Welcome aboard for Day 5! We are reading the 24 Chapters in Luke in 24 Days. I am excited that you are involved. Prayers are being said for you as you read.
Today in chapter 5 we see Jesus choosing his disciples, providing a miraculous catch of fish for them, healing a man with leprosy, amazed at the faith of some friends to who tear a roof open to lower their paralyzed friend and hanging out with the so called “wrong crowd.” Its great stuff as usual!
As you scroll down you will find further explanation or commentary for each verse in this chapter. Just read what you would like more explanation about. I love the material Life Application® has published, so there is some of that in each section. The blue underlined portions (5:2) are links to see that particular bible verse, just click on them. Enjoy!
Jesus Provides a Miraculous Catch of Fish / 5:1-11
Some scholars consider this incident to be the same as in Matthew 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20, which record Jesus’ first encounter with the fishermen, Peter, Andrew, James, and John at the Sea of Galilee. Matthew and Mark then describe how Jesus called them to follow him. However, other scholars see Luke as giving an account of Jesus’ second call to these disciples because there are several differences in the accounts. If Luke was recording a second call, the disciples must have gone back to their occupation of fishing in the interim. Some of the disciples did the same after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection (see John 21:1-14).
5:1-3 Jesus continued his teaching tour, and one day . . . was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Word about Jesus had spread everywhere (4:14), so great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. Jesus could stand on the shore and the people could sit on the hillsides to listen. On this occasion, the crowds were pushing in and around him, practically backing him into the lake! Then he noticed two empty boats; the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Nets had to be kept in good condition, so they were washed to remove weeds and then mended in preparation for the next fishing expedition.
Jesus got into one of the boats, called to its owner, Simon (Peter), and asked him to push it out into the water. From this position, Jesus sat and taught the crowds.
5:4-5 Simon had spoken with Jesus and had even been called to be a follower (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20); he had seen Jesus perform great miracles. Even Simon’s own family had benefited from Jesus’ compassion and power (4:38-41). Jesus then suggested that they go out where it is deeper and do more fishing, Simon explained that they had worked hard all the night before and didn’t catch a thing. Night fishing was very common on the Sea of Galilee. Fishing was usually best during the night while the fish were active and feeding closer to the surface where their nets could more easily trap them. If Simon and the others had been throwing out and pulling in nets over and over all night long and had caught nothing, surely they were tired and frustrated. Jesus said, however, “You will catch many fish.” For Simon to answer Jesus, “But if you say so, we’ll try again,” shows deference to Jesus and budding faith in what Jesus could do.
- LIFE APPLICATION – DEEP WATER
- Picture the scene: Simon and other experienced, career fishermen have been trying all night to catch fish. They know the lake, and they know their trade, yet they have caught nothing. Jesus, a carpenter, tells them to move out into the deeper water and try again. Simon and the others must have felt like telling Jesus he should stick to building furniture and leave the fishing to the experts . . . but they didn’t. Instead, they obeyed him. Have you ever been in a situation where you felt that Jesus couldn’t possibly understand your needs? Many acts of service and enterprises for God require moving out into deeper water. Learn a lesson from a bunch of fishermen: Listen to Jesus and obey his commands, however difficult they may be to do.
5:6-7 The words, and this time, occurred after Simon had rounded up his partners and other workers, put the huge net they had been cleaning (5:2) back into the boat, rowed out to the deeper water, spread the net, and then begun to row and draw the net together. Nevertheless, they followed Jesus’ instructions and their nets were so full they began to tear! Simon and his workers began to haul in the catch of fish, but the weight of the nets was too much. So they shouted for help from their partners in the other boat, and pulling together they began to dump the fish into the both boats until they were on the verge of sinking. Obviously this was not an ordinary catch by any standards, judging from Peter’s response in the following verse.
- LIFE APPLICATION- LISTEN TO JESUS
- What a sight this must have been—Simon and the other fishermen, rolling their eyes and thinking they were only humoring Jesus. Suddenly they found their boats sinking under the weight of all the fish they caught! When Simon listened to Jesus the rewards exceeded his expectations—two boats were overflowing with fish.
Following Jesus does not always result in such immediate rewards. But whether the rewards are immediate or eternal, the course of action is clear: unquestioned obedience. What specific areas in your life do not match with God’s will? Acknowledge them, confess and repent of them, and ask Christ’s help in bringing them in line with his purposes. Do what Jesus says, the rewards may surprise you.
5:8 Simon had seen people cured and had heard Jesus’ teachings, but this miracle reached directly into his life and grabbed him. Simon had been fishing all his life. When he saw what Jesus did in supplying such a huge haul of fish, he recognized Jesus as the Messiah. He had called him “Master” in 5:5, but here he called him Lord. Recognizing Jesus’ identity and thus his inherent holiness made Simon painfully aware of his own sinfulness. Simon knew he was looking at the Messiah, and his sin and unworthiness caused him to fall to his knees before Jesus and ask him to leave. Simon realized that he had witnessed a true miracle and did not feel worthy to be in Jesus’ presence or to be the recipient of Jesus’ special favor
- LIFE APPLICATION – DAY TO DAY NEEDS
- Simon Peter was awestruck by this miracle, and his first response was to feel his own insignificance in comparison to this man’s greatness. Simon knew that Jesus had healed the sick and had driven out demons, but he was amazed that Jesus cared about his day-to-day routine and understood his needs. God is interested not only in saving you but also in helping you in your daily activities. But your first step must be to give him your life.
5:9-11 The others with Simon included those who helped on the fishing boats, as well as Simon’s partners, James and John (see Mark 1:19, 29). All were awestruck by the size of their catch. Jesus spoke reassuringly to Simon. Indeed, the central focus of this story is not so much the miraculous catch as it is the picture it gives of Jesus’ call to Simon to be his disciple and begin fishing for people. While James and John also followed, Luke focused on Simon, as he did in much of this Gospel, most likely because Simon Peter figured prominently in the early church (Luke’s second volume is the book of Acts) and because his Gentile readers would have been familiar with him.
When the fishing party landed, they left behind the biggest catch they had ever seen and followed Jesus. Jesus had not come along with them to give them a good catch and a good day’s wage; Jesus had come to change their professions and priorities forever. They understood the picture he had given them of what he was calling them to do, and they left their ships and nets behind and followed. What Jesus told Peter is something He says to each of us who come to Him acknowledging our sin: from now on, life will be different!
- LIFE APPLICATION-LEFT BEHIND
- These fishermen had seen Jesus establish his authority in the synagogue, heal the sick, and drive out demons. With this miraculous catch of fish, he also established his authority in their lives—he met them on their level and helped them in their work. So they left their nets and remained with Jesus. There are two requirements for coming to God. First is recognition of one’s sinfulness. Second is the realization of the impossibility of saving oneself. Those who know that they need help and that Jesus is the only one who can help them are ready to leave everything and follow him. Following Jesus means more than just acknowledging him as Savior. It means leaving the past behind and committing the future to him.
Jesus Heals a Man with Leprosy / 5:12-16
5:12 This man took a great risk when he came near to Jesus because he had an advanced case of leprosy. Leprosy was a feared disease because there was no known cure for it, and some forms of it were highly contagious. Leprosy had a similar emotional impact and terror associated with it, as AIDS does today. (Sometimes called Hansen’s disease, leprosy still exists today in a less contagious form that can be treated.) If a person contracted the contagious type, a priest declared him a leper and banished him from his home and city. This also excluded him from participating in any social or religious activities (according to the law in Leviticus 13–14). The leper went to live in a community with other lepers until the disease went into remission or he or she died. Quarantine was the only way the people knew to contain the spread of the contagious forms of leprosy. Because leprosy destroys the nerve endings, lepers often would unknowingly damage their fingers, toes, and noses. This man with leprosy had an advanced case, so he undoubtedly had lost much bodily tissue. The man believed that Jesus could heal every trace of the disease; he only wondered if Jesus would want to.
5:13 Jesus reached out and touched the man, an unheard of act. The man was an untouchable, a man full of leprosy, the most feared and dreaded and contagious disease known to the world of that day. Yet Jesus condescended, lowered Himself to touch the man. No other man would. The man had been a leper for years, so many years that he was now full of leprosy, a very advanced stage. During all those years no one could help him. He had not been touched by a human hand for so many years, he probably could not remember the softness of a tender touch.
Then he spoke the words, “Be healed!” That Jesus’ touch precedes his pronouncement of healing indicates his sovereignty over the Jewish law not to touch a leper (Leviticus 5:3; 13:1-46; Numbers 5:2). In touching the leper, Jesus became “unclean,” but he did not worry about becoming ritually unclean when he could reassure this social outcast. Jesus also exposed himself to the disease. Most likely no one had touched this man in years. Jesus’ touch showed great compassion. When Jesus spoke the words, instantly the leprosy disappeared.
- LIFE APPLICATION –BEYOND THE LAW
- Certain people may be considered untouchable or repulsive. Believers must not be afraid to reach out and touch them with God’s love. In Jesus’ time, the word ”leprosy” was used to describe a number of diseases, all of which disfigured the person. Since many of the diseases were contagious, the law of Moses forbade touching a person with “leprosy.” But Jesus, confronted with a leper’s request for healing, not only granted the request, but actually touched the man. In so doing, he went beyond what the law prescribed. When you are in a situation where the law of God seems to collide with the love of God, do what Jesus did: obey the law of love. In other words, when in doubt, err on the side of compassion.
5:14 Jesus healed the man, but also gave him two warnings: First, he was instructed not to tell anyone what had happened. Jesus’ mission was to preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God; he did not want the crowds descending on him to see miracles or to benefit from his power.
The law required a priest to examine a healed leper (Leviticus 14). Then the healed leper was to give an offering at the Temple. Jesus adhered to these laws by telling the man to go right to the priest and let him examine him, thereby demonstrating high regard for God’s law. Jesus wanted this man to give his story firsthand to the priest to prove that his leprosy was completely gone. This would allow him to be restored to his family and community. Next the man was to take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy.
The man was not to proclaim his healing, but the priest’s pronouncement would give proof to everyone that the man had been healed. Most important, however, the testimony would reveal that the one who heals lepers had come. People believed that healing leprosy was a sign of the Messiah’s arrival (see Matthew 11:5).
5:15-16 Mark recorded that the man disobeyed Jesus’ warning (Mark 1:45). Thus, the report of Jesus’ power spread even faster. The healed man’s disobedience to Jesus’ command, even if from good motives, hindered Jesus’ work because the publicity Jesus received severely hampered his ministry in the synagogues. Vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases; Jesus’ notoriety as a healer made it impossible for him to teach and speak because people pressed on him, seeking special favors. Instead of enjoying his newfound fame and success (at least according to the world’s standards), Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.
- LIFE APPLICATION- GET ALONE WITH GOD
- Many things clamor for attention, and people often run themselves ragged attending to them. Jesus took time to withdraw to a quiet and deserted place to pray. When facing conflict or troubled times, follow Jesus’ clear example. Strength comes from God, and you can only be strengthened by spending time with him.
Jesus Heals a Paralyzed Man / 5:17-26
This is the first record in Luke of Jesus’ interplay with the Jewish religious leaders of the day. Jesus was making headline news in ancient Israel, so obviously those in religious power wanted to see him for themselves.
5:17 Religious leaders came from every village in all Galilee and Judea, as well as from Jerusalem to listen to Jesus and see if everything they heard about him was true. Mark wrote that this event took place in Capernaum (Mark 2:1).
Two main groups of religious leaders, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, unofficially ran the religious affairs of the country. Although Palestine was occupied by Rome, the Jews had a certain amount of self-government, especially regarding their religion. By far the most influential, the Pharisees zealously followed the Old Testament laws, as well as their own religious traditions. They were highly respected in the community, but unfortunately many became so proud of their “righteousness” that they felt set apart from the common people. They pledged to obey every minute detail, not only of God’s law, but also of all the traditions and rules for life (over six hundred of these details came to be as important or more important than the word of God).
The teachers of religious law were the legal specialists of the day. Many teachers of the law were also Pharisees. They often handled correspondence for people or managed their financial accounts. By the time of Jesus, they had become a fairly powerful class.
Pharisees and teachers of religious law arrived to check out Jesus, and Luke immediately moved to the central point of this narrative, a healing. The Lord’s healing power was strongly with Jesus (for more on Jesus’ power, see 4:14; 6:19; 8:44-46). Jesus was God so his power could flow out to those whom He touched. Healing was one of the key signs of the Messiah (4:18-21; Isaiah 61:1-2). Jesus healed and these religious leaders saw it with their own eyes, but they refused to believe.
- LIFE APPLICATION-BRING THEM TO HIM
- It wasn’t the paralytic’s faith that impressed Jesus, but the faith of his friends. Jesus responded to their faith and healed the man. For better or worse, a person’s faith affects others. No one can make another person a Christian, but a person’s words, actions, and love will give people a chance to respond. Look for opportunities to bring your friends to the living Christ. It will often require the same initiative, creativity, and courage to step out that was shown by these friends.
5:18-19 Jesus was teaching and the building was filled to capacity with people standing outside (Mark 2:2). Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They wanted to gain access to Jesus. When they could not get in, they went up to the roof. In Bible times, houses were built of stone and had flat roofs made of mud mixed with straw. In addition, some homes had stone slabs underneath the mortar mixture—this was probably the case here, for the text mentions tiles. Outside stairways led to the roof. These men carried their friend up the stairs to the roof where they took apart a portion of the roof and lowered the sick man down into the crowd, still on his mat, right in front of Jesus.
- LIFE APPLICATION-PERSISTENCE
- How important is it to you to see your lost friends and family members come to Christ? Most believers would say it’s very important, and they probably pray for them regularly and look for ways to influence them to receive Christ. Luke 5:18-19 tells of some men who were very persistent in bringing a friend to Jesus. They actually took off a section of a roof and lowered their friend through it to where Jesus was. What would you do to introduce someone to Christ? Would you tell your friend about your faith? invite him or her to a worship service or Bible study? pray for him or her daily? How important is it to you to help that person meet Jesus?
5:20 Jesus saw their faith acted out in their determination—the faith of all the men who came, but he spoke directly to the paralyzed man, saying, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Jesus spoke first to the man’s spiritual condition. All sickness and death are the result of evil and sin in the world. That does not mean that a person’s spiritual health can be measured by looking at his or her physical health. It means that every person is sinful and that every person, whether healthy, sick, or paralyzed, needs forgiveness of sins. A healthy spiritual life with God is always far more important than a perfectly healthy body. The man needed spiritual healing, so Jesus forgave his sins.
- LIFE APPLICATION-TRUE FORGIVENESS
- God offers the same forgiveness given to the paralytic to all who believe in Jesus. He paid the penalty that sin deserved and sins can no longer be held against a believer. The guilt caused by sin is removed and replaced with Christ’s righteousness. Believers are so forgiven that, in God’s eyes, it is as if they had never sinned. Do you carry a heavy burden for sins you have committed? Confess all to Christ and receive his forgiveness. He can cleanse your conscience from guilt. He puts away those sins and remembers them no more. Neither should you.
5:21 When the Pharisees and teachers of religious law heard Jesus tell the paralyzed man that his sins were forgiven, they were shocked. “Who does this man think he is?” they asked incredulously. “This is blasphemy!” Blasphemy is the act of claiming to be God or to do what only God can do, as well as to curse, revile, or insult the name of God. In Jewish law, blasphemy was punishable by death (Leviticus 24:16).
Forgiveness of sins was a sign that the messianic age had come (Isaiah 40:2; Joel 2:32; Micah 7:18-19; Zechariah 13:1), and these lifetime students of God’s word should have known this. In labeling Jesus’ claim to forgive sins as blasphemous, the religious leaders showed they did not understand that Jesus is God and that he has God’s power to heal both the body and the soul. Because only God can forgive sins, Jesus was claiming to be God. Unfortunately, these religious leaders’ reaction was anger and hatred, instead of honestly considering that perhaps this man was indeed their Messiah.
- LIFE APPLICATION-WHO IS THIS MAN?
- The Pharisees took God and their beliefs about him very seriously. They saw the miracle Jesus performed but missed the importance of it. Do you ever get sidetracked or distracted by theological arguments or doctrinal disputes? Theology is important. Doctrine is too. But the real issue is: Do you believe Jesus is the Christ?
5:22-23 Jesus did not hear the men’s amazed words, but he knew what they were thinking as part of his divine nature. While Jesus walked as a human on this earth, he never ceased to be God. As a man, however, Jesus was subject to place, time, and other human limitations. Yet he could still see each person’s thoughts, intents, and motives. So Jesus asked them point-blank, “Why do you think this is blasphemy?”
The teachers knew about Jesus’ ability to heal, and they probably had expected Jesus to immediately heal the paralyzed man. Instead, Jesus forgave the man’s sins. To the teachers, this sounded like blasphemy. Anyone can just say someone’s sins are forgiven, but it would take someone with great power and authority to heal a paralyzed person. Jesus would show that he had the power to forgive sins by also showing that he had the power to make a paralyzed person get up and walk. Jesus was offering to do an easier task (healing the man) as public evidence that the more difficult, “secret” task (forgiveness of sin) also had been accomplished.
5:24-25 The implied answer to the question Jesus asked in 5:23 is that it would certainly be easier to just say, “Your sins are forgiven” (who would know whether it had happened or not) than to perform a healing in public view. So to prove that he had power to forgive sins, Jesus showed them his power to heal. Speaking to the religious leaders, Jesus said, “I will prove that I, the Son of Man, have the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Using the messianic title “Son of Man” (Daniel 7:13) gave them no doubt of who he claimed to be.
Turning back to the paralyzed man still lying on the mat in front of him, Jesus said, “Stand up, take your mat, and go on home, because you are healed!” Immediately he jumped to his feet and did as Jesus said. The religious leaders who had questioned Jesus’ ability to forgive sins saw the formerly paralyzed man get up and walk. Such a healing would have been impossible apart from God’s power. There could be no mistaking the connection—Jesus had the power to make the paralyzed man walk; thus, he also had the authority to forgive his sins.
- LIFE APPLICATION – BACKING IT UP
- Jesus said the man’s sins were forgiven, but anyone could say that. How would the Pharisees, or the paralytic himself for that matter, know that what Jesus claimed was true? Jesus offered this as proof: The paralyzed man would stand up and walk, a pretty convincing bit of evidence that Jesus spoke with authority. You don’t have that kind of miracle-working, sin-forgiving authority, but you follow the one who does. Therefore, your life should be consistent with your words. Your actions should back up your claims to belong to him.
5:26 The phrase, everyone was gripped with great wonder and awe, refers to the crowd in the house and implies amazement as well as fear. Such awe was appropriate in the presence of one who displayed the authority to heal and to forgive sins. As a result, the people praised God.
Jesus Eats with Sinners at Matthew’s House / 5:27-32
The next clash between Jesus and the religious leaders revolved around the company he kept. Not only was Jesus not separating himself from distasteful characters, he was seeking them out. Jesus wasn’t accused of accepting sinners as his friends; he was charged with befriending sinners.
5:27 In Mark and Luke, Matthew is called Levi. Most people in this day had two or three names: a Jewish name, a Roman name, and possibly a Greek name. Levi was his Jewish name, Matthew his Roman name. Levi was a Jew who worked for the Romans as the area’s tax collector. He collected taxes from the citizens as well as from merchants passing through town. Capernaum was a customs post on the caravan route between Damascus to the northeast and the Mediterranean Sea to the west. Most Jews hated tax collectors because of their reputation for cheating, their support of Rome, and their constant contact with “unclean” Gentiles. Tax collectors took a commission on the taxes they collected, so most of them overcharged the people and kept the profits.
Everyone in Capernaum knew Matthew, and anyone passing through the city who had to pay taxes could find him easily, for he sat at the tax-collection booth, an elevated platform or bench. This would not have been the first time that Jesus had seen Matthew, for Jesus had often walked along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Certainly Matthew had seen Jesus before and, with the crowds, probably had been impressed and intrigued with this man. So one day when Jesus walked right up to Matthew’s booth and said, “Come, be my disciple!” Matthew lost no time in responding. This was not a request, but a command; not an invitation, but a call to discipleship.
5:28 Levi responded as Jesus would want all his followers to do—he got up, left everything, and followed him. Levi left a lucrative tax-collecting business to follow the Lord. That Levi left everything was no small matter. Matthew was probably very wealthy, so when he walked away from his booth, he left behind a lifetime of potentially great wealth. Several of the other disciples could always return to fishing, but Matthew could never turn back.
5:29 Levi called his friends together to meet Jesus too. He held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor so that his fellow tax collectors and other guests could meet Jesus. This was a crowd that Jesus could not reach in the synagogues, for they had been excommunicated (their profession was seen as traitorous). Jesus loved them and had a message for them too—the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
- LIFE APPLICATION-FRIENDS IN LOW PLACES
- Jesus was criticized for associating with the “wrong” people—sinners, tax gatherers, and undesirables. He offered them God’s love and forgiveness regardless of their social status. Could anyone criticize you or your church for hanging out with the “wrong crowd”? If not, make it a matter of prayer for God to move you into the lives of one or two people who really need to experience his grace and mercy.
5:30 The religious leaders had apparently continued to follow Jesus all the way to Matthew’s house and watched the feast. According to the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law, contact with such scum made a Jew unclean. The Pharisees regarded these people as wicked and opposed to the will of God because they did not observe the rituals for purity which enabled them to eat with others. Thus, to eat and drink with such people was particularly heinous. The Pharisees would have nothing to do with such people. But not so with Jesus. How could Jesus make the claims he did and hang out with the worst elements of society?
5:31-32 The disciples, perhaps wondering about this themselves, brought the question to Jesus. The first part of Jesus’ answer was from a common proverb on the healthy and the sick. Healthy people don’t need a doctor—the physician’s waiting room is filled with sick people. They recognize their need and come to the one who can make them well. The Pharisees were appalled that Jesus ate with sinners and outcasts. Their love of principle and position motivated them to drive a wedge between God’s law and common people. Jesus carried the proverb a step further and explained his messianic mission: “I have come to call sinners to turn from their sins, not to spend my time with those who think they are already good enough.” Jesus was saying, “I am here because these are the people who realize their need and welcome me.” This was Jesus’ audience. Jesus, the Great Physician, healed people of physical illnesses, but he knew that all people are spiritually sick and in need of salvation. He was not lowering the standards; he was reaching out to seeking souls in order to bring them the salvation for which they sought.
Religious Leaders Ask Jesus about Fasting / 5:33-39
By this time, the Pharisees were constantly skirmishing with Jesus. Two confrontations have preceded this section: one over Jesus’ authority to forgive sins (5:17-26) and the other over Jesus’ friendship with unsavory characters (5:27-31). The parables of the cloth and the wineskins (5:37-38) apply to more than just fasting or to the Pharisees; they speak of Jesus’ entire mission and the new era he inaugurated by his entrance into human history.
5:33 John the Baptist’s disciples refers to the remaining disciples of John the Baptist; the disciples of the Pharisees were probably Pharisees-in-training who would observe the older men and attempt to also practice all the rules and regulations. The Pharisees wanted to know why their own followers, as well as those of John the Baptist, would always fast and pray. “Fasting” refers to going without food in order to spend time in prayer. The Old Testament law set aside only one day a year as a required day of fasting for all Jews—the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29). The Pharisees, however, fasted on Mondays and Thursdays (see 18:12) as an act of piety, so their followers did the same. Jesus’ disciples, however, were out of step.
- LIFE APPLICATION-FASTING
- What should be believers’ attitude toward fasting—going without food in order to spend time in prayer? Fasting gives believers time to pray, teaches self-discipline, reminds them that they can live with a lot less, and helps them to focus on and appreciate God’s gifts. Fasting was mandatory for the Jewish people once a year, on the Day of Atonement, and the Pharisees voluntarily fasted twice a week to impress people with their “holiness.” Jesus commended acts of self-sacrifice done quietly and sincerely. He wanted people to adopt spiritual disciplines for the right reasons, not from a selfish desire for praise.
Fasting presents a physical example of the painstaking aspects of spiritual growth. This kind of discipline humbles believers because going without food is a reminder of their complete dependence on God. It also gives them more time to pray and meditate on God. Being willing to devote a mealtime or set aside other major activities to devote time to prayer can be a great exercise of faith.
5:34-35 In the Old Testament, people would fast in times of disaster and as a sign of their humility and repentance. Fasting represented mourning. During that time, the people approached God with humility and sorrow for sin (see, for example, Judges 20:26; 1 Kings 21:27; Ezra 8:21; Joel 1:14; Jonah 3:5). In the New Testament, the Pharisees fasted as a show of piety; the disciples of John the Baptist fasted as a sign of mourning for sin and to prepare for the Messiah’s coming. Jesus’ disciples, however, did not need to fast because the Messiah was with them!
Jesus compared himself to a groom and his time on earth as a time of feasting and celebration. His guests (those who had come to believe in him) did not need to fast while he was with them. Jesus did not condemn fasting—he himself fasted (4:2). He emphasized that fasting must be done at the right time for the right reasons.
Jesus also knew that someday the groom will be taken away from the people, referring to his death. Then they will fast in sorrow. Although Jesus was fully human, he knew he was God and why he had come—to die, paying the penalty for sin.
5:36 Jesus then told the questioning Pharisees a parable—a short story that uses familiar scenes and everyday objects and relationships to explain spiritual truths. Jesus’ arrival on earth ushered in a new covenant between God and people. The New Covenant called for a new way of expressing personal faith. The newness of the gospel could not be combined with the legalism of the Pharisees any more than a piece of cloth from a new garment should be used to patch an old garment. When the garment would be washed, the patch would shrink, pull away from the old garment, and leave a worse tear than before.
Jesus did not come to patch up the old religious system of Judaism with its rules and traditions. His purpose was to fulfill the law and start something new, though it had been prophesied for centuries. The “new” cannot fit with the “old” patterns of thought. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, came to earth to offer people forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God. The gospel did not fit into the old rigid legalistic system of religion. The gospel offered grace; Judaism offered law and rule keeping.
5:37-38 In Bible times, people would store wine in goatskins sewn around the edges to form watertight bags (called wineskins). New wine expands as it ferments; thus new wine must be put into new wineskins. Old wineskins would become brittle and wouldn’t stretch anymore; if someone put new wine into an old wineskin, the old wineskin would burst and spill the wine.
The Christian church was never meant to be a sect or adaptation of Judaism. Instead, Christ fulfills the intent of the Old Testament Scripture. The law reveals the nature and will of God; Jesus Christ reveals the nature and will of God. But while the law could only point out sin and condemn people, Jesus Christ gave his life to bring forgiveness of sin and salvation. These parables speak of Jesus’ entire mission and the new era he inaugurated by his entrance into human history.
The new wine was the newness of the gospel as exemplified in the person of Jesus Christ (John 2:1-11). Like old wineskins, the Pharisees and indeed the entire religious system of Judaism had become too rigid to accept Jesus who could not be contained in their traditions or rules. Their understanding of faithfulness to the law had become unsuitable for the fresh, dynamic power of Christ’s message. They were the self-appointed guardians of the “old garment” and the “old wineskins.”
- LIFE APPLICATION – CHANGE?
- How do you react to change? Do you welcome it, fear it, embrace it, run away from it? The church is an institution with a tremendous heritage and tradition, much of it going all the way back to Jesus and the apostles, and some of it going back beyond that to the Old Testament forebears. These traditions should be respected but not worshiped, only Jesus is worshiped. Jesus said as much in Luke 5:36-38, when he said that new wine must be put into new wineskins. Give yourself a quick mental examination: How often do you say things like “That will never work” or “That’s not what I’m used to.” If those words sound familiar, you may need to ask God to start allowing him to work in your life and the life of your church in new and fresh ways.
5:39 Jesus could have quoted another well-known parable for our day, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Jesus realized that many people are so content with the old wine that they don’t even want to try the new wine. “The old is better,” they say. Many tragically stick with the good when God wants to give them the best. Many of the Pharisees would investigate Jesus’ teaching but cling to the old traditions. Many who check out Christianity will reject it, preferring their old ways. Loyalty to the old life may prevent people from believing and certainly will keep them from growing.
Thanks for being a part of this, please feel free to post anything God is teaching you. I would love to hear from you. Until tomorrow, Darrell
Sources: Life Application Bible Commentary, Life Application Concise New Testament Commentary, Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible Commentary, Teacher’s Commentary
For more about The Ridge Fellowship or Darrell Koop, go to www.ridgefellowship.com