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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Luke 5

 

 

Verse 1

1. He stood—Stopped in his course as he arrived at the boats of the future apostles.


Verses 1-11

§ 26. CALL OF SIMON, ANDREW, JAMES, AND JOHN, PRECEDED BY THE MIRACULOUS DRAUGHT OF FISHES, Luke 5:1-11.

Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20.

Connecting Luke’s statement with Matthew’s and Mark’s, we have the following complete narrative. Jesus, walking by the seaside of Gennesaret, is pressed by a crowd proceeding from Capernaum. He stops as he arrives at the boat of Simon Peter, which is drawn up and lying on the beach. Jesus directs Simon to put a little into the deep to get out of the reach of the crowd, and from the boat he preaches to the people on the shore. Closing his discourse he directs Peter to let out his net, and a draught of fishes is encircled, so large that the net is broken and the drawing so difficult that Simon and Andrew call upon the brothers in the other boat to fetch up and aid in bringing in the seine with its draught. They come, and their boat also being filled with a share of the fishes, return to their own station and take in the nets, which they proceed to mend. When the fishes are secured, conversation between Jesus and Peter takes place, in which the latter receives his call to the apostolate. Jesus then proceeds a few steps further around the cove, to the boat of James and John, and finding them mending their broken nets, gives them their call.

This method, we think, completely harmonizes the accounts, and supersedes any effort to make out the impossibility of reconciliation, and a consequent necessity of supposing two separate narratives. The simple fact that Matthew mentions the mending of the nets requires Luke’s account of the breaking of them. This is, in fact, one of those frequent unintentional coincidences which not only demonstrate that both agree, but that both are true.

This narrative is really, in point of time, to be inserted after Luke 5:32, in chapter 4. Leaving Nazareth, our Lord went to Capernaum, and perhaps abode in the house of Peter. The power of his preaching drew crowds, which pressed upon him as he was walking along the white beach which forms the margin of Lake Gennesaret.

Both Matthew and Mark simply relate the call of the two pairs of apostles, at the same place and occasion and in the same order as Luke; and Matthew gives our Lord’s striking utterance, “fishers of men,” of which the miracle given by Luke is the great occasion and illustration. That the first two evangelists omit the miracles is explained from the rapidity of that part of their narrative; and from the fact that the call of two pairs of leading apostles was an event far more important in Christian history than any one miracle.

As Jesus was now residing at Capernaum, it is probable (as the language of Matthew and Mark suggests) that he was in the habit of walking upon the broad beach of the lake. As the two pairs of brothers had resided in Bethsaida, it was probably in that direction, northward, that he was now perambulating.


Verse 2

2. Ships—Small fishing smacks, such as plied the waters of this lake. For the full account of Capernaum and Gennesaret see our notes on Matthew 4:13, with the map.

Standing by the lake—The word stand might imply that the ships were in the water. But the phrase by the lake implies that they were drawn up out of the water, and were lying upon the dry beach for safety. This shows that they must have been small craft.

Washing their nets—Cleansing the filth of the fish and sea from the threads of the nets. Though the brothers had gone out of their boats they were probably in sight, net washing, as if, their work being done, they were about to depart.

At the present day, no fishermen cast their nets, and no boats cut the waves, of Gennesaret. The wild Bedouin, who loves the desert but detests the water, hovers around its shores. The desolation will rather increase than diminish, until the extending power of Christian Europe can arrive at that locality and destroy the devastators.


Verse 3

3. Simon’s—Simon, having descried the approaching Jesus, with the multitude upon his heels, forthwith returns to his boat. Ever since his first blessed interview with Jesus on the banks of the Jordan, where he had been crowned with his new name by Jesus, (as narrated in John 1:35-42,) he had no doubt retained his faith in and love for the blessed Redeemer. Residing in two contiguous villages by the lake side, Peter had of course attended the teaching and preaching of Jesus. Hence, on the present occasion, Jesus takes familiar possession of his boat, requests its removal, and makes it his pulpit. But there is nothing to indicate that Peter was called at that first interview to the apostolate. See notes on John 1:40-41.

One of the ships—The ship of James and John was at some distance, perhaps around at the farther point of the cove.

Taught the people out of the ship—The shore was the church, the ship the pulpit, the Saviour the preacher. The water would sweetly convey the tones of his voice as the circling shores drew the people around him.


Verse 4

4. Left speaking—Sermon was over, and the satisfied crowd departing.

Into the deep—Where would be a larger shoal of fishes.

Nets—They were probably seines. The seine has its lower margin loaded, so as to reach toward the bottom, and the upper fringed with corks, so that the net forms a perpendicular wall in the water. Fastening one end at the shore, the fisherman launches out into the deep and lets the net into the water, and, fetching a semicircle, enclosing the fish within its compass, returns to the shore at the point from which he started. With an overwhelming amount of fishes, he would need aid to drag the net and its contents to the shore or boat. Dr. Thomson thinks it was a bag-net, let down like a basket into the water; but how large must the bag have been to enclose fish enough to nearly sink the two boats?


Verse 5

5. Master—Peter familiarly addresses Jesus, not as a new acquaintance, but as an old disciple. He received the first blessed word from Jesus on the banks of the Jordan; he now receives his special call on the beach of Gennesaret.

Toiled all the night—Peter says this to imply that there was not much hope in the reason of the case, and that he acts from faith. It is, perhaps, reported by the evangelists to show the unequivocal character of the miracle. “There are certain kinds of fishing always carried on at night.

It is a beautiful sight. With blazing torch the boat glides over the flashing sea, and the men stand gazing keenly into it until their prey is sighted, when, quick as lightning, they fling their net, or fly their spear.”—Dr. Thomson.


Verse 6

6. Their net brakeWas breaking; for so the Greek imperfect tense here means. A snap in some weak point of their net warned them to call for help, lest, by the enlargement of the rent, they should lose their mighty draught.


Verse 7

7. Beckoned—Made signal to the other ship, whose distance was too great for voice to reach.

They came—With their ship. They aided in pulling in the seine, and took a share of the fishes into their ship and returned to their own side of the cove. There they got out of the ship and commenced to repair their nets upon the beach, until Jesus, passing further on, comes and gives them, too, their call.

Filled both the ships—The light skiffs it seems could hardly hold as much as the seines! But miraculous power, perhaps, gathered in more than the nets; just as the divine aid in the conversion of souls does more than the human means.

Began to sink—Probably the one-sided dip came near to swamping the boats; the beginning to be merged was arrested by the righting. Compare the plenteousness of the Lord’s miracle, John 2:6, where see our note. Trench refers to a shoal of mackerel, at Brighton, in 1808, so great that the net could not be brought in, and fishes and net remained in the sea together.


Verse 8

8. Fell down at Jesus’ knees—A profound reverence, as to a divine being. The very first word ever uttered by Jesus to Peter (John 1:42) revealed to him the Messianic power of discerning spirits; in the present miracle he acknowledges, with an overwhelming sensibility, the Lord’s mastery of the secrets of lower nature.

Depart from me—Adverse criticism objects here that Peter’s behaviour and language are exaggerated and theatrical. Had he not before seen any of the numerous miracles which were now making the name of Jesus to resound through Galilee? And what was there in this miracle to excite such strong idea of his own sinfulness? We reply, that there need be no difficulty with those who do not reject in advance all special operations, not only of miraculous power, but of divine spiritual impression. To explain the passage by bringing it down to a level satisfactory to rationalism is to make rationalists of ourselves. It is to surrender the fortress, not to defend it.

Peter has left the boat and is standing on shore under the searching gaze of the Son of God. He has often seen the miracles of Jesus; but none has so directly touched his own person, and unequivocally meant, not the surrounding multitude, but—himself. He saw and trembled as he felt, by a full divine impression, (Matthew 16:17,) that this was no prophet or angel, but God incarnate, the Son of God; who had just shown his lordship over nature animate and inanimate; his knowledge of the secrets of the deep. So Jacob trembled at finding out that he had wrestled with God. (Genesis 32:30.) So Manoah and his wife said, We shall surely die, for we have seen God. (Judges 13:22.) So Exodus 24:10-11; Exodus 33:20. Surely, that same knowledge and power that could pervade the depths of the sea, and cognize the movements of its inhabitants, could pervade the depths of his human heart and know its secret sins. In his hasty agony as an impure man, and not for any special crime or sin, he almost sinfully prays, not that his soul might be purified to endure the glance of the great Searcher, but that the Searcher would withdraw his eye and leave him, alas! in sin. And yet as, in spite of his hasty words, the spirit of a deep faith and love are in his heart, forming a base in the future of a most heroic Christianity, Jesus bears with him as often afterwards, and soon gives him a most inspiring Fear not.


Verse 9

9. He was astonishedAmazement wrapt him round, is the expressive literal version of the original Greek.


Verse 10

10. Sons of Zebedee—The children and wife of Zebedee often occur; but it is in this transaction alone that we catch a glimpse of Zebedee himself.

Matthew 4:21. As all the evangelists concur in silently leaving him out, Blunt concludes that he died shortly after, and notes this as one of those “undesigned coincidences” that show that truth is the basis of the Gospel histories. He also acutely conjectures that either James or John was the apostle who desired to be permitted to go and bury his father, namely, Zebedee.

Julian the Apostate endeavoured to turn the simile of fishing against Christianity; inasmuch as fish were caught from their living element for death. But for the very purpose of avoiding this cavil, or rather from the very intention of a good symbolical meaning, our Lord uses not the word αγρευειν, which signifies simply to capture; but the word ζωγρειν, which signifies to take alive, being compounded of the words alive and capture. So in the Latin, the word servus, signifying servant or slave, is from servare, to preserve, because slaves were generally prisoners of war saved from death for servitude. The same word is used by Paul, 2 Timothy 2:26 : Taken captive by him at his will. Whatever may be the destiny, therefore, of the literal fish, the souls they symbolize are captured by the spiritual fishermen into the service of the giver of life.


Verse 11

11. Brought their ships to land—Drawing them up again on the beach for a final abandonment.

Forsook all—No great all, it is retorted, but unwisely. The evangelist makes no reference to the amount of fortune left. These disciples had before received a call which permitted them to remain at their business. But now, receiving a full apostolic summons, they forsook all worldly employments and relations, and gave themselves completely up to Christ. Not but that they did at intervals, indeed, when not needed in their Master’s spiritual service, return to their material labours; but it was still as apostles consecrated to him and ready at his call. Our Lord’s parables are in a sense miracles, and his miracles are parables; concealing in themselves lessons of wisdom which it is wisdom to draw forth. The minister of Christ is a fisher of men. While the Head of the Church withdraws his presence the fisherman toils in vain. But when the Master orders, let the net be cast according to his word. Some believe that the two boats are symbols of Gentiles and of Jews to be gathered to Christ. We accept the plenteousness of the draught as a symbol for all ages of a victorious incoming of millions to the Church.


Verses 12-15

§ 29. HEALING OF THE LEPER, Luke 5:12-15.

Matthew 8:2-4; Mark 1:40-45.

For notes on this miracle see parallel section on Matthew.


Verses 17-26

§ 30. HEALING OF THE PARALYTIC, Luke 5:17-26.

Matthew 9:2-8; Mark 2:1-12.


Verses 26-28

§ 31. CALL OF MATTHEW, Matthew 9:9. Mark 2:13-14.

See notes of parallel section in Matthew.


Verses 29-39

§ 52. LEVI’S FEAST, Luke 5:29-39.

Matthew 9:10-25; Mark 2:15-22.

See notes on parallel section on Matthew and Mark.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Luke 5:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/luke-5.html. 1874-1909.

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