, who had given such power unto men. By which appeareth that all the effect this miracle had was,

1. Amazement. A thing was done; they understood not how it could be effected.

2. They apprehended a Divine power as to the effect.

They therefore

glorified God, who had given such power unto men. So as it is plain they only looked upon Christ as a great Prophet, to whom God had communicated such a Divine power, as of old he had communicated to Elijah, and then to Elisha. Lest any should stumble at what is said, that they uncovered the house, and let him down through the tiling, fancying the roofs of their houses built as ours, they must know, that the most of their houses were built (like some amongst us) with flat roofs, which were covered with some slates or stones, so as they might easily be uncovered; and this appeareth by the command of God, Deuteronomy 22:8, concerning making battlements on the tops of their houses, to prevent casualties. The object of the faith here mentioned, was plainly the Divine power and goodness, but not as coming from Christ originally, as eternal God, but as an instrument by which God conveyed it to men under such miserable circumstances as this poor man was.

Verses 27-32

See Poole on "Matthew 9:9", and following verses to Matthew 9:13. See Poole on "Mark 2:14", and following verses to Mark 2:17, both which evangelists have also recorded this call of Levi; the first calls him Matthew; Mark and Luke call him Levi. There was nothing more ordinary amongst the Jews than for persons to have two names. Mark tells us his father’s name also, saying he was the son of Alphaeus. All agree in his employment, that he was a publican, one employed in the gathering of the public revenue, that part of it which arose from the exportation and importation of commodities; for he was sitting at the receipt of custom. Christ from thence calls him; he follows him, that is, gave up his name to be his disciple; in gratitude, Matthew, or Levi, invites him to a feast, and with him several other publicans and others. The other two evangelists say nothing of Matthew’s preparing this feast; but it is implied in them, for they take notice of his sitting at meat in his house, and of the offence taken at it by the scribes and the Pharisees, and of our Saviour’s taking notice of it, and what he said in justification of himself: see the notes before mentioned above. Only Matthew adds, that our Lord also said unto them, Go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice. But for the explication of our Saviour’s entire answer,

See Poole on "Matthew 9:9", and following verses to Matthew 9:13.

Verses 33-39

We have also both in Matthew and Mark met with this piece of history. See Poole on "Matthew 9:14", and following verses to Matthew 9:17; See Poole on "Mark 2:18", and following verses to Mark 2:22. Both Matthew and Mark say, that they were the disciples of John who came, and thus said to our Saviour. In our notes upon the two former evangelists, we have fully opened this piece of history. John the Baptist was of a more severe deportment than our Saviour thought fit to show himself; and complying more with the practices of the Pharisees (though in much more sincerity) in their exercises of discipline, the Pharisees did more easily get his disciples to join with them in this address to our Saviour; though probably John’s disciples did it more out of infirmity, and the Pharisees out of malice, that they might have whereby to lessen Christ’s reputation amongst the people: thus weak, though good, men are often drawn in by those who are more subtle and malicious to promote their designs. Besides, we naturally desire to be the standard to all, and that others should take their measures from us, and possibly John’s disciples might have a little of that envy for their master’s sake, which we find them sick of, John 3:26. Our Lord, who might have told them that he was to be their exemplar, and not they his, dealeth more gently with them, and gives them sufficient reason why, as yet, he did not inure his disciples to those severer acts of religion:

1. Because this was all the rejoicing time they were like to have. He was now with them; when he should be gone from them, before which it would not be long, they should have time to mourn.

2. That they were but newly entered into his discipleship, and therefore not at first to be discouraged, that they might not have a temptation upon them to leave off as soon as they began. But see the notes more fully upon the same history in Matthew and Mark.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Luke 5". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/luke-5.html. 1685.
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