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Luke 5:1-16

So they left everything and followed him.

Context

Checking off where Luke has brought us so far, we know that Jesus is the promised Messiah who will bring freedom and redemption to God’s people. The birth of Jesus and of John were both surrounded by acts of God and promises fulfilled and the baptism of Jesus introduced the 30 year old child of Mary as a man approved by God. Ready for ministry and proven to reject the tests of the devil, Jesus began preaching in Synagogues around Judea and people were blown away by his words, saying that he spoke with authority and power. People equally loved his ability to heal and cast out impure spirits. Word of Jesus was spreading fast and he was freely able to speak although not everybody loved what he had to say. This man from a poor family in Nazareth was making an impression on all the people in the country areas of Galilee.

Observation

Structure

  • 1-5 Jesus takes on fishing
  • 6-11 Jesus takes on a fisherman
  • 12-13 Jesus is willing to heal
  • 14-16 Jesus is forced to be a healer

1-5 Jesus takes on fishing

“One day…” We don’t need to know the exact moment of this story and it doesn’t follow directly from the last. It was just one day.

“…by the Lake of Gennesaret…” This is Lake Galilee.

“…the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God.” While he had gained his reputation preaching in Synagogues, people were seeking him out now. We are not given any impression that he drew a crowd to himself but rather than a crowd gathered and he spoke to them. Although Jesus IS the Word of God (John 1:1), it is best to understand Jesus as simply speaking to the people about all that is written in the Scriptures and explaining what it means. We know that his preaching was about the Kingdom of God (Luke 4:43) and that he will use story-telling and parables to persuade his hearers of the truths of the kingdom but he also uses the Scriptures to teach (Luke 4:4, 8, 10, 17-21; 24:27).

“He saw…two boats…got into one of them…” Nothing spiritual to get out of this but they clearly belonged to Simon Peter and his fishing partners James and John Zebedeeson :o) (Luke 5:10). Also that Jesus has previously met Simon (Luke 4:38; 5:5) and so is not simply stealing some boats.

“…put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.” Again, Jesus is just being practical. When the crowd had grown, he saw a good place to preach from – a makeshift platform. See Matthew 13:2.

“…Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” What was Jesus’ motivation here? Surely the answer lies in the end result of the story: that Peter is blown away and ready to leave everything for Jesus! The request was for Peter to get a catch but really Jesus was fishing for Peter. Not such a clever pun when we later hear Jesus use the same joke (Luke 5:10)

“Simon answered, “Master”” Why does Simon call him master (Luke 8:24,45; 9:33, 49; 17:33)? It is a phrase of respect to someone of higher status. It is not the same word Simon uses in verse 8 which means and is translated as ‘lord’. Simon calls Jesus Master several times in the gospel but Lord only in verse 8 after being dreadfully impressed and after the resurrection (Luke 24:34). Jesus is not just a travelling preacher to Simon. They know each other to some extent, Jesus rescued his Mother-in-law from death, and Simon speaks to him with respect and obedience.

The story here had begun as another moment for Jesus to impress a crowd but has turned into a fishing expedition. The question is: what is Jesus doing?

6-11 Jesus takes on a fisherman

“When they had done so…” Not such and incidental phrase. We see in the context of this story that Simon Peter worked alongside other men (5:9) and was a business partner (5:10) but also that what he was willing to do was easily adopted by his workers. This makes Simon Peter a leader.

“…such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.” Note that this is the first of two occasions we know of where Jesus performs a large-fish-catch miracle. The other is recorded in John 21 but they are clearly two different events. We mustn’t merge the two stories together to get an incorrect account but knowing that Jesus did this at the beginning of his ministry perhaps helps us understand something of its repeat after the resurrection. Namely, that Jesus wants the same men to get back to the mission.

“…filled both boats so full that they began to sink.” Talk about overkill! Just a large catch wouldn’t be enough to know that this was a miracle! When Jesus wanted to demonstrate his authority to Peter, he chose to control the very environment that Peter was used to mastering. Jesus not only fired a shot to get Peter but he filled two guns and unloaded the whole magazine on him! I can testify that when Jesus means to call a sinner to himself, he doesn’t mess around.

“When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said…” This is surely the whole reason Jesus sent Peter on this fishing trip! He wanted Peter to surrender his future to him. The reaction from Peter is astounding. He doesn’t just see a clever man but the Lord his God. Now, I’m not suggesting that Peter knew Jesus to be God there and then, but he certainly sees Jesus on a whole different level to himself! He acknowledges that Jesus is sinless. He is blessed and sent and empowered by God.

“…and so were James and John…” While Simon Peter is the focus of this calling, we see that he got not just one but three men who formed the triple centre core of his ministry team (Luke 9:28).

“Don’t be afraid…” Jesus is about to invite Peter on an adventure of a lifetime – he will help change the world! But the show that Jesus just performed for Peter was not to scare him, but to convince him that he will be leaving everything for the right future. Jesus hasn’t come to condemn a sinner such as Peter but to call him to follow.

“…from now on you will fish for people.” ‘Catch’ is the word better used since it pictures living fish being gathered rather than fish approaching a hook and the fisherman waiting for a bite. In a very effective way, Jesus has persuaded a bunch of professional fishermen that they can commit their future to him. He didn’t just ask them to follow him but told them what type of business they will be involved in. He doesn’t ask them at all! He knows that this is what they will do!

“So they…left everything and followed him.” What a picture of discipleship! There comes a point when dancing around Jesus and church needs to change and a person must surrender everything to him. Is this to be taken as a prescription for Christians? That we walk away from everything and become solid disciples of Jesus? No and Yes. No because this is Simon Peter’s story and not a prescription for us. Yes because we are so eager to keep hold of ourselves, our reputation, our identities, our ambitions, our incomes and our self-importance and only give Jesus our thanks and cries for help when needed. A disciple of Christ (any Christian) must ask constantly, what am I refusing to let go of. Or, what do I love more than being a follower of Christ?

12-13 Jesus is willing to heal

“…a man…covered with leprosy.” The only description needed of this man was his illness. Leprosy was a disease which needed to be quarantined. It is a broad term which meant more than what we refer to as leprosy today. See Leviticus 13 for a lengthy description of all sorts of skin diseases and especially 13:45-46 for the religious, social and spiritual consequences. A leper was unclean, unable to engage with God in the Temple and cast away from society. This man was covered in skin disease. When it came to being an outcast, this guy was king.

“While Jesus was in one of the towns….[a leper] saw Jesus…” Begs the question how a leper spotted Jesus while inside the town unless the town was willing to live with men of this illness. Jesus is in the northern remote towns of Judea. It just says something about where Jesus was doing ministry.

“…begged him, “Lord, if you are willing…”” This is a literal example of prayer. A man coming to the Lord and begging to be heard and helped. See Psalm 4 as an example of this. It’s not a man of great faith we are seeing here but a man who is pleading earnestly to a great man of God. “Lord” is simply a term of high respect to someone above your status.

“Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.” I love that he touches him before he answers the question. Picture someone holding out an insect and asking you as a dare, “are you willing to eat this?” and you answer first, “I am willing” and then proceed slowly to touch the insect and your face screwed up in disgust! But Jesus touches the man and then speaks. Are you willing to eat this insect? GULP “You bet”.

“I am willing…” Note that Jesus’ ability is never in question here but simply his desire. If God is willing to heal, he can heal. If God is willing to forgive, he can forgive! Our relationship with God must not be on the basis of whether he is able to do, but whether he is willing and our duty is to come to him in prayer.

“…immediately the leprosy left him.” It’s been noted earlier that Jesus’ ministry is not veiled in half miracles. Even the fishing trip was Jesus blowing the minds of fishermen. Jesus is no two-bit magician or conjurer. He is, and Luke needs us to be confident of this, the Holy One of God.

14-16 Jesus is forced to be a healer

“Don’t tell anyone…” The priority for Jesus at this point in his ministry was not to keep growing his healing ministry. He wasn’t trying to stay unheard of but he had better plans for this man…

“…go, show yourself to the priest…” See Leviticus 14 about the religious response to recovering from a skin disease. Jesus knew the Mosaic Law and did not wish to abandon it. The right response for this man now was to do what is lawful in the eyes of men and God. Jesus told him that doing this is a testimony to the priests. They ought to see what Jesus is doing.

“Yet the news about his spread…” Despite Jesus wanting the man to go discreetly to the priests, the news of this healing could not be contained. Many people flocked to Jesus as a result.

“But Jesus often withdrew…” As noted in the last study, it was important for Jesus to keep connected and meditative with God in order to stick to what is important and true. Jesus demonstrates what it looks like to be determined and stay the path despite the pulls and attention of people.

Meaning

In the midst of a “crowd rush” Jesus honed in on one man to become a committed follower and in the midst of second “crowd rush” Jesus was determined to stay connected and directed by his personal communion with God. He was a man focused on his mission and determined not to be swayed by the whims or motivations of the people. Peter shows us what it looks like to surrender everything to follow Jesus and the leper shows us what it looks like for someone who has nothing to come to Jesus and find life.

Application

  • Topic A: Leaving everything for Jesus. When you think of leaving everything for Jesus do you picture going overseas as a missionary? Or do you picture, rather, regarding no other relationship or thing as more valuable than serving Jesus where you are at? Read Philippians 3:7-11 and consider what “gains” you may be still clinging to. Peter seemed to drop everything and leave it where it was to follow his Lord. He didn’t wait to tie up loose ends or finish something else he had started. Is this the type of response you are making to Christ?
  • Topic B: Praying as pleading. Peter bowed his knees to Jesus and the leper begged him for healing. Psalm 4:1; 27:7; 69:16; 86:7; 102:2. These passages describe prayers as cries for help and pleading for God to listen. They also purvey a trust that God is the only real source of help and the One they can turn to for help. Genesis 4:27 is perhaps the first evidence of prayer to God and it is described as calling on the name of the Lord (to be saved from the curse of sin). Philippians 4:6 tells us to petition God and 1 Peter 5:7 instructs us to cast our worries on God because he cares. All of these help us to treat prayer as a passionate, persistent plea to God for help. Are your prayers directed in this way?
  • Topic C: Gaining everything. The leper was an outcast and destined for an early grave. He could not participate in going to the Temple to worship and offer sacrifices. But he could come to Jesus and he was willing to restore his health and his soul. We can talk about leaving everything for Jesus but we must confess that we gain everything too. This world is passing away and the world trains us to make something of ourselves when the fact is that anything we achieve will be short lived. The chances are that you are not going to be famous or rich or important in the world’s eyes. But you are important to God and knowing him through Jesus is the only reward that is important. Christians call this finding your “identity in Christ” and not in what you can make of yourself. The former is eternal while the latter is like mist (Ecclesiastes). Read Colossians 3:1-4 for our view of everything in Christ.

Prayer of the Week

Lord Jesus Christ, our Master and our friend, thank you for showing us your true nature and allowing us to worship you as Lord of all. We praise you for your love, kindness, power and authority. Help us to forsake all for the pursuit of knowing you. Teach us to walk with you daily and to trust you in all of life’s circumstances. Hear our prayers Lord. Amen.