What does Luke 5 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
Luke began his Gospel by comparing Jesus' and John the Baptist's early lives and recording Jesus' qualifications for ministry (Luke 1:1—4:13). He then started his account of Jesus' Galilean Ministry (Luke 4:14—9:50). This included a quick introduction of the way Jesus ministered—by expelling demons, healing, and teaching—and a preview of the negative responses He would face (Luke 4:14–44).

Although Luke has carefully placed his Gospel within the context of history (Luke 3:1–2), his record is not meant to be strictly chronological. His "orderly account" (Luke 1:3) is largely thematic. Though biblical scholars have labeled Luke 4:14—9:50 Jesus' "Galilean Ministry," not all of the events occur within the borders of Galilee. The title differentiates this period from Jesus' Travelogue to Jerusalem (Luke 9:50—19:27) and the events that occur in and near Jerusalem (Luke 19:28—24:53).

Having given examples of Jesus' authority over demons, disease, and the message of the kingdom of God, Luke records how Jesus carefully chooses His first disciples. Jesus already met Andrew and Peter on the banks of the Jordan River not far from Jericho (John 1:35–42). Jesus uses Peter's boat to teach. He then instructs him to go into deeper water and fish. The massive haul which results threatens to sink two boats. This obvious miracle causes Peter to repent, leave everything, and follow Jesus. Jesus promises that Peter—and his brother Andrew (Mark 1:16–18)—will now "fish" for men. James and John soon follow (Luke 5:1–11).

Luke next turns to two controversial miracles that begin to reveal who Jesus is. In the first, a man with severe leprosy meets Jesus in a city and asks to be healed. Jesus touches him, the leprosy disappears, and Jesus tells the man to show himself to the priests. Luke has already affirmed Jesus can heal (Luke 4:40). By touching and healing the man, Jesus makes him ceremonially clean: able to enter Jerusalem and worship at the temple, his sacrifices once again acceptable to God (Luke 5:12–16).

In the story of the paralytic, Jesus rewards faith with forgiveness. Four men (Mark 2:3) lower their paralyzed friend through a hole in the roof of a packed house to get Jesus' attention. Jesus sees their faith and forgives the man's sins. When Pharisees and scribes judge the act to be blasphemous, Jesus proves His authority by healing the man (Luke 5:17–26).

Luke continues his pattern of alternating stories and calls to discipleship with Levi, sometimes called Matthew (Matthew 9:9), the tax collector. These men were hated by fellow Israelites for cooperating with the occupying Roman government. Jesus sees Levi at the tax collecting booth and calls him to follow; Levi immediately responds. Levi's repentance echoes Peter's. Levi's invitation to other sinners to meet Jesus reflects Jesus' promise that Peter and the others would fish for people. The setting of the feast draws the attention of religious leaders and will later be the basis of Jesus' comparison of Himself to John the Baptist (Luke 5:27–32; 7:24–35).

Expanding on the analogies between food and spirituality, Luke compares Jesus' willingness to eat with sinners to the inappropriateness of fasting in His presence. During His incarnation—the physical presence of God the Son—it is more appropriate to eat in celebration with repentant sinners than to fast with legalistic religious leaders. The grace inherent in Jesus' message of cleanness, forgiveness, faith, and repentance cannot fit within their legalistic observance of the Mosaic law (Luke 5:33–39).

In the next chapter, Luke masterfully segues. He moves from eating in celebration of the presence of the King to feeding one's own body even if it means a bit of work during the Sabbath. The section on Jesus' countercultural teaching finishes with Jesus loving another by healing on the Sabbath. After Jesus gives His final call to the Twelve, He shows a crowd what everyday discipleship looks like and invites them to base their lives on Him—a call for us as well (Luke 6).
Verse Context:
Luke 5:1–11 records Jesus' first call to specific disciples and the importance of humility for His followers. Andrew and Peter met Jesus before (John 1:35–42) and likely know of Jesus' power and authority (Luke 4:31–44). When Jesus uses that power to directly bless the fishermen, Peter humbly acknowledges his unworthiness. Peter, Andrew, James, and John leave everything to follow Jesus. Luke continues by showing the importance of cleanness, forgiveness in response to faith, and repentance. Matthew 4:18–22 and Mark 1:16–20 also record Jesus' call to the four fishermen but not the fishing; John 21 provides a parallel scene after Jesus' resurrection.
Luke 5:12–16 explains how Jesus heals a man with leprosy. This would have been some serious skin condition, but not necessarily the exact "leprosy" which today is known as "Hansen's disease." Jesus has called His first disciples; now He performs the first of two attention-getting healings. Leprosy was thought to be a curse and came with social and religious stigmas. Jesus breaks tradition by touching the man and healing him, physically and religiously. Next, Jesus will heal a paralytic, but not before declaring the man's sins are forgiven (Luke 5:17–26). The story of the man with leprosy is also found in Matthew 8:2–4 and Mark 1:40–45.
Luke 5:17–26 records Jesus' second miracle after the first call of His disciples. He has already touched a man with leprosy (Luke 5:12–16). Now, He declares a paralytic's sins are forgiven. The scribes and Pharisees question Jesus' authority; even after Jesus heals the man, separation between His followers and His detractors continues to grow. Luke follows the pattern of connecting Jesus' provocative actions with His calls to His disciples until all twelve are chosen (Luke 5:27—6:16). The healing of the paralyzed man is also in Matthew 9:1–8 and Mark 2:1–12.
Luke 5:27–28 describes the second time Jesus calls a disciple. As with the fishermen, Jesus calls Levi at work. The choice is controversial, since tax-collectors were deeply despised. These were typically Israelites who worked for the occupying Romans. The nature of the job lent itself to corruption, so tax collectors often cheated to their own advantage. Jesus dives deeper into controversy by eating with Levi and other "sinners" and rejecting the traditional religious fasts (Luke 5:29–39). Jesus' calls identify His followers (Luke 5:1–11; 6:12–16). His controversies identify His enemies (Luke 5:17–26, 5:29—6:11). Matthew 9:9 identifies Levi as Matthew; Mark 2:13–14 describes him as the son of Alphaeus.
Luke 5:29–32 records the Pharisees' criticism of Jesus' choice to eat with those society deemed immoral. It is the first of four altercations between Jesus and the Pharisees and their scribes: two regarding unseemly celebrations and two in tension with the scribes' extra-biblical regulations for the Sabbath (Luke 5:33—6:11). These four incidents come between Jesus' call of Levi, the tax-collector, and His call of the remaining disciples. The story of Jesus eating with sinners is also found in Matthew 9:10–13 and Mark 2:15–17.
Luke 5:33–39 records the second of four arguments Jesus has with religious leaders in between His callings of Levi (Luke 5:27–28) and the last seven disciples (Luke 6:12–16). The Pharisees couldn't understand why repentant sinners were cause for celebration (Luke 5:29–32). Now people can't understand why Jesus' presence is reason to celebrate and not join in the traditional fasts. After this, Luke records two altercations regarding the true nature of the Sabbath (Luke 6:1–11). The story of fasting and the wine and wineskins is also found in Matthew 9:14–17 and Mark 2:18–22.
Chapter Summary:
Luke 5 continues Jesus' Galilean Ministry (Luke 4:14—9:50). The passage alternates calls to discipleship with miracles and teachings which demonstrate what discipleship entails. Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, and their business partners, James and John, to follow Him and make more disciples. Then Jesus makes a man with leprosy ceremonially clean. He forgives the sins of a paralytic. After He calls Levi to follow Him, Jesus celebrates instead of fasting. This draws critical questions from the crowd. The religious leaders consider Jesus' actions blasphemous. His message of forgiveness, faith, and repentance cannot be contained by their tradition.
Chapter Context:
Jesus has already proved He can expel demons, heal ailments, and reveal the kingdom of God (Luke 4:31–44). In this chapter, He begins to separate His followers from His detractors. This begins with calling the first five disciples and emphasizing faith and repentance over religious tradition. He will drive home the point by treating the Sabbath as a blessing rather than a burden (Luke 6:1–11). After formally inviting the Twelve to follow Him, Jesus will explain to a crowd what discipleship looks like and invite them to build their lives on Him (Luke 6:12–49). In chapter 7, Jesus champions Gentiles and the marginalized.
Book Summary:
Luke was a traveling companion of Paul (Acts 16:10) and a physician (Colossians 4:14). Unlike Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke writes his gospel as an historian, rather than as a first-hand eyewitness. His extensive writings also include the book of Acts (Acts 1:1–3). These are deliberately organized, carefully researched accounts of those events. The gospel of Luke focuses on the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Luke's Gentile perspective presents Christ as a Savior for all people, offering both forgiveness and direction to those who follow Him.
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