Refs: NIV Bible
L Morris (Tyndale Commentaries) Luke
M Wilcock (The Bible Speaks Today) Luke
T Wright Luke for everyone
This week we look at 5 further episodes in Luke’s account.
We have already seen that Jesus had developed the habit of teaching in the synagogues and his renown had become so great that people were flocking to hear His teaching in such numbers that He was now doing so outdoors. Jesus is on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, surrounded by a large crowd. The shore here is heavily indented by small bays between rocky headlands, backed by steep slopes. Jesus uses one of these as a natural amphitheatre - from a boat a few metres out into the bay His voice can be clearly heard by those onshore.
Remember last week we saw that in those days teachers sat to teach? Here Jesus does so again, but when He has finished He does something strange. Bear in mind that He is a carpenter, yet He offers advice to the seasoned fishermen whose boat He is in.
Has anyone been to a fishing village and met a fisherman? Can you imagine the kind of reply you would get if you tried to tell him how to fish? But look at Simon’s response – is it civil and, despite being tired after failing to catch anything all night (and despite any fool knowing you can’t catch fish during the day) he agrees to give it a try! It is obvious that this isn’t the first time he has met Jesus, he already knows there is something different about Him.
Well - obedience to Jesus always yields results. In this case a miraculous one!
There are so many fish that the catch is sufficient to swamp two boats and burst the nets! Just look at Simon’s reaction though. Rather than being pleased, while he sees the catch as the miracle it is, he focusses not on that, but on the one who has worked it and the light it shines upon him in comparison. Do you notice anything different about how he now addresses Jesus? What does that tell us about who he recognises Jesus to be?
This recognition is confirmed by his readiness, at Jesus invitation, to give up his way of life, his boat and valuable catch and simply become His follower, as did the other three.
The scene changes, we are back in town when a man with a skin disease in a very advanced stage comes and falls at His feet begging for help. The term “leprosy” was used for many types of skin disease in those days but at their worst meant that the sufferer was ritually unclean, and was literally cast out of society, required to live outside of the city in company only with other unfortunates suffering from similar ailments and to warn off all who unwittingly came near with cries of “Unclean”. At best, caring relatives might leave food for them.
The leper has broken the rules by coming back into the city, but Jesus shows him only compassion. After what has probably been years of isolation, during which time no one would have dared to touch him, Jesus not only affirms His willingness to heal his affliction but puts His hand on him - and immediately he is cured. The book of Leviticus lays down the procedures for dealing with skin disease sufferers and their reacceptance into society on proof of a cure – it is these that Jesus refers in verse 14. His instruction not tell anyone is either ignored or the cleansing is so remarkable as to be impossible to keep quiet (bear in mind those with advanced leprosy often have lost fingers or toes – and Jesus wouldn’t have left those missing!) so still more people flock to Him.
Note how Jesus refreshes Himself, He withdraws to a quiet place and prays – there is a good model or us here.
Again the scene changes. The Pharisees were a group who prized tradition and overly scrupulous observance of the law. For instance, the law said that the name of the Lord was to spoken only with reverence, so the Pharisees forbade its use at all. They were, perhaps, a bit like ISIS in their extreme views and regarded blasphemy as probably the worst sin of all. So, when Jesus is confronted by a paralysed man being let down from the ceiling in front of Him and choses to heal him with the words in verse 20 He incurs their wrath. In their eyes the man must have committed some heinous sin and his paralysis was his just reward, in being healed that sin must have been forgiven and, since the only one who could forgive sin was God, Jesus was claiming to be God – no wonder the people who witnessed it went home saying they had seen remarkable things!
Having recruited the fishermen Jesus now adds another to His growing band of close followers - Levi (also called Matthew).
Levi immediately gives up his work to follow Jesus, clearly he, too, has had previous encounters with Him. The decision Levi makes is more radical than that of the fishermen, for him there can be no going back – we have spoken before about how the right to levy taxes had to bought and no one would consider him for such a role again once he had simply walked away. Levi clearly doesn’t regret it, he throws a party for the only friends he has – the other tax collectors. Outcasts tend to band together. While Jesus is happy to join them, His consorting with such people brings more condemnation from the Pharisees. But Jesus is unrepentant – He has come to save sinners not the righteous (and the self-righteous don’t see themselves as being in need of salvation!)
But the Pharisees have one last pop at Him. “How come your disciples don’t fast?” they ask. Jesus answer is that now is not the time for fasting - that will come later, and here He clearly alludes to His death. But He goes on – the comments about patching clothes and new wine are aimed at the Pharisees, and at all who are too stubborn to accept the new way He offers. Those who seek to accept it only in part, those who want to take the new but to adhere to their old and well-loved practices at the same time or those who simply refuse to try it at all.