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Bible Commentaries
Luke 5

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

Luke 5:1. The multitude. His influence was already great.

The lake of Gennesaret , i.e., the Sea of Galilee (see on Matthew 4:18). Luke alone uses the former name.

Verses 1-11

TIME. The miraculous draught of fishes took place shortly after the rejection at Nazareth, but before the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law (chap. Luke 4:38-39); for at that time these four fishermen were already in close attendance upon our Lord (Mark 1:29-30). The indefinite language of Luke in regard to time, plainly admits of this view.

IDENTITY with the occurrence related in different form by Matthew (Matthew 4:18-22) and Mark (Mark 1:16-20). Reasons for believing that all three Evangelists refer to the same call of the fishermen, Matthew and Mark giving prominence to the call, and Luke to the miracle which preceded it, and prepared for obedience to it: ( 1 .) Luke intends us to understand that this was the call of Peter and his companions to follow Christ constantly. ( 2 .) A repetition of the promise to make them ‘fishers of men’ is improbable. ( 3 .) A two-fold leaving of their nets is equally so. ( 4 .) The omission of the miracle by the other two Evangelists is not against the identity, for such omissions occur when there can be no doubt that they are telling of the same occurrence. ( 5 .) A previous acquaintance with Peter seems to be implied here, but that does not prove that he had been called before, for John (John 1:41-42) tells us of an acquaintanceship before the call. ( 6 .) No mention is made of Andrew, but Luke 5:9 tells of others in Peter’s boat, while in chap. Luke 6:14. Andrew is mentioned as having already been a disciple, and then chosen as an Apostle. Peter here is an example for us: To hear when the Lord speaks ; to labor when He commands; to believe what He promises; to follow whither He calls. The fishermen were blessed while laboring in their own calling.

Verse 2

Luke 5:2. By the lake. Either by the shore of the lake, or possibly drawn up on the shore.

Washing their nets. After the night of toil (Luke 5:5).

Verse 3

Luke 5:3. Which was Simon’s. This does not prove Simon to be the older brother. As our Lord walked on the shore of the lake, He came first to this boat, and Simon was probably near it

Taught the multitudes out of the boat. Comp. Matthew 13:2.

Verse 4

Luke 5:4. Simon. Evidently the steersman of the boat.

Put out into the deep, i.e., the deep water. Luke always uses proper nautical phrases. Addressed in the singular, to Simon.

Let down your nets. Addressed to all the fishermen in the boat. Our Lord first makes a slight request of Simon, then after His discourse a greater one, calling for more confidence in Himself.

Verse 5

Luke 5:5. Master. Not ‘teacher,’ but a title of respect, not involving a close personal relation.

We toiled. Not ‘have toiled,’ for that implies that they had just stopped. Peter gives an account of the last night’s labor.

All night. The usual time for fishing, comp. John 21:2.

But, not ‘nevertheless.’

At thy word. On account of thy word. This involved faith, yet the proverbial superstition of fishermen may have entered here.

I will let down the nets. He speaks as the director of the fishing party. The significance of this verse for ‘fishers of men’ is obvious.

Verse 6

Luke 5:6. Having done this. A number were engaged.

Were breaking, i.e., ‘began to break,’ just as in Luke 5:7, ‘were sinking’ means ‘began to sink.’ The nets did not break, nor the boats sink. God sometimes allows dangers to begin, that our faith may be increased.

Verse 7

Luke 5:7. Beckoned. Probably on account of the distance ; not from amazement, as some of the Fathers have thought Fishermen’s signals require little explanation.

Their fellows, i.e., the sons of Zebedee (Luke 5:10). Not necessarily ‘partners.’

Verse 8

Luke 5:8. Simon Peter. His full name is given at this turning-point of his life.

Fell down, etc . Not an act of worship, but a recognition of God’s power in Jesus.

Depart from me. Go out from me, i.e., from my boat. This is like Peter. This miracle took place not only in his presence, but in his boat, his net, his fishing.

For I am a sinful man. It was not superstition, but a sense of unworthiness. In Jesus he recognized to some extent the holiness as well as the power of God. Such a feeling always exists in similar cases. But Christ makes ‘sinful man’ at peace with a holy God. It is not necessary to suppose that Peter had but lately committed some crime, that he felt the want of faith in what he had said before (Luke 5:5), that he was afraid of drowning, or that he had left the Master and now felt that he had been guilty in so doing. Our Lord knew how to answer better than Peter did to ask. Instead of departing from Peter, He drew Peter to Himself, and the reason Peter urged was the reason for making him cling more closely to his powerful and holy Master.

Verse 9

Luke 5:9. Amazement seized , etc. This miracle seems more than one of knowledge. It is true the shoals of fish in the lake are very thick, but the promise of Luke 5:10 (‘Henceforth thou shalt catch men’) points to an influence of Christ’s upon the fish. Trench: ‘Christ here appears as the ideal man, the second Adam of the eighth Psalm: “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things under His feet the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever walketh through the paths of the seas” (Luke 5:6; Luke 5:8).’

Luke 5:10. James and John . See on Matthew 10:2.

From henceforth thou shalt catch men. See on Matthew 4:19. Here the three narratives coincide.

Verse 11

Luke 5:11. They left all. The special call to James and John (Matthew 4:21) probably intervened

Followed him. Luke thus indicates that they thenceforth constantly attended Him. The whole occurrence was allegorized very early: the boat being taken as representing the Church; the net, doctrine; the sea, the heathen world; the bursting of the net, heresies. The fish was a favorite symbol among the early Christians, especially as the initial letters of the Greek phrase: Jesus Christ, son of God, Saviour, made up the word meaning fish ( Ιχθυς ). Much of this is fanciful. The miracle after the resurrection (John 21:0), in which Peter was equally prominent, when the Shepherd’s duty was added to that of the Fisher, forms a parallel and contrast to this one. The earlier miracle is ‘symbolical of the gathering of men into the outward kingdom of God on earth, from which they may be lost;’ the later one of ‘the gathering of the elect souls into the kingdom of glory, none of whom will be lost.’ Trench (after Augustine).

Verses 12-16

Luke 5:12-16. HEALING OF A LEPER. One of the cities (Luke 5:12). Probably not Capernaum.

Full of leprosy. A term of medical accuracy, probably referring to the severity of the disease in this case. On this disease, see Matthew 8:2. In Luke 5:14, there is a change to the direct address: but go, and show thyself, etc. Luke 5:16 breaks off the direct connection of time with what follows; the length of the interval is uncertain.

Verses 12-39

CHRONOLOGY. The occurrences mentioned in this section are detailed by Matthew and Mark. The latter (Luke 1:40 to Luke 2:22) places them in the same order, but Matthew inserts the healing of the leper immediately after the Sermon on the Mount (chap. Luke 8:1-4), and groups the other events together after the return from Gadara (Luke 9:2-17). The order of Mark, up to the call of Levi (Matthew), is exact, but Levi’s feast belongs to a later period. See on Matthew 9:2-17; Matthew 8:1; comp. Mark 1:40 to Mark 2:22. The chief peculiarity of Luke’s account is in Luke 5:39.

Verse 17

Luke 5:17. On one of those days. Probably referring, but very indefinitely, to the preaching tour of chap. Luke 4:44. Pharisees and teachers of the law. Peculiar to Luke; but the other Evangelists speak of the ‘scribes’ as objecting.

Out of every Village, etc. From all parts, not necessarily from each and every village.

Jerusalem. Probably they had come with hostile purpose, since on this occasion we first discover an indication of antagonism.

And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. Some authorities read: ‘that he should heal them.’ ‘Lord’ refers to God, although Luke often applies the term to our Lord.

Verses 17-26

Luke 5:17-26. HEALING OF THE PARALYTIC . See on Matthew 9:2-8; Mark 2:1-12. This account contains marks of independence.

Verse 19

Luke 5:19. Through the tiles. The tiles on the flat roof of the house itself were removed (see on Mark 2:4).

Verse 21

Luke 5:21. Began to reason. The opposing thought arose at once, and it was soon answered.

Verse 26

Luke 5:26. And astonishment seized on them all, etc. Luke alone mentions all three emotions of wonder, gratitude, and fear. Matthew speaks of the last two; Mark of the first two. Matthew indicates that these feelings were those of the people, not of the scribes and Pharisees.

Strange things. Our word paradox is taken from the word here used.

Verses 27-28

Luke 5:27-28. THE CALL OF LEVI. See on Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:13-14.

Beheld, more than ‘saw’ (Matthew and Mark); observed, noticed, looked on.

Forsook all. Peculiar to Luke. It implies not only the actual relinquishment of what he was then doing, but the spirit in which he followed.

Verse 29

Luke 5:29. A great feast for him in his house. Mentioned by Luke only, but implied in the other accounts.

Verses 29-39

Luke 5:29-39. Levi’s Feast, etc. This occurred at a later date. See on Matthew 9:10-17; Mark 2:15-22.

Verse 30

Luke 5:30. Why do ye eat, etc. Matthew and Mark represent the objection as raised against the conduct of our Lord. But the disciples also ate with the publicans and sinners. The result would be a protest from the Pharisees against both the Master and His disciples.

Verse 33

Luke 5:33. And they Mid to him. This seems to refer to the Scribes and Pharisees (Luke 5:30). Matthew makes ‘the disciples of John’ the questioners, and Mark joins both classes. Both were present; they were together in their practice (see on Matthew 9:14), as probably in their objections.

The disciples John, etc. This is not in the form of a question.

And make prayers. Peculiar to Luke. It refers to stated prayers, like those of ascetics.

Verse 34

Luke 5:34. Can ye make, etc. Luke brings out the reason why the objectors must fail to make the disciples fast.

Verse 35

Luke 5:35. See on Matthew 9:15. Observe the solemnity of the correct reading.

Verse 36

Luke 5:36. Else he will rend the new, and also, etc. This part of the verse differs from the parallel passages, in representing a double disadvantage. ‘In Matthew and Mark the mischief done is differently expressed. Our text is very significant, and represents to us the spoiling of born systems by the attempt to engraft the new upon the old: the new loses its completeness; the old, its consistency.’ Alford.

Luke 5:37; Luke 5:18. See on Matthew 9:17. Few passages given by all three Evangelists have been so altered by the copyists, and in none does the independence of the three appear more clearly.

Verse 39

Luke 5:39. And no man having drank old wine desireth new; for he saith, The old is good. Some authorities read ‘better’ (as in E. V.); a reading due to an attempt to explain the sense. This verse gives completeness to our Lord’s discourse and contains the final answer to the objection raised in Luke 5:33. There is no comparison between the relative excellence of new and old wine, but simply a statement of the wish (‘desireth’) of one accustomed to drinking old wine. The one accustomed to the old wine, says: the old is pleasant, good enough for me, I have no desire to try the new. This is precisely the attitude of a false conservatism. The original application to the objectors was intended by our Lord mainly for the instruction of His own disciples, to show ‘how natural it was that disciples of John and of the Pharisees could not bring themselves to give up the old forms and ordinances, which had become dear to them, and to substitute the new life according to His principles’ (Meyer). The ‘old’ throughout is what is Jewish; the ‘new,’ what is distinctively Christian, the grace and freedom of the gospel. The first disciples, as Jews, were not ready at once to relish the new wine. The warning against bringing legalism into the gospel is contained in all the accounts; but here we have a much needed admonition to patience. Even if men oppose the new and the true, because they are content with the old, and will not take the trouble to examine what is new, much less to recognize any excellence in it, let us not grow weary. ‘ Romans 14:0 contains the best practical commentary on this word of the Lord.’

Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Luke 5". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/scn/luke-5.html. 1879-90.
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