Luke 5 – Disciples Are Called
A. The call of four fishermen.
1. (1-3) Jesus teaches from a boat.
So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.
a. The multitude pressed around Him to hear the word of God: The large crowd showed the increasing popularity of Jesus as a teacher. The crowd was so big that Jesus got into one of the boats and taught the multitudes from the boat.
i. “Note the many strange pulpits in which Christ preached.” (Morrison)
b. The Lake of Gennesaret: This was another name for the Sea of Galilee, as it is more familiarly known. It was also sometimes called the Sea of Tiberias.
c. One of the boats, which was Simon’s: Simon must have felt privileged that Jesus wanted to teach from his boat. We can also be sure that Simon listened to this teaching all the more attentively.
2. (4-5) Peter receives as Jesus directs his service.
When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”
a. He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets”: After Jesus had finished teaching, He wanted to do something good for Simon, who had lent Him the use of the boat. Peter could not give something to Jesus without Jesus giving even more back to him.
i. As far as we can tell, Jesus was in the boat with them as He directed this. His presence gave confidence. “It is a blessed thing to see Christ sitting in the boat while you cast out the net. If you catch a glimpse of his approving smile as he watches you, you will work right heartily.” (Spurgeon)
b. Master, we have toiled all night: The particular ancient Greek word Luke used for Master (epistata) is unique to Luke’s Gospel. The word has the ideas “commander,” “leader,” or perhaps even “boss.” With this title, Peter showed he was willing to take orders from Jesus.
c. We have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net: Peter could have come up with any number of possible excuses.
· “I worked all night and I’m tired.”
· “I know a lot more about fishing than a carpenter does.”
· “The best fishing is at night, not in the day time.”
· “All these crowds and loud teaching have scared the fish away.”
· “We already washed our nets.”
· “Jesus may know religion but He doesn’t know fishing.”
d. At Your word I will let down the net: This was Peter’s great statement of faith, and trust in Jesus’ word. God’s people throughout all ages have lived and gone forth with this confidence in the word of Jesus.
· At Your word, there was light
· At Your word, the sun, moon, stars, and planets were created
· At Your word life came to this earth
· At Your word creation is held together and sustained
· At Your word empires rise and fall; history unfolds His great plan
3. (6-7) The miraculous catch of fish.
And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.
a. They caught a great number of fish: Peter didn’t make such excuses, and His faith in Jesus was well rewarded. Peter understood that he probably knew more about fishing than a carpenter did and that he had worked all night without any results. The only reason why Peter did what Jesus asked was because he believed in Jesus, not because the circumstances seemed right.
i. When Jesus directs our work, it makes all the difference. We can work – even work hard – for a long time with no results. But when Jesus directs our work, we see results; and we always miss something great when we make excuses instead of allowing Jesus to direct our work.
ii. “Here the dumb fishes do clearly preach Christ to be the Son of God.” (Trapp)
b. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them: Peter had to work with others to get the job done. This is reminiscent of what God did in a man named James McGready on the frontiers of Kentucky starting in the 1790s. In Kentucky he pastored three small churches that met in roughly built shacks. He said that the winter of 1799 for the most part was weeping and mourning with the people of God and that it was like living in Sodom and Gomorrah on the rough, lawless, and often godless frontier. McGready started the concerts of prayer, but he also got his congregations praying for him and for his ministry of the word of God – for a half hour before they went to bed on Saturday night and for a half hour when they woke up on Sunday morning. In 1800 came an extraordinary outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and so many people began to come to Christ that McGready called out: “Any preacher of any kind who loves the Lord Jesus come and help me.”
i. “Some will rather leave souls to perish than admit of partners in the sacred work. It is an intolerable pride to think nothing done well but what we do ourselves; and a diabolic envy to be afraid lest others should be more successful than we are.” (Clarke)
4. (8-11) Peter’s reaction and the call of four disciples.
When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.
a. He fell down at Jesus’ knees: Jesus had already miraculously healed Peter’s mother-in-law (Luke 4:38-39). Yet there was something about this miracle of the blessed catch that made Peter worship Jesus and surrender himself to Him.
b. Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord! When Peter saw the great power of Jesus – displayed in Jesus’ knowledge in an area where He should have no knowledge – it made Peter realize his own spiritual bankruptcy compared to Jesus.
i. Because Peter was such an experienced fisherman, and because he knew how unfavorable the conditions were, he knew all the more what a great miracle this was.
ii. Peter had hardly met Jesus, yet he already knew much about Jesus; and because of that he understood some things about himself.
· Peter knew that Jesus was Lord
· Peter knew he was a man
· Peter knew he was a sinful man
· Peter let this make him a humble man
iii. We might say that Peter’s prayer was good, but there is even a better prayer to pray: “Come nearer to me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
c. Do not be afraid: In the grammar of the ancient Greek, this is literally stop being fearful; it calms an existing fear. Peter was afraid of Jesus in the sense of holding Him in such great awe, but Jesus told Him to put away that fear. God wants to relate to us on the principle of love, not the principle of a cowering fear.
d. From now on you will catch men: When Jesus told Simon that he would catch men, He told Simon that he would do what Jesus Himself did. There was never a greater fisher of men than Jesus Himself, but He wanted others to do the work He did. Jesus started with these three, then twelve, then hundreds, then thousands, and millions upon through the centuries.
i. Clarke says that the word catch signifies to catch something alive. That is true evangelism; it isn’t to bring dead people into a building, but to bring real life.
e. They forsook all and followed Him: This seems to mean that they left the miraculous catch of fish behind, because it was not as important as what it showed them about Jesus. It showed them that Jesus was much more than any carpenter, and this caused them to follow Him.
f. They forsook all and followed Him: They followed Him in the way that students followed their teaching rabbi in those days. In some aspects Jesus offered them a traditional education at the feet of a rabbi; in other aspects this was very different from a normal rabbinical education.
i. They started out relatively untrained and uneducated, but Jesus taught them. Their education and training came more upon an apprenticeship model than a classroom model.
ii. “The word ‘follow’ is a technical term in Luke for discipleship (9:23, 49, 57, 59, 61; especially 18:22, 28). As such, it is similar in nature to his term in Acts for following Christ, the ‘way’ (Acts 9:2, 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22).“ (Pate)
B. Jesus heals a leper.
1. (12) The leper begs Jesus for help.
And it happened when He was in a certain city, that behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus; and he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”
a. A man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus: In the ancient world, leprosy was a terrible, destructive disease – and still is in some parts of the world. Being full of leprosy, this man had no hope of improvement, so he came to Jesus with a great sense of need and desperation.
i. “In Palestine there were two kinds of leprosy. There was one which was rather like a very bad skin disease, and it was the less serious of the two. There was the one in which the disease, starting from a small spot, ate away the flesh until the wretched sufferer was left with only the stump of a hand or a leg. It was literally a living death.” (Barclay)
ii. According to Jewish law and customs, one had to keep 6 feet (2 meters) from a leper. If the wind blew toward a person from a leper, they had to keep 150 feet (45 meters) away. The only thing more defiling than contact with a leper was contact with a dead body.
iii. For these reasons leprosy was considered a picture of sin and its effects. It is a contagious, debilitating disease that corrupts its victim and makes him essentially dead while alive. Therefore society and religious people scorned lepers. Rabbis especially despised them, and saw lepers as those under the special judgment of God, deserving no pity or mercy.
iv. Nevertheless, the leper came to Jesus by himself and despite many discouragements.
· He knew how terrible his problem was.
· He knew most everyone thought his condition was hopeless.
· He had no one who would or could take him to Jesus.
· He had no previous example of Jesus healing a leper to give him hope.
· He had no promise that Jesus would heal him.
· He had no invitation from Jesus or the disciples.
· He must have felt ashamed and alone in the crowd.
b. Lord, if You are willing: The leper had no doubt about the ability of Jesus to heal; his only question was if Jesus was willing to heal. This was significant because leprosy was so hopeless in the ancient world that healing a leper was compared to raising the dead; yet this leper knew that all Jesus needed was to be willing.
c. Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean: This leper wanted more than healing. He wants cleansing, not only from the leprosy, but also from all its debilitating effects on his life and soul.
i. Barclay quotes Dr. A. B. MacDonald, who was in charge of a leper colony in Itu: “The leper is sick in mind as well as body. For some reason there is an attitude to leprosy different from the attitude to any other disfiguring disease. It is associated with shame and horror, and carries, in some mysterious way, a sense of guilt…shunned and despised, frequently do lepers consider taking their own lives and some do.”
2. (13) Jesus touches the leper and he is cleansed.
Then He put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him.
a. He put out His hand and touched him: Jesus did not have to touch the leper in order to heal him. He could have healed him with a word or even a thought. Yet He healed the leper with a touch to show compassion to this man thought to be untouchable, and to show that the touch of the Messiah makes men clean instead of receiving their impurity.
i. “On the one hand, He knew that the ceremonial restrictions were abolished in Himself: on the other, He desired to teach that sin cannot defile the divine holiness of the Saviour.” (Meyer)
b. I am willing: By both His words and His touch, Jesus showed that He was in fact willing. He showed the leper more than His power to heal; He also showed His willing and compassionate heart to heal. It is common for people to doubt the love of God more than His power.
c. Immediately the leprosy left him: The former leper’s life was changed forever. He was not only healed, but as he had requested he was also cleansed.
3. (14) Jesus commands the healed man to give testimony of his healing to the priests only.
And He charged him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them, just as Moses commanded.”
a. He charged him to tell no one: Jesus often commanded people to be quiet about a healing or some miraculous work that Jesus had done for them. He did this because He wanted to calm the excitement of the crowds until the proper time for His formal revelation to Israel, which was an exact date as prophesied in Daniel 9.
i. In addition, Jesus’ miracles were not primarily calculated to make Him famous or a celebrity (though they certainly did give testimony to His ministry). More so, Jesus healed to meet the needs of specific individuals and to demonstrate the evident power of the Messiah in the setting of love and care for the personal needs of humble people.
b. Go and show yourself to the priest: Jesus commanded the man to give a testimony to the priests, and what a testimony it was! The Mosaic Law commanded certain sacrifices upon the healing of a leper, and when the man reported it to the priests, they had to perform ceremonies (Leviticus 14) that were rarely (if ever) practiced.
i. “This gift was two living, clean birds, some cedar wood, with scarlet and hyssop, Leviticus 14:4, which were to be brought for his cleansing; and, when clean, two he lambs, one ewe lamb, three tenth deals of flour, and one log of oil, Leviticus 14:10; but if the person was poor, then he was to bring one lamb, one tenth deal of flour, one log of oil and two turtle doves, or young pigeons, Leviticus 14:21, 22.” (Clarke)
ii. Going to the priest also helped to bring the former leper back into society. Jesus wanted the healing of the man’s disease to have as much benefit as possible.
4. (15-16) Jesus’ increasing fame as a healer.
However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.
a. The report went around concerning Him all the more: The news of the remarkable healing of the leper became widely known. Luke doesn’t specifically tell us that the leper himself was responsible for this, but Mark does tell us (Mark 1:44-45). He told many despite the command of Jesus to tell no one.
i. It’s a strange fact that the one Jesus commanded to tell no one told everyone, and we who are commanded to tell everyone often tell no one.
b. Great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities: Jesus had a great following as a healer, but He never seemed to promote or encourage it. The crowds came to hear, and he also healed them.
i. The Messiah’s ministry as a healer was prophesied: Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. (Isaiah 35:5-6)
ii. The presence of so much sickness and disease among Israel was evidence of their lack of obedience to the Sinai Covenant and of their current low spiritual state. God promised that such curses would come upon them if they were disobedient to His covenant (Deuteronomy 28).
c. So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed: In this season of increasing popularity and publicity, Jesus made a special point to withdraw into the wilderness for prayer. The demands of life pushed Jesus to prayer, not from it.
i. “The love in the eyes of God compensated him for the hate in the eyes of men.” (Barclay)
ii. “He made it a frequent custom to withdraw from the multitudes for a time, and pray, teaching hereby ministers of the Gospel that they are to receive fresh supplies of light and power from God by prayers, that they may be the more successful in their work; and that they ought to seek frequent opportunities of being in private with God and their books.” (Clarke)
C. Jesus’ power to forgive and heal.
1. (17-19) Jesus’ teaching is interrupted.
Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them. Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him. And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus.
a. As He was teaching, thatthere were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by: In Capernaum (Mark 2:1) Jesus continued His teaching work and in His audience were religious and spiritual leaders (Pharisees and teachers of the law). Some of them had come from considerable distances (Judea, and Jerusalem).
i. The Pharisees were devoted and zealous, but for many of them religion was focused on an exact outward obedience to the law, and they believed that God only loved those that did as they did.
ii. Pharisees means separated ones. They separated themselves from everything they thought was unholy, and they thought everyone was separated from the love of God, except themselves.
iii. These men were sitting by with critical eyes and hearts, ready to twist and pounce upon some word of Jesus. Yet at least they were there. “We are glad to have these people ‘sitting by’ rather than not coming at all. Being in the way, the Lord may meet with them. If you go where shots are flying you may be wounded one of these days. Better to come and hear the gospel from a low motive than not to come at all.” (Spurgeon)
b. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them: One might saw that whenever Jesus was present, the power of the Lord was present to heal. Yet even in the ministry of Jesus there seemed to be times of a greater demonstration and reception of God’s healing work.
i. There were times when Jesus did not do many miraculous works because of the general unbelief of His audience (Matthew 13:58).
ii. We note that the power of the Lord was present to heal them after Jesus withdrew into the wilderness and prayed (Luke 5:16).
c. They went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus: Because of the crowded room, the friends of the paralyzed man had to lower him down through the roof – certainly, an unusual interruption to a sermon.
i. Through the tiling: The roof was usually accessible by means of an outside stairway, and was made of thatch, dirt or tile set over beams. It could be taken apart, and the friends of the paralyzed man could lower their friend down to Jesus.
ii. This proved the determination and faith of friends of the paralytic. They counted on Jesus healing their friend, because it sure would be a lot harder to bring him back up through the roof than lowering him down.
iii. Spurgeon spoke of the quality of men who would bring a friend to Jesus in such a way: “They need be strong, for the burden is heavy; they need be resolute, for the work will try their faith; they need be prayerful, for otherwise they labor in vain; they must be believing, or they will be utterly useless.”
2. (20-22) Jesus declares the paralyzed man’s sins forgiven.
When He saw their faith, He said to him, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts?
a. When He saw their faith: Jesus looked up at the four men struggling with crude ropes tied to each corner of the stretcher with a paralytic on it. He looked at them and saw their faith.
i. Their faith could be seen. Their bold, determined action to bring their friend to Jesus proved they had real faith. There is something lacking in faith if it can never be seen.
ii. In this account, the emphasis is on the faith of the friends of the paralyzed man. We need to have faith for more than our own needs, but also have faith that Jesus can and will meet the needs of others whom we bring to Him.
b. Man, your sins are forgiven you: We can imagine how the friends on the roof felt. They went to a lot of trouble to see their friend healed of his paralysis, and now the teacher seemed to only be concerned with his spiritual problems.
i. Jesus knew what the man’s real need was, and what his greatest need was. What good was it if the man had two whole legs, and walked right into hell with them?
ii. Jesus did not mean that the paralyzed man was especially sinful, or that his paralysis was directly caused by sin. Instead, He addressed the man’s greatest need, and the common root of all pain and suffering – man’s sinful condition.
c. Who can forgive sins but God alone? The religious leaders used the right kind of logic. They correctly believed that only God could forgive sins, and they were even correct for examining this new teacher. Their error was in refusing to see who Jesus actually was: God the Son, who has the authority to forgive sins.
i. “Again and again during the life of Christ the same dilemma was to re-appear. If he were not divine, then he was indeed a blasphemer; there could be no third way out.” (Cole)
ii. This reminds us that only God can solve our sin problem. We can’t even forgive ourselves, because we don’t have the power and authority to forgive ourselves. We must be persuaded that God has truly and rightly forgiven us in light of what Jesus did at the cross.
iii. “Our rest in the sense of forgiveness is always created by the certainty that it is the gift of the grace of God.” (Morgan)
3. (23-26) Jesus demonstrates the power and authority of God alone.
“Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”; He said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen strange things today!”
a. Which is easier, to say: For men, both real forgiveness and the power to heal are impossible; but for God, both are easy. It is a logical assumption that if Jesus had the power to heal the man’s disease, He also had the authority to forgive his sins.
i. In a way, it was “harder” to heal the man than to forgive his sins, because forgiveness is invisible – no one could verify at that moment the man was forgiven before God. Yet it could be instantly verified whether or not the man could walk. Jesus was willing to put Himself to the test in a way where the results would be immediate.
b. But that you may know that the Son of Man: Jesus often referred to Himself as the Son of Man. The idea was not of the “perfect man” or the “ideal man” or even the “common man.” Instead, it was a reference to Daniel 7:13-14, where the coming King of Glory, coming to judge the world, has the title Son of Man.
i. Jesus used this title often because in His day, it was a Messianic title free from political and nationalistic sentiment. Jesus could have more commonly referred to Himself as “King” or “Christ” but those titles, in the ears of His audience, sounded like “the One Who Will Defeat the Romans.”
ii. Robertson on Son of Man: “Christ’s favourite designation of himself, a claim to be the Messiah in terms that could not easily be attacked.”
c. Immediately he arose: Imagine the tension in this scene. The scribes were tense, because Jesus challenged them, and said He would demonstrate He was the Son of God. The paralyzed man was tense because he wondered if Jesus really would heal him. The crowd was tense because they sensed the tension of everyone else. The owner of the house was tense, because he wonders how much it would cost to repair his roof. And the four friends were tense, because they were tired by now. The only one not tense was Jesus, because He had perfect peace when He said, “arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” At those words, immediately he arose. Jesus’ power to heal and authority to forgive sins was immediately vindicated.
i. Imagine if Jesus had failed. His ministry would be shattered. The crowd would slowly makes their way out of the house. The scribes would smile and say, “He can’t heal or forgive.” The four men would struggle to pull up the paralyzed man who looked more dejected and embarrassed than ever. The homeowner would look at his roof and think it was all for nothing.
ii. But Jesus did not fail and could not fail, because all He needed to heal this man was His word. There is wonderful healing power in the word of Jesus, in the promises of Jesus, for those who come to Him in faith. This man came to Jesus in faith, even if it was on the borrowed faith of his friends.
d. They were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear: Jesus carried the day, and the people were amazed to see the power of God in action.
D. The call of Levi (Matthew).
1. (27-28) A tax collector is called to follow Jesus.
After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.
a. After these things: To this point in Luke’s account Jesus has dealt with a paralytic, a leper, and a demoniac. Now He was ready for a tax collector.
b. A tax collector named Levi…sitting at the tax office: Levi (also known as Matthew in Matthew 9:9) was a tax collector. In that day, tax collectors were despised as traitors and extortioners.
i. The Jewish people rightly considered them traitors because they worked for the Roman government, and had the force of Roman soldiers behind them to make people pay taxes. They were the most visible Jewish traitors with Rome.
ii. The Jewish people rightly considered them extortioners because they could keep whatever they over-collected. A tax collector bid against others for the tax-collecting contract. The Romans awarded the contract to the highest bidder. The man collected taxes, paid the Romans what he promised, and kept the remainder. Therefore, there was great motivation for tax collectors to over-charge and cheat any way they could. It was pure profit for them.
iii. “When a Jew entered the customs service he was regarded as an outcast from society: he was disqualified as a judge or a witness in a court session, was excommunicated from the synagogue, and in the eyes of the community his disgrace extended to his family.” (Lane)
iv. “A Roman writer tells us that he once saw a monument to an honest tax collector. An honest specimen of this renegade profession was so rare that he received a monument.” (Barclay)
c. And He said to him, “Follow Me”: Understanding how almost everyone hated tax collectors, it is remarkable to see how Jesus loved and called Levi. It was a well-placed love; Levi responded to Jesus’ invitation by leaving his tax collecting business and following Jesus.
i. In one way, this was more than a sacrifice than some of the other disciples made. Peter, James, and John could more easily go back to their fishing business, but it would be hard for Levi to go back to tax collecting. “Tax collector jobs were greatly sought after as a sure way to get rich quickly.” (Wessel)
ii. There is archaeological evidence that fish taken from the Sea of Galilee were taxed. So Jesus took as His disciple the taxman that took money from Peter, James, and John and the other fishermen among the disciples.
d. He left all: “This must have meant a considerable sacrifice, for tax collectors were normally wealthy. Matthew must have been the richest of the apostles.” (Morris)
2. (29-32) Jesus is accused of associating with sinners.
Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
a. Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house: Levi (Matthew) gave up much to follow Jesus, but he wasn’t sad. He was happy enough to give a party for Jesus.
i. One reason Matthew gave the party was because he wanted his friends to meet Jesus. A saved man doesn’t want to go to heaven alone.
b. And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples: Their complaint was that they had friendly relationships with notorious sinners, eating at the same table, attending the same feast with them.
i. The accusation came indirectly against Jesus, through His disciples. People often attack Jesus in the same way today, through His disciples.
ii. “Nothing puzzled the religionists of the Lord’s time more than His eating and drinking on terms of familiarity with publicans and sinners. Here He revealed the reason for doing so. He was among men as the great Physician.” (Morgan)
c. Those who are well have no need of a physician: Jesus’ answer was both simple and profound. Jesus is the physician of the soul, and it makes sense for Him to be with those who are sick with sin.
i. Of course His critics were sick with sin also, but they refused to see themselves that way. They thought other people were sick with sin, not themselves.
ii. There are many possible reasons why a sick person might refuse the services of a doctor.
· Perhaps you don’t know that you are sick.
· Perhaps you know you are sick, but you think you will get better on your own – you don’t know that you need to go the doctor.
· Perhaps you know you are sick, and know you need a doctor, but do not know there is a doctor to help you.
· Perhaps you know you are sick, and know you need a doctor, and know there is a doctor, but do not know the doctor can help you.
· Perhaps you know you are sick, and know you need a doctor, and know there is a doctor, and know the doctor can help you, but do not know the doctor wants to help you.
· Perhaps you know you are sick, and know you need a doctor, and know there is a doctor, and know the doctor can help you, and know the doctor wants to help you, but you know what the doctor will tell you to do and you just don’t want to do it.
iii. Jesus is the perfect doctor to heal us of our sin.
· He is always available.
· He always makes a perfect diagnosis.
· He provides a complete cure.
· He even pays the bill!
3. (33-39) Jesus declares that under Him, things are different.
Then they said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink?” And He said to them, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.” Then He spoke a parable to them: “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’”
a. Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? Jesus answered their question with an allusion to the wedding practices of His day. A wedding feast was the most vivid picture of joy and happiness in that culture. During the weeklong wedding feast it was understood that joy was more important than conformity to religious rituals. If any ceremonial observance would detract from the joy of a wedding feast, it was not required. Jesus said that His followers should have this kind of happiness.
i. Basically, they thought Jesus was too happy. When was the last time you were accused of being too cheerful or too happy?
ii. According to Pate, there was a popular rabbinic text called the Scroll of Fasting, and in it was a custom that said that fasting was forbidden on certain specified days devoted to joyous celebration of Israel’s blessings from God. Jesus appealed to this kind of thinking.
b. But the days will come: There would come a day when fasting is appropriate for Jesus’ followers. But at the present time, when Jesus was among them, it was not that day.
i. There is a slight dark note in the words, “the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them.” It was as if Jesus said, “They are going to take Me away; I threaten their system.” It is one of the first slight hints of His coming rejection.
c. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved: Jesus’ point is clear. You can’t fit His new life into the old forms. This explains why Jesus did not begin a reform movement within Judaism, working with the rabbinical schools and such. Jesus says, “I haven’t come to patch up your old practices. I come with a whole new set of clothes.”
i. Jesus formed a new institution – the church – that brought Jew and Gentile together into a completely new body (Ephesians 2:16).
ii. Jesus reminds us that what is old and stagnant often cannot be renewed or reformed. God will often look for new vessels to contain His new work, until those vessels eventually make themselves unusable. This reminds us that the religious establishment of any age is not necessarily pleasing to Jesus. Sometimes it is in direct opposition to His work, or at least resisting His work.
iii. No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one: “Patching up an old garment with a piece of a new garment not only disfigures the new garment, but also causes the old garment to become more ragged than ever, for the new piece has still to shrink and will then pull the old threadbare garment to pieces. Just as fatal will it be to adapt the principles of Jesus to the old systems.” (Geldenhuys)
d. And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, “The old is better”: Just because people are more comfortable with the old, some assume that it is better. Our modern age is more taken with the shiny and new rather than what is old; yet we shouldn’t accept or reject anything simply because it is old or new.
i. Jesus came to introduce something new, not to patch up something old. This is what salvation is all about. In doing this, Jesus doesn’t destroy the old (the law), but He fulfills it, just as an acorn is fulfilled when it grows into an oak tree. There is a sense in which the acorn is gone, but its purpose is fulfilled in greatness.
©2013 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission