Girish Mahajan

Luke 5

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Book  Gospel of Luke
Order in the Bible part  3
Bible part  New Testament
Category  Gospel
Luke 5

Luke 5 is the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The chapter relates the recruitment of Jesus' first disciples and continues to describe Jesus's teaching and healing ministry. Early criticism by the religious authorities is encountered.



  • The original text is written in Koine Greek.
  • Some of the most ancient manuscripts containing this chapter are:
  • Papyrus 4 (c. AD 150-175; extant: verses 3-8, 30-39)
  • Papyrus 75 (c. AD 175-225)
  • Codex Vaticanus (AD 325-350)
  • Codex Sinaiticus (AD 330-360)
  • Codex Bezae (ca. AD 400)
  • Codex Washingtonianus (ca. AD 400)
  • Codex Alexandrinus (ca. AD 400-440)
  • Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (ca. AD 450)
  • Codex Guelferbytanus B (5th century: extant verses 1-4)
  • This chapter is divided into 39 verses.
  • Structure

    This chapter can be grouped (with cross references to other parts of the Bible):

  • Luke 5:1-11= Four fishermen called as disciples (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20)
  • Luke 5:12-16 = Jesus cleansing a leper (Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45)
  • Luke 5:17-26 =Jesus forgives and heals a paralytic (Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12)
  • Luke 5:27-32= Levi the tax collector follows Jesus (Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17)
  • Luke 5:33-39= Jesus is questioned about fasting (Matthew 9:14-17; Mark 2:18-22)
  • Catching fish and people: The first disciples

    Jesus arrives at the lake of Gennesaret, or Sea of Galilee, where he proceeds to preach the "word of God" to the many listeners using Simon's fishing boat as a platform. Afterwards he asks the fishermen to go out fishing again. They are reluctant as they had been unsuccessful during the night before, but following his request they catch a large load and are amazed. Jesus then calls Simon (Peter) and his partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, into his ministry: "From now on you will be catching people."

    The story of the calling of the first disciples is also told in Mark 1:16-20 and Matthew 4:18-22 (Matthew also includes Andrew, Simon's brother), and is expanded by Luke who links it to the miraculous catch of fish. Luke also has already revealed that Jesus had healed Simon's mother-in-law establishing a link between the two.Luke 4:38-39. The calling of the first disciples is related in a different manner in John's Gospel, not in connection with the miraculous catch of fish, with Andrew being the intermediary who brings Simon to Jesus.(John 1:35-42)

    In the final chapter of John's Gospel, the evangelist relates a later miraculous catch of fish, when the risen Jesus encounters seven of his disciples fishing again at the lake. At first, they do not recognize him. Then Jesus asks them to fish on the right side of the boat. They catch a large load and start to recognize who he is. (John 21:1-14)

    Healing of a leper

    Jesus encounters a leper who falls to his face beseeching him directly, "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean" (Vers 12b). Jesus touches him - an unusual gesture as lepers were quarantined according to the Law (Leviticus 13-14) - and heals him: "be thou clean". Healing occurs in an instant. Jesus asks him to present himself to the priest. This will provide an official confirmation of the healing and, along with an offering, comply with the Law. As Jesus is now followed by many who listen to him and want to be healed, he retreats into the wilderness.

    Healing of the paralyzed man

    Jesus is teaching with Pharisees and teachers of the Law in attendance. Luke points out that the members of the religious authorities come from Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. There is a paralyzed man and his friends bring him to Jesus, by lowering him from above through the roof of the house. When Jesus sees the faith of his friends, he declares that his sins are forgiven. In the eyes of the religious authorities Jesus' act of forgiveness represents blasphemy. He knows their thoughts and challenges them: which is easier, to forgive sins or to heal? Anybody could "say" that he forgives sins. Jesus then commands the man to get up, take his mat, and go home. Jesus' instantaneous healing proves his authority to forgive sins. The people praise God, but with the seemingly silent presence of the religious authorities Luke has started to set the stage for the growing conflict. This story is also related in Mark 2 in a shorter version.

    In John 5, Jesus also heals a paralyzed man (at the pool of Bethesda), which brings him into conflict with the religious authorities, because the healing takes place on the Sabbath.

    The calling of Levi

    Jesus calls on Levi, a tax collector, to follow him. Levi does so immediately. Later he arranges for a big feast for Jesus with other tax collectors are in attendance. Pharisees and some teachers of the law complain that Jesus is feasting with tax collectors and other outcasts. Tax collectors are despised as they collaborate with the Romans and tend to enrich themselves. Jesus' answer is that people who are healthy do not need a doctor, he has come to help those who need to repent. This event is also related in Mark 2:13-17 and in Matthew 9:9-13 (here the tax collector is called Matthew)).

    About fasting

    Criticism arises about the conduct of Jesus' disciples, their lack of fasting and praying, - they eat and drink instead. In reply, Jesus likens himself to a bridegroom and his disciples as guests of the wedding feast. Now, while he is still with them, is the time to celebrate, but he also, for the first time in his ministry, points to his death. Fasting will be appropriate when he has departed.

    A double parable

    The response to the criticism about fasting is immediately followed by a double parable where Jesus compares "old" and "new": a new patch of garment is not fit for an old garment, and new wine is not fit for old wineskins. The reasons are clear: tearing a new piece of clothing to fix an old clothing would destroy the new one and may not fit, and using old wineskins that have already been stretched by use may not accommodate new wine that will expand the old wineskin beyond its limits during fermentation, - they bust and all is lost. The parable is also recounted in Matthew 9:14-17 and Mark 2:21-22.

    A traditional interpretation of the double parable is that Jesus' new teaching cannot be accommodated by the old patterns of thought: His ministry differs from the Jewish tradition. This interpretation of the incompatibility of the "New" and the "Old" may go back to Marcion and has also been an argument of later reformers within the Church as well.

    Verse 39

    Jesus proceeds to declare that the old wine is usually preferred to new wine - "the old (wine) is better" - a comment not found in the other two synaptic gospels. This verse gives rise to some difficulty in interpretation. If Jesus is teaching a separation from Judaism, would he say that the old is better? A number of explanations have been given. One view holds that the line does not belong here and should be disregarded or removed, a view taken by Marcion. Another view proposes that Jesus is just pointing out that old and familiar patterns are hard to shed. Another explanation suggests that Jesus is trying to save the Old, and the New refers to the teachings of his critics. Other explanations retranslate the Greek original words differently in an attempt to make sense of the statement.

    A different approach is the proposal not to assume that Jesus is talking about "old" and "new" religious teachings, but about his ways of choosing disciples. So Jesus uses new methods (new clothes) to provide new men (wineskins) with a new message (wine). He does not reject the "Old", but the "Old" is limited and not accessible to everybody. As he starts his ministry he demonstrates that his reach is inclusive, thus he finds the sinners, the rejected, the poor and the sick.

    The interpretation favored by John Calvin looks at old garments and old wineskins as representations of Jesus's disciples. In his Commentary on Matthew, Mark, and Luke he explains that the new wine and unshrunk cloth represent the practice of fasting twice a week. Fasting this way would be burdensome to the new disciples, and would be more than they could bear.


    Luke 5 Wikipedia

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