Luke 5

Jesus calls the first disciples, notably Peter. Jesus cleanses a leper. He forgives the sin of a paralytic and heals him, claiming God’s authority and prerogative to do so. The Pharisees and teachers of the law object to his ability to forgive sins. Jesus calls Levi. Questions about fasting: John’s disciples fast; Jesus’s disciples do not.

As I say in every chapter:

This commentary and entire website is for everyone, but it is mainly for those in oppressed or developing countries, where Christians cannot afford or have access to wonderful Study Bibles or commentaries. I hope it helps them.

The translation is mine. I wrote it to learn what the Greek text really says. The translation tends to be literal, but complete literalism and readability are impossible, so adjustments had to be made. If readers don’t read Greek, they can ignore the left side of the tables. I include the language to check my work and for Greek readers, who can also check my translation.

If you would like to see other translations, please go to The Greek terms with brief definitions can be looked up at However, I hope to bring different nuances to the few words I focus on. And I keep things nontechnical.

The commentary has a practical application (GrowApp) at the end of each section of Scripture, for discipleship.

Links are provided for further study.

Let’s begin.

Launching Out in Faith and a Miraculous Catch of Fish (Luke 5:1-11)

1 Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ τὸν ὄχλον ἐπικεῖσθαι αὐτῷ καὶ ἀκούειν τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν ἑστὼς παρὰ τὴν λίμνην Γεννησαρὲτ  2 καὶ εἶδεν δύο πλοῖα ἑστῶτα παρὰ τὴν λίμνην· οἱ δὲ ἁλιεῖς ἀπ’ αὐτῶν ἀποβάντες ἔπλυνον τὰ δίκτυα. 3 ἐμβὰς δὲ εἰς ἓν τῶν πλοίων, ὃ ἦν Σίμωνος, ἠρώτησεν αὐτὸν ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς ἐπαναγαγεῖν ὀλίγον· καθίσας δὲ ἐκ τοῦ πλοίου ἐδίδασκεν τοὺς ὄχλους.

4 Ὡς δὲ ἐπαύσατο λαλῶν, εἶπεν πρὸς τὸν Σίμωνα· ἐπανάγαγε εἰς τὸ βάθος καὶ χαλάσατε τὰ δίκτυα ὑμῶν εἰς ἄγραν. 5 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς Σίμων εἶπεν· ἐπιστάτα, δι’ ὅλης νυκτὸς κοπιάσαντες οὐδὲν ἐλάβομεν· ἐπὶ δὲ τῷ ῥήματί σου χαλάσω τὰ δίκτυα. 6 καὶ τοῦτο ποιήσαντες συνέκλεισαν πλῆθος ἰχθύων πολύ, διερρήσσετο δὲ τὰ δίκτυα αὐτῶν. 7 καὶ κατένευσαν τοῖς μετόχοις ἐν τῷ ἑτέρῳ πλοίῳ τοῦ ἐλθόντας συλλαβέσθαι αὐτοῖς· καὶ ἦλθον καὶ ἔπλησαν ἀμφότερα τὰ πλοῖα ὥστε βυθίζεσθαι αὐτά.

8 Ἰδὼν δὲ Σίμων Πέτρος προσέπεσεν τοῖς γόνασιν Ἰησοῦ λέγων· ἔξελθε ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ, ὅτι ἀνὴρ ἁμαρτωλός εἰμι, κύριε. 9 θάμβος γὰρ περιέσχεν αὐτὸν καὶ πάντας τοὺς σὺν αὐτῷ ἐπὶ τῇ ἄγρᾳ τῶν ἰχθύων ὧν συνέλαβον, 10 ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ Ἰάκωβον καὶ Ἰωάννην υἱοὺς Ζεβεδαίου, οἳ ἦσαν κοινωνοὶ τῷ Σίμωνι. καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς τὸν Σίμωνα ὁ Ἰησοῦς· μὴ φοβοῦ· ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν ἀνθρώπους ἔσῃ ζωγρῶν. 11 καὶ καταγαγόντες τὰ πλοῖα ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν ἀφέντες πάντα ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ.

1 And so it was that while the crowds pressed around him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret. 2 He saw two boats sitting by the lake. The fishermen left them and were washing the nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to push out a little. Then he sat down, and from the boat he began teaching the crowds.

4 When he finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Launch out to the deep and let down your nets for a catch!” 5 In reply, Peter said, “Master, we have worked hard the whole night and caught nothing! But at your word, I’ll lower the nets!” 6 After they did this, the nets closed up around a large number of fish, and their nets were about to tear. 7 Then they signaled to their partners in the other boat, to come out to help them. They came and filled both boats, so that they were about to sink.

8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus, saying, “Depart from me, because I am a sinful man, Lord!” 9 For fear overcame him and everyone with him at the catch of fish which they caught. 10 Likewise also for James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t fear. From now on, you shall be catching people alive!” 11 When they brought up their boats on to the land, they left everything and followed him.


In Luke 4:38-41, Jesus and Simon knew each other, and Simon witnessed miracles. But here in this wonderful section, they seem not to know each other. Luke, the inspired author, is entitled to rearrange his story. Luke 4 foreshadowed the more intimate knowledge Peter was about to acquire about his Lord. Alternatively, Peter may have come to know Jesus in Luke 4, and his witnessing all the healings prepared his heart to obey the Lord’s command to launch out into the deep. Alternatively, Peter may have needed to process what he was witnessing and needed his own miracle before he surrendered and repented. He got one: a miraculous catch of fish. As a fisherman, this miracle spoke to him and convinced him.

Some interpreters believe that this section is a commissioning, not just a calling.


Jesus already had a widespread fame on the west side of the lake of Galilee. A healing and deliverance ministry will draw the crowds.

“word”: it is the Greek noun logos (pronounced loh-goss and is used 330 times in the NT). Since it is so important, let’s explore the noun more deeply, as I do in this entire commentary series.

It is rich and full of meaning. It always has built into it rationality and reason. It has spawned all sorts of English words that end in –log-, like theology or biology, or have the log– stem in them, like logic.

Though certain Renewalists may not like to hear it, there is a rational side to the Word of God, and a moment’s thought proves it. The words you’re reading right now are placed in meaningful and logical and rational order. The Bible is also written in that way. If it weren’t, then it would be nonsense and confusing, and we couldn’t understand the gibberish. (Even your prophecies have to make logical and rational sense on some level.) Your Bible studies and Sunday morning sermons have to make sense, also. Jesus’s words also have Bible-based logic and rational argumentation built into it. People need to be ministered to in this way. God gave us minds and brains and expects us to use them. Your preaching cannot always be flashy and shrieky and so outlandishly entertaining that people are not fed in the long term. Movements like that don’t last over the years without the Word. I have observed this from firsthand experience in certain sectors of the Renewal Movement.

People have the deepest need to receive solid teaching. Never become so outlandishly supernatural and entertaining that you neglect the reasonable and rational side of preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible. Yes, Luke-Acts is very charismatic, but it is also very orderly and rational and logical.

On the other side of the word logos, people get so intellectual that they build up an exclusive Christian caste of intelligentsia that believe they alone can teach and understand the Word. Not true.  Just study Scripture with Bible helps and walk in the Spirit, as they did in Acts. Combining Word and Spirit is the balanced life.

Here Jesus was discoursing and speaking about the kingdom of God—though the text does not “kingdom”—but no doubt he explained to them the basic teachings that get unfolded in the rest of the Gospel.

“Gennesaret”: it is the Lake of Galilee and comes from OT Hebrew “Kinnereth” for this same lake (see Num. 34:11).


Jesus just did not commandeer the boats while they were in use. “Get out!” No, they were sitting on the shore. So he got in Simon’s boat when it was idle on the shore and told him to push him out a little I used “push out,” but “put out” is a little closer. A boat from the first century was dragged out of the mud in the shallows of the Lake of Galilee, and archeologists named it the “Jesus boat” (you may google it).

“He sat down”: that is the normal posture of a teacher back then. But there is a practical matter. Don’t rock the boat—literally!

“teaching”: It is the verb didaskō (pronounced dee-dah-skoh, and our word didactic is related to it). The verb means to instruct or tell or teach (BDAG), sometimes in a formal setting like a classroom or another confined setting, other times in a casual setting. Here he was in a formal setting, the synagogue. He spoke with authority, unlike the teachers of the law and Pharisees (Luke 4:32; Matt. 7:28-29). This is what the Spirit does through a surrendered heart and mind. It was his habit and custom to enter their synagogues and teach the people (see 4:15). He combined a teaching and healing ministry. His insight into Scripture was profound. This is what the Spirit does through a surrendered heart and mind. Some Renewalists of the fiery variety don’t teach, but evangelize and shriek and freak, after they read one verse or two, and put on a show. How much time do they put in to study the Word? Jesus had a full ministry:  teaching, healing, miracles, and deliverances.


Jesus was so confident in his miraculous powers that he could tell Simon, the experienced fisherman, that he was about to get a catch. Sometimes you got to believe it before you see it.


“Master”: it is the noun epistatēs (pronounced eh-pea-stah-tayss), and it literally means “over-stander” or “he who stands over” (think of our “overseer” or “he who watches over”). Luke alone uses this word: 5:5, 8:24 (twice), 8:45, 9:33, 9:49, 17:13. The NIV always translates it as “master.” It denotes a person of high status and leadership.

It just wouldn’t work. Peter was a man of nature, a man of the water. He and his partners worked all night and caught nothing. So why would it happen now? Peter stopped and reasoned for a second. Okay, okay! At the word of Jesus, he would do it, even though he was exhausted from the nighttime labor. It is a sure thing that Simon Peter never saw a miracle like this, since they reacted so strongly. It is a miracle that is tailor-made for fishermen. They understood that two boats just don’t fill up to the point of sinking without the miracle of God.

“word”: the noun here is rhēma (pronounced ray-mah), and the rhē– stem is related to speaking, and the –ma suffix means “the result of.” So combined, the noun means a “spoken word” (though it does not always mean that in every context and is sometimes synonymous with logos). Nonetheless, here Jesus had spoken a word to Peter, and the man obeyed it.


I like what Commentator Morris writes: “Obedience brings results! Peter and his friends let down the nets and enclosed a great shoal of fish” (comments on vv. 6-7, emphasis original).

I wonder whether Jesus got a “word of knowledge” that this catch of fish would happen, or whether he just made it happen because he was God in the flesh, a reality we do not share. He and his Father were in perfect cooperation, and he heard from his Father perfectly, so he and the Father worked this nature miracle. The Father through the Spirit can also give us knowledge about nature miracles; that is, he is willing to work them.

5. Gifts of the Spirit: Workings of Miracles

2. Gifts of the Spirit: Word of Knowledge

We should pray for natural miracles, particularly ones that provide food for people. Jesus was Lord back then, and he is Lord today. He can still work them. There are many miracle stories about soup kitchens not running out of food until the last person is fed. But please note that Peter had all the equipment that could contain the miracle—the boat and the net and practical actions. He pushed out to the deeper water. If you want a miracle, you got to move into the deep, spiritually speaking. You need child-like faith to believe God for a miracle, but to receive the miracle you need to understand the deep things of God, or else you will not be able to handle it. To get his miracle, he had to lower the net. Then the nets began to tear, and he needed help, next verse:


I like to imagine the signals Peter gestured to his partners. No doubt they saw what was happening and either stood there gawking or been on the verge of launching the second boat. Simon’s signals prompted them to act. The school of fish must have stayed put for the men in the second boat to lower their net so their boat also was about to sink. Clearly this was a nature miracle of the first order.


Luke compressed the time, for in the next scene Peter is falling at the knees of Jesus. The (future) apostle either leaped out of the boat and swam to shore and let his partners do the work, or he rowed the boat ashore and then kneeled before his master. Either way, Luke, the infallibly inspired author, is allowed to arrange the sequence of events as he saw fit.

Did Peter embrace Jesus’s knees? The verse is silent. But it is a moving scene. Peter reacted as he felt it. He was not worthy to stand in the presence of such a remarkable man. The fisherman knew what level of miracle this was. He usually reacts with his emotions, sometimes excessively. From here throughout the Gospel and the first fifteen chapters of Luke-Acts, I picture Peter as husky and bold. I admire him.

“sinful”: it is the adjective hamartōlos (pronounced hah-mahr-toh-loss and used 47 times and 18 times in Luke), and it means as I translated it. It is someone who does not observe the law, in this context. But here Peter also felt his sin—he was sinful. Peter was a Jew, so he was not ethnically outside of the covenant people. However, let’s explore the term more thoroughly.

BDAG defines the adjective as follows: “pertaining to behavior or activity that does not measure up to standard moral or [religious] expectations (being considered an outsider because of failure to conform to certain standards is a frequent semantic component. Persons engaged in certain occupations, e.g. herding and tanning [and tax collecting] that jeopardized [religious] purity, would be considered by some as ‘sinners,’ a term tantamount to ‘outsider.’” Non-Israelites were especially considered out of bounds [see Acts 10:28].)” “Sinner, with a general focus on wrongdoing as such.”  “Irreligious, unobservant people.” “Unobservant” means that he did not care about law keeping or observing the law.

Do you fail to conform to certain standards? Maybe you did break the demands of moral and religious law. Pray and repent, and God will accept you.

Let’s look at the related noun hamartia (pronounced hah-mahr-tee-ah). A deep study reveals that it means a “departure from either human or divine standards of uprightness” (BDAG, p. 50). It can also mean a “destructive evil power” (ibid., p. 51). In other words, sin has a life of its own. Be careful! In the older Greek of the classical world, it originally meant to “miss the mark” or target. Sin destroys, and that’s why God hates it, and so should we. The good news: God promises us forgiveness when we repent.

Bible Basics about Sin: Word Studies

Human Sin: Original and Our Committed Sin

“Lord”: this is the standard noun for Lord: kurios (pronounced koo-ree-ohss). See my post on this title, which in many contexts has the connotation of the Lord God of the OT.

5. Titles of Jesus: The Lord

Luke is signaling his readers that this is high Christology.


“fear”: it is the noun thambos (pronounced tham-boss), and it combines astonishment and fear and is used only here and in Luke 4:36 and Acts 3:10, so it seems only Luke liked the word, but not very often. In Greek older than the NT, it meant “astonishment” and “amazement” (Liddell and Scott), but it is easy to see that in this context, fear and amazement would come upon the original viewers of this miracle. There is nothing wrong with that emotion hitting you right between the eyes when it is a reaction towards God, not your circumstances. Fear God and live (Deut. 6:24). Fear your circumstances and cower. You choose which option is best (the first one)

“overcame”: it is the verb periechō (pronounced peh-ree-eh-khoh), and peri– means “around” and echō is the standard verb for “have, hold.” So fear and amazement surrounded and took hold of him and them. See my comments on the next verse. Don’t allow fear to paralyze you.

Bock: In Peter’s reaction and the huge catch of fish, “Grace is at work. An unworthy Peter and his companions receive and observe the benefits of a gracious God through his agent. They re overwhelmed. Thus, the awe that is in view here is focused first of all on the visit of a holy God—much like Elizabeth’s awe in 1:43. Holiness and awesome knowledge are displayed in God’s working through Jesus. Second awe is fueled by the recognition that this God would be so kind to them in providing the bountiful catch. Third, the catch also points to Jesus’ greatness and power … Jesus is the agent of God’s beneficence” (p. 460).


Luke says, almost in passing, that fear and amazement also overcame James and John. I like how he mentions that they were Peter’s partners. This was a business venture, a business partnership. But where is Andrew, Peter’s brother? As it happens, the highly abbreviated parallel accounts show Andrew was there (Matt. 4:18-22 // Mark 1:16-20). However, Luke’s focus was on Peter, and he puts in parentheses James and John. But the partnership, surely between the two pairs of brothers, fits the logic of history. It is hard to believe that these men who lived close by each other did not know each other. And sure enough, they did. A wonderful little detail.

“do not fear”: this is the typical verb for fear: phobeomai (pronounced foh-beh-oh-my). It can mean “afraid” or “awe.” Jesus reassures Peter in the same way that the angel offered in the infancy narrative (1:13, 30; 2:1; and see Acts 18:9; 27-23-24; see Gen 21:17; 26:24; 28:13).

Let’s become a little more definite. BDAG defines the verb as follows: (1) “to be in an apprehensive state, be afraid”; people can become “frightened.” “Fear something or someone.” (2) “to have a profound measure of respect for, (have) reverence, respect”; a person like God or a leader can command respect.

The Shorter Lexicon says adds nuances (1) “be afraid … become frightened … “fear something or someone” (2) “fear in the sense of reverence, respect.”

Remember, Peter fell at Jesus’s knees. Maybe his fear paralyzed him. So no doubt the Lord touched his shoulder or head and commanded him not to fear.

“In Jesus’ presence, Simon need not fear the Holy. After his confession, Jesus does not speak forgiveness but of his ‘future service.’ Jesus does not flee from sinners but seeks them out (19:10), recruits them (5:27), and saves them (19:9). Simon remains a sinner but one who is commissioned to gain other sinners” (Garland, comment on 5:10).

“people”: it is the Greek noun anthrōpos (pronounced ahn-throw-poss), and even in the plural some interpreters say that it means only men. However, throughout the Greek written before and during the NT, in the plural it means people in general, including womankind (except rare cases). In the singular it can mean person, depending on the context. In Luke 2:25; 4:33; 6:6; 7:8, for example, the context says one man or male. So “person” or “people” or “men and women” (and so on) is almost always the most accurate translation, despite what more conservative translations say.


After such a miracle, it was psychologically probable that they would leave everything. So Peter, James and John (and Andrew) left everything—what about everyone? How did Peter’s wife feel about this? Did she say, “Just don’t leave the area!” No doubt she was in the crowds and saw the miraculous catch. If so, she must have realized that this was the right thing for him to do. But did she cry some tears? We don’t know. But later on she did accompany him on his ministry tours (1 Cor. 9:5).

“catching people alive”: it is the verb zōgreō (pronounced zoh-greh-oh), and it is a shock to see it here. In 2 Tim. 2:26 it means the devil snares people, and it is used only in those two verses. In the Greek long before the NT, it comes in the context of hunting and war, for capturing and sparing the captured men. When Peter and the others capture men and women alive, they will show them new life in Christ. The main image of the verb is that Peter and others have just been launched on a rescue mission, a rescue from danger, to save alive (Num. 31:15; Deut. 20:16; Josh. 2:12) (Bock, vol. 1, p. 461). So it could be translated as “capturing alive.”

Fisherman imagery: Jer. 16:16; Ezek. 29:4-5; Amos 4:2; Hab. 1:14-17 (Bock, ibid.). By catching people alive and letting them flop around in the bottom of the boat, Peter and the others are following a prophetic calling.

“people”: the noun is anthrōpos (pronounced ahn-throh-poss), and in Greek it is generic for humankind, so it includes women, like our word mankind includes them, too.

“Most transparent is the nexus [connection] between catching fish and proclaiming the word: success in fishing, under Jesuss authority, is a prophetic symbol for the mission in which Peter and the others will participate, while Jesus himself, in his word and miraculous deed, is himself engaged in ‘catching’” (Green, comment on vv. 1-3).

Peter begged Jesus to depart from him because Peter was a sinful man. “Instead of having his wish granted that Jesus depart from him, Simon ends up following him … ‘The same power that prompted Simon to fall at Jesus’ knees now lifts him into God’s service’” (Garland, quoting Craddock in his commentary).

GrowApp for Luke 5:1-11

A.. Jesus asked for one of Peter’s boats. What material object have you had to surrender to the Lord? How did you feel? What happened?

Jesus Heals a Man with Skin Disease (Luke 5:12-16)

12 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτὸν ἐν μιᾷ τῶν πόλεων καὶ ἰδοὺ ἀνὴρ πλήρης λέπρας· ἰδὼν δὲ τὸν Ἰησοῦν, πεσὼν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον ἐδεήθη αὐτοῦ λέγων· κύριε, ἐὰν θέλῃς δύνασαί με καθαρίσαι. 13 καὶ ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα ἥψατο αὐτοῦ λέγων· θέλω, καθαρίσθητι· καὶ εὐθέως ἡ λέπρα ἀπῆλθεν ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ. 14 καὶ αὐτὸς παρήγγειλεν αὐτῷ μηδενὶ εἰπεῖν, ἀλλ’ ἀπελθὼν δεῖξον σεαυτὸν τῷ ἱερεῖ καὶ προσένεγκε περὶ τοῦ καθαρισμοῦ σου καθὼς προσέταξεν Μωϋσῆς, εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς. 15 διήρχετο δὲ μᾶλλον ὁ λόγος περὶ αὐτοῦ, καὶ συνήρχοντο ὄχλοι πολλοὶ ἀκούειν καὶ θεραπεύεσθαι ἀπὸ τῶν ἀσθενειῶν αὐτῶν· 16 αὐτὸς δὲ ἦν ὑποχωρῶν ἐν ταῖς ἐρήμοις καὶ προσευχόμενος. 12 And so it happened that while he was in one of the towns, look! A man full of skin disease! When he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can cleanse me!” 13 He reached his hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing. Be cleansed!” And instantly his skin disease left him. 14 And he commanded him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest and bring an offering for cleansing, just as Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.” 15 The report about him spread around all the more. Great crowds were coming together to listen and to be healed from their illnesses. 16 But he was withdrawing into the deserted places and praying.



As I noted in my commentary on Matthew 8:1-4, the standard translation is leprosy, and healing this disease was one of the signs that the Messiah had come. Scholars nowadays say the word was generic for skin diseases. Let’s call the man “leper” for convenience.

A leper was required by law to wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face, and cry out “Unclean! Unclean!” in order not to contaminate someone else (Lev. 13:45).

45 “Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ 46 As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp. (Lev. 13:45)

Skin Disease, Mold in Leviticus 13, 14 from a NT Perspective

“look”: this is a new translation for the old “behold!” Luke intends to grab our attention.

This leper was clearly desperate. It makes me wonder how desperate we get when our need is great. Are we casual, or do we fall on our face? He simply knew that Jesus was his answer. He had heard the reports about him, and now he fell on his face before his healer.

“if you are willing”: it could simply be translated “if you want to.” He asked for his specific need to be met. He did not hesitate to clarify his need. In other cases, Jesus asked what the disabled or blind person wanted (Luke 18:41). Sometimes the answer is not always clear, for the sick can get used to being a victim. Blind Bartimaeus (unnamed in Luke) shouted out his need for a miracle, as this leper did (Luke 18:35-43).

“look!” It used to be translated as “behold!” It is the storyteller’s art to draw attention to the people and action that follows. “As you, my audience, sit and listen to me read this Gospel, listen up! Look! A man with skin disease interrupts the flow of Jesus’s progress to his next stop!” Professional grammarians say that when “look!” introduces a character, then he or she will play a major role in the pericope (pronounced puh-RIH-coh-pea) or section. (That’s the case here.) Alternatively, when a verb follows “look!” then a significant act is about to take place and the person or people are less significant (Culy, Parsons, Stigall, p. 21).


Jesus’s response was perfect. He reached out his hand and touched him. God did that in the OT: Exod. 3:20; 6:6; 7:15; 9:15; 15:12; Deut. 4:34; 5:15; 7:19; 11:2; 2 Kings 17:36; Ps. 136:12; Jer. 32:21). Jesus was simply following his Father’s example. “Jesus answers with a gentle touch. The stretch of the hand depicts physically his willingness to respond to the request. The leprous man is not sent away nor is he warned about coming near to Jesus. Rather, he hears and feels Jesus’ tender touch (7:14; 13:13; 18:15; 22:51). Jesus’ word would have been sufficient, but his touch confirms his care. So Jesus touches the man, despite the tradition that said such an act would render him unclean (Lev. 14:46…)” Bock, p. 474).

One reason that a leper was required to call out “Unclean! Unclean!” is that he must not touch and so defile anyone else. The leper did not touch Jesus; Jesus touched him, unconcerned for his own health. How could a skin disease get transferred to Jesus when he had healing power flowing from him? This power pushed the disease backwards. He was the healing Lord, not the possible victim.

“I am willing”: this could be simply translated, “I want to.” Now the question comes up, Is Jesus willing to heal my sickness? And the answer is he is willing. God and disease don’t mix. Where God is, diseases have to flee. No disease in heaven, for example.

Then this question comes up, then why did God not heal my loved one? He died! Answer: we live on planet earth, and disease temporarily has a right to be here, because it is a natural thing; it works by the laws of nature, and nature is terribly flawed. (Later on, when God brings in a new heaven and new earth, diseases won’t be allowed to live there.)

Next question: what happens when disease strikes a believer’s body? The human body lives in the shadowland, between light and darkness, the gray world between black and white. The believer’s body is part of the natural world, but it is also in the process of being renewed by the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:10). That verse in Romans says that the body is subject to death because of the presence of sin (no, not one single sin, but sin itself is still in us), but the Spirit gives life because of the gift of righteousness. That is the shadowland—between our bodies wearing out and our bodies being restored. So Rom. 8:11 says that God will give life (future tense) to your mortal body. So one day you will depart from the shadowland and go directly into heaven. Let’s face it. Sometimes the disease wins, despite the best medicine, like chemo, and the most faith-filled, fervent prayers. Let’s face it. Nature runs amok and sometimes wins.

Bottom line: we do not have enough information to figure out why your loved one did not get healed down here on earth, in the shadowland. But one thing is certain: your loved one is in heaven, in perfect health. He no longer lives in the shadowland, in his deteriorating body. He is in perfect light with his forever strong spirit body, waiting for his resurrected body.

One day I was invited to go in a carpool to prayer for a woman (I did not know) who had cancer. I went twice, and then the Spirit whispered to me that it was a sickness unto death. In other words, God was going to take her home. I told the driver before I went the third time that I don’t need to go. “Why not?” “Because I feel like she is supposed to go home.” “What?” “I could be wrong, but that’s what I heard. But don’t tell the lady; I could be wrong.” The driver, an older man, had little discretion, so I don’t know whether he told anyone or even the lady with cancer. But that’s not the main point. The main point is that we did not end our first prayer session with the tag “if it be your will.” We assumed it was his will. However, sometimes God uses (not causes) disease to take us into eternity. The lady with cancer died; she was not healed.

Even the greatest faith teacher will eventually die, usually from heart failure. Yes, he may die peacefully in his sleep, but a bodily organ will have to give up (or perhaps God will simply take his spirit or life from him, yet the body was visibly wearing out from 21 years old to 91 years old).

Many years later a close relative called me to say she got cancer. And the Spirit clearly whispered to me that this was “not a sickness unto death.” The chemo worked, and she is cancer free.

Back to this passage in Luke. Praise God, this leper got healed instantly! Jesus was on the scene. Let’s hope with high expectations that you too will be healed. Don’t attach the tagline, “If it be your will” at the end of your prayer. Assume that it is his will, until you specifically and clearly hear otherwise. That’s the main lesson from v. 13: “I am willing.”

Recall Jesus’s own words. He said many lepers lived in ancient Israel, but only one Gentile leader was healed, Naaman the Syrian (Luke 4:27). The other Israelites with sin disease did not seek healing from Elisha, so were they perpetual victims in their own minds? Whatever they believed, they did not ask for help. Seek Jesus hard for your own healing.

Why Doesn’t Divine Healing Happen One Hundred Percent of the Time in This Age?


Why did Jesus command him not to tell others? He did not want to excite popular excitement about Jesus miraculous work (Bock, p. 475). Jesus downplayed the miracles (Luke 4:35, 41; 8:56; Matt. 9:30; 12:16; Mark 1:34; 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26). He really wanted to teach. Miracles are the sign that back up teaching. Teaching is the main thing. Miracles without teaching is just a show. “The healing of lepers is one of the messianic signs of which the imprisoned John the Baptist was reminded (7:22). Also, as has often been observed, the crowds could all too easily apply to Jesus their commonly held view of the Messiah as a military or political liberator” (Liefeld and Pao, comment on v. 14)

The offering for recovery from skin disease was two live kosher birds and other items (Lev. 14:4-6). Then the cleansed person has to shave all his hair and beard, wash his clothes, and take a bath (v. 9). Later they must offer two male lambs and one-year-old ewe lamb and other items. Together they must have been expensive, and the leper could not work, so he must have had grateful relatives who supplied him with the offerings.

“for a testimony to them”: It is all right to tell the priest—a doctor today—that God healed you. Let him take the x-rays and examine your blood and other things. Then he will see that you are healed. It is your miracle testimony to him.

One last comment on v. 14: Jesus followed the law of Moses about offerings before he died on the cross (though no record says that he offered any sacrifices). It is a sure thing that when he was resurrected and healed people with skin diseases through his disciples, he never told the healed persons to go to the temple and offer the sacrifices prescribed by Moses. The gospel was going out across their known world, far outside tiny Israel. There was no longer any need for the Levitical temple system, which was put under God’s judgment and was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70 (Luke 19:41-45; 21:20-24; 23:26-31; Matt. 21:33-45). The same goes for the tithe, which Jesus mentioned in passing before the cross when the Levitical system was still going on (Luke 11:42; cf. 18:12). Never once did he direct his church to keep the ten percent theocratic religious tax.

Why Tithing Does Not Apply to New Covenant Believers

Does Hebrews 7:1-10 Teach Church Policy of Tithing?

Please read every word, and by God’s grace you will see the flow and plan of God that even many famous Bible teachers don’t understand.

Progressive revelation is a fact of the Bible. Moral law from the Old is retained in the New, but rituals and harsh penalties and ceremonies and dietary laws (and so on) are not retained. Please interpret Scripture clearly and properly, in historical context.

What Does the New Covenant Retain from the Old?

Do Christians Have to ‘Keep’ the Ten Commandments?

Ten Commandments: God’s Great Compromise with Humanity’s Big Failure

One Decisive Difference Between Sinai Covenant and New Covenant


This same reaction happened in Luke 4:37. Healing ministries draw the crowds. People had numerous needs, so great crowds gathered together. Notice that they were willing to listen. That means Jesus was teaching them, not just healing and delivering them (see v. 1; Luke 2:31; 3:12, where he was called “Teacher”; 4:15, 32). Teaching was part and parcel to his ministry. It was the foundation.

“to be healed”: the verb is therapeuō (pronounced thair-ah-pew-oh, our word therapy is related to it), and it means to “make whole, restore, heal, cure, care for.” It is in the passive voice; that is, people were healed by him.

“illnesses”: it is the plural of the noun astheneia (pronounced ah-stheh-nay-ah), and the prefix a– is the negation, and the stem –sthen– means “strength” or “strong,” so literally it means “unstrong.” It means, depending on the context, primarily “weakness”; and secondarily “sickness, disease.” The NIV translates it throughout the NT: weakness (most often), weaknesses, weak, crippled, diseases, illness, illnesses, infirmities, infirmity, invalid, sick, sickness, sicknesses. Here in v. 15 it means illnesses or sicknesses.


But Jesus did not allow them to control him. He had to take a break from the excitement and the overwhelming needs. In Luke 4:42 he is also shown as needing to take a break. Yes, he was God, but he was also living in his human body. He got tired (cf. John 4:6).

7. Do I Really Know Jesus? Thirty Truths about His Life

He also had to pray. He needed to maintain his connection to his Father through prayer. He had to get away from the ruckus of the crowds, which can drown out his spiritual hearing. Too distracting.

“pray”: As noted in Luke 1:10, and elsewhere throughout this commentary series, it is the very common verb proseuchomai (pronounced pros-yew-khoh-my) and appears 85 times. The noun proseuchē (pronounced pros-yew-khay) is used 36 times, so they are the most common words for prayer or pray in the NT. They are combined with the preposition pros, which means, among other things, “towards,” and euchē, which means a prayer, vow and even a mere wish. But Christians took over the word and directed it towards the living God; they leaned in toward him and prayed their requests fully expecting an answer. It is not a mere wish to a pagan deity.

Prayer flows out of confidence before God that he will answer because we no longer have an uncondemned heart (1 John 3:19-24); and we know him so intimately that we find out from him what is his will is and then we pray according to it (1 John 5:14-15); we pray with our Spirit-inspired languages (1 Cor. 14:15-16). Pray!

What Is Prayer?

What Is Petitionary Prayer?

What Is Biblical Intercession?

GrowApp for Luke 5:12-16

A.. Jesus said he was willing to heal the man with the skin disease. Study Heb. 13:8. Do you believe he is still willing to heal today? What is your story of healing or of your friend or relative?

B.. Jesus withdrew from ministry for a short time. Are you a workaholic, even in ministry? When have you felt the need to withdraw and pray? How were you refreshed?

Jesus Forgives Sins and Heals Paralytic (Luke 5:17-26)

17 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν μιᾷ τῶν ἡμερῶν καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν διδάσκων, καὶ ἦσαν καθήμενοι Φαρισαῖοι καὶ νομοδιδάσκαλοι οἳ ἦσαν ἐληλυθότες ἐκ πάσης κώμης τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ Ἰουδαίας καὶ Ἰερουσαλήμ καὶ δύναμις κυρίου ἦν εἰς τὸ ἰᾶσθαι αὐτόν.

18 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄνδρες φέροντες ἐπὶ κλίνης ἄνθρωπον ὃς ἦν παραλελυμένος καὶ ἐζήτουν αὐτὸν εἰσενεγκεῖν καὶ θεῖναι [αὐτὸν] ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ. 19 καὶ μὴ εὑρόντες ποίας εἰσενέγκωσιν αὐτὸν διὰ τὸν ὄχλον, ἀναβάντες ἐπὶ τὸ δῶμα διὰ τῶν κεράμων καθῆκαν αὐτὸν σὺν τῷ κλινιδίῳ εἰς τὸ μέσον ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ Ἰησοῦ. 20 καὶ ἰδὼν τὴν πίστιν αὐτῶν εἶπεν· ἄνθρωπε, ἀφέωνταί σοι αἱ ἁμαρτίαι σου. 21 καὶ ἤρξαντο διαλογίζεσθαι οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ Φαρισαῖοι λέγοντες· τίς ἐστιν οὗτος ὃς λαλεῖ βλασφημίας; τίς δύναται ἁμαρτίας ἀφεῖναι εἰ μὴ μόνος ὁ θεός;

22 ἐπιγνοὺς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς τοὺς διαλογισμοὺς αὐτῶν ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς· τί διαλογίζεσθε ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν; 23 τί ἐστιν εὐκοπώτερον, εἰπεῖν· ἀφέωνταί σοι αἱ ἁμαρτίαι σου, ἢ εἰπεῖν· ἔγειρε καὶ περιπάτει; 24 ἵνα δὲ εἰδῆτε ὅτι ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐξουσίαν ἔχει ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἀφιέναι ἁμαρτίας– εἶπεν τῷ παραλελυμένῳ· σοὶ λέγω, ἔγειρε καὶ ἄρας τὸ κλινίδιόν σου πορεύου εἰς τὸν οἶκόν σου. 25 καὶ παραχρῆμα ἀναστὰς ἐνώπιον αὐτῶν, ἄρας ἐφ’ ὃ κατέκειτο, ἀπῆλθεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ δοξάζων τὸν θεόν.

26 καὶ ἔκστασις ἔλαβεν ἅπαντας καὶ ἐδόξαζον τὸν θεὸν καὶ ἐπλήσθησαν φόβου λέγοντες ὅτι εἴδομεν παράδοξα σήμερον.

17 And it happened during the days of periods that he was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law who had come from every village in Galilee and Judea, and Jerusalem were sitting (to listen). The power of the Lord was present for him to heal.

18 Look! Men were carrying a man on a cot, who had been paralyzed, and they were seeking to carry him in and place him right in front of him. 19 When they did not find a way to carry him in, because of the crowd, they went up to the roof and lowered him down through the tiles with the stretcher in the middle of them, in front of Jesus. 20 When he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven for you.” 21 And the teachers of the law and Pharisees were reasoning, saying, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who is able to forgive sins except God alone?”

22 Jesus knew their reasoning and in reply said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? 23 Which is easier to say? ‘Your sins are forgiven for you’? Or to say, ‘get up and walk’? 24 So that you know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, ‘Get up and pick up your bedding and go to your home. 25 And instantly he arose in front of them and picked up what he was lying on, and left for his home, glorifying God.

26 And amazement grabbed hold of everyone, and they began glorifying God, and they were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen remarkable things today!”



“teaching”: see v. 3 for more comments.

“Pharisees”: This is the first mention of Pharisees in the Gospel of Luke.

“Teachers of the law”: It is the noun nomodidaskolos (pronounced no-moh-dee-dahs-kah-loss). Some translations call the “legal experts.”

Please see this link for more information:

Quick Reference to Jewish Groups in Gospels and Acts

Both groups were the Watchdogs of Theology and Behavior (cf. Garland, p. 243). The problem which Jesus had with them can be summed up in Eccl. 7:16: “Be not overly righteous.” He did not quote that verse, but to him they were much too enamored with the finer points of the law, while neglecting its spirit (Luke 11:37-52; Matt. 23:1-36). Instead, he quoted this verse from Hos. 6:6: “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:13; 12:7, ESV).

It is not clear from v. 17 alone whether these pious religious leaders were sitting and listening to Jesus, or whether there was a crowd. Then v. 19 says a “crowd” was there, and this refers to the people. It is not likely that the religious leaders by themselves could make up a huge crowd, so let’s imagine a crowd of “regular” folk were also sitting and listening.

“The power of the Lord was present for him to heal”; Or it could be translated “the power of the Lord existed for him to heal.” Usually translations have: “the power of the Lord was present for him to heal.” The latter one is best.

This is one of the favorite verses of Renewalists who go for healing. God’s presence, they say, can come in a special way and manifest healing power. It is difficult to argue with them from their point of view, two thousand years later. Jesus, however, was God in the flesh, so he was able to heal in special atmospheres or in ordinary atmospheres, as he cooperated with the Father and the Spirit. Yet, I still wonder whether the crowds of people did not have a certain level of their own faith, such that the presence for him to heal filled the atmosphere. In other words, something was in the “spiritual air,” and the expectation of the crowd contributed to the healing presence, even calling it down from heaven. After all, the clause introduces the men carrying the paralyzed man on his cot or stretcher, and now a great healing—spirit, soul and body—were about to happen. However, today, healing evangelists take this idea of “the power for him to heal was present” too far. They have super-intense worship and wait and wait until something “clicks” or “pops.” The evangelist is usually up front guiding the audience with flash and showiness. Message: “I’m the anointed one! The power flows through me!” In contrast, we need to calm down the intensity and dial down the volume, for God is always there, eager to bless his people with healing and forgiveness of sins. We don’t need to go through intense magical rituals to drag a reluctant God down from heaven. He is our loving Father, not an erratic genie or mean butler.

“power”: it is the noun dunamis (or dynamis) (pronounced doo-na-mees or dee-na-mis, but most teachers prefer the first one). It is often translated as “power,” but also “miracle” or “miraculous power.” It means power in action, not static, but kinetic. It moves. Yes, we get our word dynamite from it, but God is never out of control, like dynamite is. Its purpose is to usher in the kingdom of God and repair and restore broken humanity, both in body and soul. For nearly all the references of that word and a developed theology, please click on:

What Are Signs and Wonders and Miracles?

“healed”: this verb is iaomai (pronounced ee-ah-oh-my), and it means, unsurprisingly, “healed, cure, restore.” The noun, incidentally, is iasis (pronounced ee-ah-seess), and it means “healing, cure.” The noun is used three times: Luke 13:22; Acts 4:22, 30. In other words, only Luke uses the noun.


They were carrying him on a cot or stretcher, and that is what the Greek “lexicon guys” teach us. The paralytic’s friends or relatives (or both) intended to place him right in front of Jesus. These were fine friends or relatives of the paralytic! However, something blocked their way. But how could they lower a stretcher down? They probably just put him in the bedding, so he was bundled up in a big cloth sack, but v. 24 says “pick up your stretcher.” But let’s not quibble.

“look!” see my comments at v. 12. In this case the men and paralyzed man take first spot after the verb “look!” The attention goes to them.


I don’t know why the crowds would not let them through. All they had to do was step aside. It is probable, to judge from the previous section (v. 15) and the flow of the story, that countless numbers of people had their own illnesses or friends and relatives who also needed healing, and in no way would they allow these newcomers to cut in line! Anyone who has attended a large healing rally knows about some unspoken competition.

“tiles”: made of clay, the men must have removed them, calculating where Jesus was sitting—probably at the door. They intended to lower their friend right in front of Jesus. He heard the noise. Clay dust may have landed on him or by him. He looked up. He smiled. He admired how they pushed in to get their miracle.


Renewalists like this verse too, because Jesus “saw” their faith. There is nothing out of the ordinary about the word “saw.” It is the standard one. But sometimes the showier healing evangelists take intense joy in announcing they can perceive a rise of faith in the crowd. “I feel something happen right then! Faith has arisen!” That may be okay, because it is true, but I just don’t picture Jesus shouting such things. He always seemed to calm and nonshowy.

“faith”: the noun is pistis (pronounced peace-teace or piss-tiss), and it is used 243 times. Its basic meaning is the “belief, trust, confidence,” and it can also mean “faithfulness” and “trustworthy” (Mounce p. 232). It is directional, and the best direction is faith in God (Mark 11:22; 1 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 1:21; Heb. 6:1) and faith in Jesus (Acts 3:16; 20:21; 24:24; Gal. 3:26; Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4; 1 Tim. 3:13). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us. We must have saving faith by trusting in Jesus and his finished work on the cross.

True acronym:



Forsaking All, I Trust Him

Let’s discuss the verb believe and the noun faith more deeply. It is the language of the kingdom of God. It is how God expects us to relate to him. It is the opposite of doubt, which is manifested in whining and complaining and fear. Instead, faith is, first, a gift that God has distributed to everyone (Rom. 12:3). Second, it is directional (Rom. 10:9-11; Acts 20:21). We cannot rightly have faith in faith. It must be faith in God through Christ. Third, faith in Christ is different from faith in one’s ability to follow God on one’s own. It is different from keeping hundreds of religious laws and rules. This is one of Luke’s main themes in Acts, culminating in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and Paul’s ministry for the rest of Acts. Faith in Jesus over faith in law keeping. Fourth, there is faith as a set of beliefs and doctrines, which are built on Scripture (Acts 6:7). Fifth, there is also a surge of faith that is poured out and transmitted through the Spirit when people need it most (1 Cor. 12:9). It is one of the nine charismata or manifestations of grace (1 Cor 12:7-11). Sixth, one can build faith and starve doubt by feasting on Scripture and the words about Christ (Rom. 10:17).

In this verse they had faith for their friend to be healed. They directed their faith towards Jesus the healer. They acted before the paralytic was healed. They had such confidence in the healing power of Jesus that they broke through the barriers—now that’s the faith that God likes!

Word Study on Faith and Faithfulness

“man”: that is a literal translation, and by today’s standards the word makes Jesus seem unfriendly or standoffish, but here it is just a personal address to someone he did not know. The term signaled to the crowd that even unknown faces in the multitudes can draw the attention of God and the Lord Jesus. Some translations, however, go with “friend,” to make things less formal for modern American (and western) readers. “Jesus addressed only the ailing man. The vocative [“man”] is not derogatory as it is in American English … It is like saying ‘friend’” (Bock, p. 481).

“sins”: it comes from the noun hamartia (pronounced hah-mar-tee-ah). A deep study reveals that it means a “departure from either human or divine standards of uprightness” (BDAG, p. 50). It can also mean a “destructive evil power” (ibid., p. 51). In other words, sin has a life of its own. Be careful! In the older Greek of the classical world, it originally meant to “miss the mark” or target. Sin destroys, and that’s why God hates it, and so should we. The good news: God promises us forgiveness when we repent.

Bible Basics about Sin: Word Studies

Human Sin: Original and Our Committed Sin

“forgiven”: it comes from the verb aphiēmi (pronounced ah-fee-ay-mee), and BDAG defines it with the basic meaning of letting go: (1) “dismiss or release someone or something from a place or one’s presence, let go, send away”; (2) “to release from legal or moral obligations or consequence, cancel, remit, pardon”; (3) “to move away with implication of causing a separation, leave, depart”; (4) “to leave something continue or remain in its place … let someone have something” (Matt. 4:20; 5:24; 22:22; Mark 1:18; Luke 10:30; John 14:18); (5) “leave it to someone to do something, let, let go, allow, tolerate.” The Shorter Lexicon adds “forgive.” In sum, God lets go, dismisses, releases, sends away, cancels, pardons, and forgives our sins. His work is full and final. Don’t go backwards or dwell on it. Clearly the most significant definition in this context is the second one. It means to forgive.

Please read these verses for how forgiving God is:

10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:10-12, ESV)

And these great verses are from Micah:

18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea. (Mic. 7:18-19, ESV)

What Is Biblical Forgiveness?

“your sins are forgiven for you”: two pronouns for “your” and “you.” So I translate the first one as possessive (it was his sins) and latter one as “for you” (the forgiveness was also his).

Please see this post for a deeper commentary:

The Son of Man Claims God’s Authority to Forgive Sins on Earth

Next, please don’t over-generalize that all illnesses and paralyses are caused by individual, single sins. As noted at v. 13, disease and disability are part of the natural world. In this man’s case, however, sin was somehow connected to his paralysis, but since the text is silent on the details, we should also remain silent. It is more probable that Jesus intended to prove a bigger point—the Son of Man has the authority to forgive sins. But if you pray for the sick, ask God to give you a word of knowledge to find out if the man has unconfessed sin in his life. Or you could just ask him, but too often the sin is buried so deeply that the sick person doesn’t link sin and sickness. It is better to get a word of knowledge.

2. Gifts of the Spirit: Word of Knowledge


“teachers of the law”: Some translations call them scribes.

See v. 17 for more information about the other two religious leaders.

You can learn more about them at this post:

Quick Reference to Jewish Groups in Gospels and Acts

In the OT, the way to obtain forgiveness of sins was through animal sacrifices. Sin was transferred from the human to the animal on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). Here Jesus is introducing a new way. He has the authority to do this.

The Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16 from a NT Perspective

“sins”: see v. 20 for more comments.

“to forgive”: see v. 20 for more comments on this verb.

“reasoning”: the verb is dialogizomai (pronounced dee-ah-log-gee-zoh-my, and the “g” is hard). Our word dialogue is related to it). It goes deeper than another verb for thinking, nomizō (pronounced noh-mee-zoh). The log– stem has a wider intellectual or mental sense to it, and the prefix dia– here just means “through,” “thorough” or “continuous.” The Greeks could add –iz– to a word and change it into a verb. It means “consider, ponder, reason, discuss, argue.” It can be an interior debate in your mind, like a tennis match, or a discussion with others, as here. Luke uses this verb three times in vv. 21-22. It seems to be the opposite of faith and authority and power. They launched into a dispute—a never-ending discussion, round and round they went, grinding words into powder, not power.

Blasphemy is a serious charge that brought death (Lev. 24:15-16) and an Israelite was actually stoned to death for doing so (Lev. 24:23). It is abusive and defiling speech about God. That was the crime Jesus will be accused of, which triggered his death (Mark 14:62-64).

Today, too many people get into their reasoning power and over-analyze things, and then the miracle never comes. “Is he part of the Word of Faith message? If so, then their teaching is heretical!” “Does he understand God’s sovereignty? Maybe he doesn’t want to heal me!” “Does he tag on ‘if it be thy will’? If not, then he is presumptuous!” These Pharisees and teachers of the law had no faith to receive a blessing, nor had they any authority or power coming down from God, certainly none that resulted in forgiveness of sins or healing.

Ancient Israel was an honor-and-shame society. If he was honored, then his opponents were shamed, and he was honored before the crowd (and vice-versa). (Please note that this shame is not related to the psychological state coming from abuse.) That is why in his tussles with Pharisees and those like them, he never gave an inch. Jesus is about to show them up, a public humbling they so richly deserved.

Teachers today say that that followers of Jesus should just remain quiet when they are criticized or verbally attacked. That may be true in a few isolated cases. Let God fight your battles. However, all throughout the four Gospels, Jesus explained and defended himself. Lives were at stake. If he remained silent, people might be deceived with defective and erroneous teachings. They might interpret his silence as agreement with the error. But don’t be rude or stubborn or arrogant about nonessential issues (or nay issue), particularly when your pastor is a good man who knows the Word. This context is talking about not giving an inch to religious bullies.

Recall that Simeon prophesied that Jesus would reveal the hearts of many (Luke 2:35 and see 4:23). And here it was happening again—reasoning in their hearts. They reasoned that only God had the power to forgive sins when a man sins against him. True, and God in the flesh is about to do that!

“Jesus’ claim to perform God’s role and have authority over God’s prerogative forces Jesus’s (and Luke’s) audience to a decision. A healing would be seen as an act of forgiveness by God, but it is another thing to claim to give that forgiveness directly. Jesus will commit this ‘crime’ [of blasphemy] in Luke 7:48-49. Even the use of the passive voice, which lays forgiveness at God’s feet, does not prevent the sense that Jesus is too direct here” (Bock, p. 484).


“knew”: it is the verb epiginōskō (pronounced eh-pea-gee-noh-skoh, and the “g” is hard as in “get,” and it is used 44 times in the NT). In any case here are the basic meanings, depending on the context: (1) “know exactly, completely”; “know again, recognize”; “acknowledge’; (2) “know, learn, find out, ascertain; notice; perceive, learn of; understand, know, learn to know.” The first set of definitions is the best one here. Jesus knew exactly and completely what they were reasoning.

Word Study: Knowledge

He was using the gift of the word of knowledge; that is, by the Spirit he got access to their thoughts. However, some Bible teachers say that he got access to their thoughts because he was God incarnate, and God is omniscient. So Jesus’s omniscience “flashed out” from behind his humanity by the Father’s will. Remember, Jesus did not lose or lay aside or give up or divine attributes or have them “lopped off” when he was incarnated. Instead, his humanity was added to his divinity. And then his divine attributes were hidden behind his humanity and surrendered to his Father. I prefer the theology that says that the Spirit revealed their thoughts to him. But you can choose the other explanation, if you wish. All of the ministry came by the Father’s will.

Once again: 2. Gifts of the Spirit: Word of Knowledge

4. Do I Really Know Jesus? He Took the Form of a Servant

“reasoning”: it is the noun dialogismos (pronounced dee-ah-loh-gees-mos, and the “g” is hard). It means, depending on the context, (1) “thought, opinion, reasoning, design” or (2) “doubt, dispute, argument.” Here it means the first definition.

“hearts”: many Renewalists believe it is a synonym for the spirit, and soul is a different “part” of the inner person, while others believe that heart-spirit-soul are all synonyms for the one united inner being, in contrast to the outer body. Here “heart” seems to be synonymous for mind, where reasoning takes place. See my post about this topic of our inner life:

Word Study on Spirit, Soul, and Body

You can decide, but I suggest we not rigidly compartmentalize the human, for even the inner and outer are connected, because our bodies will be restored and transformed and glorified on the last day. God sees us right now as a whole and united person. Word of Faith teachers make too much of the disunity of humanity.


Some interpreters argue that it is easier to heal the man than to say his sins are forgiven, because Jesus will die on the cross for them, which is much more difficult than to heal the man’s broken body. However, Jesus was not dying on the cross then and there. Instead, the straightforward interpretation is that it is easier to say the man’s sins are forgiven because people cannot see with their own eyes the effects of this pronouncement. The healing was visually substantiated. In contrast, they are about to see with their own eyes the physical healing of paralysis. The forgiveness in the soul before is not—cannot be—visually substantiated. By analogy you or I can say an inner work in the soul is done, but it is more difficult to say a leg is lengthened because viewers can measure the leg. It is more difficult to say, “Get up and walk!” than it is to say “your interior sins are forgiven.”

“forgiven”: see v. 20 for more comments.

“sins”: see v. 20 for more comments.


“know”: this verb is oida (pronounced oi-dah and used 318 times). It means, depending on the context: (1) “know (about)”; (2) “be intimately acquainted with, stand in close relation to”; (3) “know” or “understand how, can, be able”; (4) “understand, recognize, come to know.” Here the best definition is the fourth set. The Pharisees and teachers of the law had to understand and recognize and come to know that the Son of man had authority on earth to forgive sins.

Word Study: Knowledge

How would they understand this? He backs up his words with healing a paralytic. So the words are demonstrated with power. Paul said the same thing. He did not come with high and mighty words of human wisdom, but with a demonstration of signs and wonders and God’s power (Rom. 15:18-19; 1 Cor. 2:4-5).

Renewalists love this idea. They too are tired of just words. They want to see signs and wonders. Yes, bad people can work signs and wonders (Matt. 7:15-23; 2 Thess. 2:9), but God also works them, as here and in Paul’s life. Do we have to let the bad people dictate terms? In any case, Renewalists want something more than just words. They ask, “I wonder where the signs went!” They are right.

“Son of Man”: it both means the powerful, divine Son of man (Dan. 7:13-14) and the human son of man—Ezekiel himself—in the book of Ezekiel (numerous references). Jesus was and still is in heaven both divine and human.

4. Titles of Jesus: The Son of Man

“authority”: it is the noun exousia (pronounced ex-oo-see-ah), and it means, depending on the context: “right to act,” “freedom of choice,” “power, capability, might, power, authority, absolute power”; “power or authority exercised by rulers by virtue of their offices; official power; domain or jurisdiction, spiritual powers.”

The difference between authority and power is parallel to a policeman’s badge and his gun. The badge symbolizes his right to exercise his power through his gun, if necessary. The gun backs up his authority with power. But the distinction should not be pressed too hard, because exousia can also mean “power.” In any case, God through Jesus can distribute authority to his followers (Matt. 10:1; Luke 10:19; John 1:12). Jesus will give us authority even over the nations, if we overcome trials and persecution (Rev. 2:26). And he is about to distribute his power in Acts 2.

Never forget that you have his authority and power to live a victorious life over your personal flaws and sins and Satan. They no longer have power and authority over you; you have power and authority over them.

For nearly all the references of that word and a developed theology, please click o:

What Are Signs and Wonders and Miracles?

“forgive”: see v. 20 for more comments.

“sins”: see v. 20 for more comments.

Let’s discuss Jesus’s fearless confrontation with these religious leaders.

As I noted in other chapters and here in this chapter, first-century Israel was an honor-and-shame society. Verbal and active confrontations happened often. By active is meant actions. Here the confrontation is both verbal and acted out. Jesus healed the paralytic, so he won the actual confrontation, and this victory opened the door to his verbal victory with religious leaders who were binding people up with traditions. They needed to be loosed from them. Jesus shamed the leaders to silence. He won. It may seem strange to us that Jesus would confront human opponents, because we are not used to doing this in our own lives, and we have heard that Jesus was meek and silent.

More relevantly, for many years now there has been a teaching going around the Body of Christ that says when Christians are challenged, they are supposed to slink away or not reply. This teaching may come from the time of Jesus’s trial when it is said he was as silent as a sheep (Acts 8:32). No. He spoke up then, as well (Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:32; Luke 23:71; John 18:19-23; 32-38; 19:11). Therefore, “silence” means submission to the will of God without resisting or fighting back. But here he replied to the religious leaders and defeated them and their inadequate theology. Get into a discussion and debate with your challengers. Stand toe to toe with them. In short, fight like Jesus! Of course, caution is needed. The original context is a life-and-death struggle between the kingdom of God and religious traditions. Get the original context, first, before you fight someone in a verbal sparring match. This was a clash of worldviews. Don’t pick fights or be rude to your spouse or baristas or clerks in the service industry. Discuss things with him or her. But here Jesus was justified in replying sharply to these oppressive religious leaders.

When Jesus Used Harsh Language


The healing was instant, and Luke makes a point of it. No gradual healing for this man in this circumstance, with this skeptical audience. (Sometimes healings are gradual.) Jesus needed to demonstrate that the Son of man could forgive sins. Did the paralytic convulse a little as strength and feeling surged through his body? Or did he just get up smoothly without adjustments to his body? Probably the latter thing happened. He just got up and picked up his bedding.

He glorified or praised God on the way home. His friends or relatives had to scurry down from the roof and catch up to him. Did the men look triumphantly at the crowd as they passed by, when the people had refused to let the stretcher go through? No word on their offer to repair the roof! The text is silent, but it is fun to speculate about small things like this.


“amazement”: it is the noun ekstasis (pronounced ehk-stahseess), and it literally means “standing outside (oneself).” Sometimes things can be so amazing that it feels unreal or surreal. We are beside ourselves with shock and awe.

“grabbed hold”: it is the frequent verb lambanō (pronounced lahm-bah-noh, and used 258 times) which means “to take, take hold of, grasp … seize … receive.” Amazement did the gripping of their minds, hearts, spirits, souls.

“remarkable things”: it is the adjective paradoxos (pronounced pah-rah-dox-oss, and we get our word paradox directly from it). It appears only here in the NT, and it means “strange, wonderful, remarkable.”

What was so strange, wonderful, remarkable? First, a paralytic got his complete, instant healing. Second, the ex-paralytic’s sins were forgiven, after all. Third, the Son of man—the Messiah—was standing right in front of them. Fourth, this was an honor-and-shame society, and the people saw the Pharisees and teachers of the law get their comeuppance, and some of the less pious in the crowd must have snickered at their expense. The powerful were shamed, while the paralytic was honored. It also includes the Great Reversal in Luke 1:51-53, where Mary said that Jesus and his kingdom were to bring to the world. The powerful and people of high status are to be brought low, while the humble and those of low status are to be raised up. It also fulfills the reversal in 2:34, where Simeon prophesied that Jesus was appointed for the rising and falling of many. It is the right-side-up kingdom, but upside-down from a worldly perspective. Jesus would cause the fall of the mighty and the rise of the needy, and the rich would be lowered, and the poor raised up. It is the down elevator and up elevator. Those at the top will take the down elevator, and those at the bottom will take the up elevator.

Fifth, quarreling and quibbling over matters of the law and traditions was cut apart like the Gordian knot was cut through. It is God breaking in and crushing these empty discussions, demonstrating his love and power. Sixth, the Pharisees had strong political views, and Jesus lifted their sights to the kingdom of God. Politics about Israel doesn’t matter, standing in contrast to the soon-to-be global kingdom (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8).

GrowApp for Luke 5:17-26

A.. Jesus forgave the paralytic’s sins. What happened to you when your sins were forgiven?

B.. Is faith and reasoning (or inner debating) opposites? How has over-analyzing hindered your walk with God, if it has?

Jesus Calls Levi and Dines with Him (Luke 5:27-32)

27 Καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἐξῆλθεν καὶ ἐθεάσατο τελώνην ὀνόματι Λευὶν καθήμενον ἐπὶ τὸ τελώνιον, καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ἀκολούθει μοι. 28 καὶ καταλιπὼν πάντα ἀναστὰς ἠκολούθει αὐτῷ. 29 Καὶ ἐποίησεν δοχὴν μεγάλην Λευὶς αὐτῷ ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἦν ὄχλος πολὺς τελωνῶν καὶ ἄλλων οἳ ἦσαν μετ’ αὐτῶν κατακείμενοι. 30 καὶ ἐγόγγυζον οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς αὐτῶν πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ λέγοντες· διὰ τί μετὰ τῶν τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν ἐσθίετε καὶ πίνετε; 31 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς· οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν οἱ ὑγιαίνοντες ἰατροῦ ἀλλ’ οἱ κακῶς ἔχοντες· 32 οὐκ ἐλήλυθα καλέσαι δικαίους ἀλλ’ ἁμαρτωλοὺς εἰς μετάνοιαν. 27 And after this he went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting at the tax booth and said to him, “Follow me!” 28 And leaving everything, he got up and began to follow him. 29 Then he threw a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were dining with them. 30 But the Pharisees and their teachers of the law grumbled to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And in reply, Jesus said to them, “The healthy do not have need of a doctor, but the sick do. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance.”


To find out who Matthew / Levi was, please see the post:

The Meaning of the Names of the Twelve Apostles


“tax collectors”: You can learn more about them at this link:

Quick Reference to Jewish Groups in Gospels and Acts

Levi was a telōnēs and probably a poll tax collector, but maybe he also expanded his business to include purchase and lease taxes.

“follow …!” The verb is in the command form, so I translated it with an exclamation point; Jesus had a commanding (but not bossy) presence, and his words were authoritative. That may explain why Levi responded instantly—or in a process, as we shall see. People live in a sheltered world if they have not met a natural leader like that (in a weaker person than the Messiah). But you can omit the exclamation point in your own reading, if you wish.

Now let’s discuss why Levi responded seemingly so instantly. He lived in the area. He had heard of Jesus’s miracles and teaching. He may have even seen Peter’s miraculous catch of fish—or certainly heard about it. It is probable that he was tired of his job. Was he a tax collecting fraud, like Zacchaeus was (Luke 19:1-9)? Maybe, maybe not. The verses are silent.

Let’s say that he was not a fraud, for this line of argument. Why follow Jesus on one invitation? Living in the area, he heard of Jesus. He may have even stood on the periphery of the crowd, observing his miracles and hearing his teachings. He felt convicted. In contrast to his own life, Levi may have also felt bored with it all. He may have reached the conclusion that he really was compromising too much with the Romans. He felt empty inside. He possibly believed that Jesus was the revolutionary man he was secretly looking for. He would overturn the whole system. That’s what motivated him to leave behind his lucrative business—a completely new and different course of life.

Now let’s say he was a tax collecting fraud like Zacchaeus, which is probable. As noted, he heard about Jesus’s ministry and felt convicted. He saw the emptiness of his life. He needed a change, and his knowledge of Jesus’s ministering in the area deepened his commitment to follow him, the possible Messiah—the miracle-worker. He must have been thrilled to prepare a feast for him and when Jesus came to it. “Wow! A man who accepts me as I am, but loves me too much to leave me as I am!” He needed refreshing. He needed something different to get out of his old life and the clinking coins and his pocketing some of them. Listening to him talk at his feast must have strengthened his resolve to go all the way to the very end of the journey with Jesus. Did he realize it would end in Jesus’ death? Probably not, but he was up for the adventure.


Professional Greek grammarians say we should translate the phrase as “began to follow,” based on the technicality of the other verbs (leaving … got up). Maybe so. However, since the verb is in the imperfect tense, it can also mean a process, an incomplete or imperfect action (“imperfect” means incomplete or continuous in the past). I don’t want to get technical, but the point is that following Jesus is an ongoing life. Note how Levi threw or prepared or made a great banquet for Jesus. He just did not leave everything instantly. It took time. “began to follow” expresses the process, but then so would “he was following him” or “he was in the process of following him.”

Some interpreters say that this great feast was a sign of his willingness to follow Jesus. Fair enough. However, it can be assumed that he eventually asked permission from the Roman authorities to sell off or give away his lucrative tax business. That was quite a sacrifice. He was rich enough to throw a banquet—a great banquet attended by many people (v. 29). On the other hand, maybe he hired out his business to subcontractors and kept some of the proceeds for the kingdom, but let’s not go there, because the text says he left everything behind.

“The same call that lifted the paralytic from his cot or bedding lifted Levi from his tax booth” (Garland, comment on 5:28, citing R. Alan Culpepper in New Interpreter’s Bible).

“No longer could Levi be centered around his own needs and securities, particularly when they were secured at the expense of others” (Garland, comment on 5:28).


The scene is one of wealth, indicating Levi had a rich business. It took a lot of money to throw a “great” feast or banquet for a “large crowd.”

“dining”: the verb could be translated as “reclining,” because people back then leaned on one side to eat at a low table.

“tax collectors”: see v. 27 for more comments.


“Pharisees”: see v. 17 for more comments.

“teachers of the law”: it is the noun grammateus, and many translations have “scribes.” See v. 17 for more comments. Apparently these teachers of the law assisted the Pharisees.

“grumbling”: gonguzō (gawn-goo-zoh) is the verb, and it is onomatopoeic; that is, it is a vocal imitation of the word that sounds like its meaning. (Even our English “grumble” is also onomatopoeic, incidentally.) The verb is used eight times, and the noun grumbling is used four times, and “grumbler” once (Jude 16).

“disciples”: the noun is mathētēs (singular and pronounced mah-they-tayss), and it is used 261 times in the NT, though many of them are duplicates in the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. BDAG says of the noun (1) “one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice”; (2) “one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or a particular set of views, disciple, adherent.”

Word Study on Disciple

“why”: one translation has “on what basis do you eat and drink with ….” But it is the standard expression for “why,” but you can decide which translation is best.

The main point of this verse, and perhaps the entire section, is this question right here. Note that tax collectors and sinners are equated (see. v. 27 for more comments on tax collectors). The people knew how the tax collectors were compromisers with the Romans. These money grubbers had profaned themselves by mixing in with the enemy and against the Chosen People, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exod. 19:6).

“sinners”: it is the adjective hamartōlos (pronounced hah-mahr-toh-loss), and see v. 8 for more comments. This is the generic term for people who do not measure up to the standards of the Pharisees and their scribes, the Watchdogs of Theology and Behavior.

Bible Basics about Sin: Word Studies

Human Sin: Original and Our Committed Sin

“eat and drink”: it is probable that fermented wine was served (John 2:1-11), but wine was also diluted, except at the beginning—the best for first. Jesus became known as a “wine-drinker” (Luke 7:34). Jesus liked to celebrate with “sinners.” Eating with the right or wrong person was very important in the society that emphasized ceremonial cleanness. Eating with them signaled observers that he was welcoming with them and was making himself unacceptable to the super-pure. He did not care what they thought of him.


“healthy”: it is the verb hugiainō (pronounced hoo-gee-y-noh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get,” and our word hygiene is related to it). Used in the NT twelve times, it means “healthy,” as here, but the NIV mostly translates it as “sound.” In 3 John 2, it is translated as “enjoy good health.” It speaks of soundness in body and mind (Luke 5:32; 7:10; 15:27), but also sound doctrine (1 Tim. 1:10, 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13; 4:3; Tit. 1:9, 13; 2:1, 2). It is interesting that Dr. Luke sees it exclusively as healthy in body and mind, while Paul transforms the verb into sound doctrine (though the adjective is translated as “healthy” in body throughout the NT).

“sick”: the adverb is kakōs (pronounced kah-kohss), and it is the standard word in its various forms for “bad” or even “evil.” It can be translated more literally as “having ‘badness.’” It is easy to imagine that in his earlier life Dr. Luke heard this from many of his patients, “I feel bad!” We should not see this one word in this one verse as moral sickness, but the term does mean that in other verses, more often than not. Peter is portrayed as sick, yet Jesus approached him first. “Those who are well do not need a physician because they believe that they are well. The sick will usually call a physician to attend to them. In this case, however, Jesus as they physician does not wait for the sick to come to him to be restored to health; he goes hunting for them” (Garland, comment on 5:31).

“I have … come”: This clause reveals his mission. Some skeptics say that John is clear about God sending Jesus, while Luke (and Matthew and Mark) merely hints at it in such clauses as “I have been sent” or “I have come.” Therefore, the four Gospels are irreparably inconsistent and contradictory (they claim). The critics overemphasize the nuances, of course. John tells and shows loudly, and the Synoptic Gospel writers show and tell more subtly, for those who can see. John drops all subtleties, probably since his Gospel is the last one, so he does not need to be secretive to his readers.

5. Do I Really Know Jesus? He Came Down from Heaven


Now for the main point. There are two main ways to interpret this verse.

First, some interpreters say that certain people are righteous in their behavior. After all, Luke says Simeon was righteous and devout (Luke 2:25). Paul testified that before he came to Christ he kept the law blamelessly and was faultlessly righteous in the law’s terms (Phil. 3:4-6). The law, particularly the Ten Commandments, are not that difficult, particularly for the extra-scrupulous. He was an ex-Pharisee, much like the ones at this feast. I have no doubt that he kept the law, outwardly. Even “Average Joes and Janes” don’t steal or commit perjury or commit adultery, nor do they make images of gods. They can live free from coveting their neighbors’ possessions, in outward appearance. This interpretation says Jesus was not calling the Pharisees to repentance, because they were indeed righteous on a social level and by outward appearance, but he was calling the sinners and tax collectors to repent. Note that Jesus did in fact call Levi, and not the Pharisees.

Second, some interpreters say he is using irony. The issue is of the heart. Jesus deepens the requirements and turns them into love for God first. If we love God, we will keep his commandments (John 14:15). In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) and on the Plain (Luke 6:17-49), Jesus deepens the requirements of the law to the heart, and everyone fails in some way. Therefore, they are unhealthy in some way before God and need him through Christ. No one can be righteous enough for God, and if the Pharisees saw their own need, they would realize this. It is they who need the doctor—the healer of their souls. Jesus is calling them to repentance, if they could only but see it.

My preference: the second interpretation, with some truths in the first one. All Jews, even the extra-devout, need Jesus their Messiah. Peter is the example of the man who sees his need for repentance. The Pharisees do not see their need. Just the opposite. They saw themselves as so righteous that they were able to lead the people towards legal righteousness.

What Is Righteousness?

The Fruit of Righteousness

8 Righteousness of the Kingdom

“sinner”: see v. 8 for more comments.

“repentance”: it is the noun metanoia (pronounced meh-tah-noi-ah), and it literally means “change of mind.” But it goes deeper than mental assent or agreement. Another word for repent is the Greek stem streph– (including the prefixes ana-, epi-, and hupo-), which means physically “to turn” (see Luke 2:20, 43, 45). That reality-concept is all about new life. One turns around 180 degrees, going from the direction of death to the new direction of life.

In our context today, we should teach repentance to an audience where there may be the unrepentant and unconverted, but let’s not harangue the church with constant calls for them to repent. They need mature teachings—but repentance is always necessary even for the mature Christians, when they need it. However, too many fiery preachers never allow their churches to grow, but shriek about fire and brimstone (eternal punishment). Happily, this seems to be changing, and preachers bring up repentance, but also realize that there are many other doctrines in Scripture.

What Is Repentance?

Jesus’s call goes out to anyone who sees his need for the kingdom and the King. Anyone can respond. But if anyone thinks he is self-sufficiently healthy, then he probably won’t respond to the call.

As noted, the statement about the sick and the healthy reflects Peter’s story (vv. 1-11). He was sinful, needed repentance, and the call and uplift of Jesus (Garland, p. 235).

When Jesus goes after the sinner, he calls them to repentance. He does not go to Levi’s dinner party just for fun. He is looking for a chance to call people to repentance. This is the acceptable, welcoming and favorable year of the Lord (4:19).

Liefeld and Pao: “While the gospel of grace and forgiveness is for everyone (2:10), repentance is a prerequisite to its reception. The tax collector in 18:13-14 met this prerequisite, but not the Pharisee (18:11-12). The Lukan theme of joy is linked with that of repentance in 15:7, 10, 22-27, 32. Repentance was previously mentioned in Luke 3:3, 8, but only in the context of John the Baptist’s ministry” (comments on vv. 31-32).

Morris quotes another scholar (Munger): “The church is the only fellowship in the world where the one requirement for membership is the unworthiness of the candidate” (comments on vv. 31-32). Then Morris continues: “He did not, however, come to leave them in their sin. He called them to repentance” (ibid.).

GrowApp for Luke 5:27-32

A.. Levi (Matthew) the rich tax collector gave up everything. What did you give up to follow Jesus?

B.. Jesus ate and drank with sinners and tax collectors. How have you associated with the outcasts and undesirables? If so, what blessing did they bring to your spiritual growth?

God Is Doing a New Thing through Jesus (Luke 5:33-39)

33 Οἱ δὲ εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτόν· οἱ μαθηταὶ Ἰωάννου νηστεύουσιν πυκνὰ καὶ δεήσεις ποιοῦνται ὁμοίως καὶ οἱ τῶν Φαρισαίων, οἱ δὲ σοὶ ἐσθίουσιν καὶ πίνουσιν. 34 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτούς· μὴ δύνασθε τοὺς υἱοὺς τοῦ νυμφῶνος ἐν ᾧ ὁ νυμφίος μετ’ αὐτῶν ἐστιν ποιῆσαι νηστεῦσαι; 35 ἐλεύσονται δὲ ἡμέραι, καὶ ὅταν ἀπαρθῇ ἀπ’ αὐτῶν ὁ νυμφίος, τότε νηστεύσουσιν ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις. 36 Ἔλεγεν δὲ καὶ παραβολὴν πρὸς αὐτοὺς ὅτι οὐδεὶς ἐπίβλημα ἀπὸ ἱματίου καινοῦ σχίσας ἐπιβάλλει ἐπὶ ἱμάτιον παλαιόν· εἰ δὲ μή γε, καὶ τὸ καινὸν σχίσει καὶ τῷ παλαιῷ οὐ συμφωνήσει τὸ ἐπίβλημα τὸ ἀπὸ τοῦ καινοῦ. 37 καὶ οὐδεὶς βάλλει οἶνον νέον εἰς ἀσκοὺς παλαιούς· εἰ δὲ μή γε, ῥήξει ὁ οἶνος ὁ νέος τοὺς ἀσκοὺς καὶ αὐτὸς ἐκχυθήσεται καὶ οἱ ἀσκοὶ ἀπολοῦνται· 38 ἀλλ’ οἶνον νέον εἰς ἀσκοὺς καινοὺς βλητέον. 39 [καὶ] οὐδεὶς πιὼν παλαιὸν θέλει νέον· λέγει γάρ· ὁ παλαιὸς χρηστός ἐστιν. 33 They said to him, “The disciples of John fast frequently and offer prayers, just like those of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink!” 34 But Jesus said to them, “No one is able to make the wedding guests of the bridegroom fast, while the bridegroom is with them, can they? 35 But the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken from them; then they’ll fast in those days.” 36 He continued telling them an illustration: “No one, after he tears off a patch from the new garment, puts it on an old garment! Otherwise, the new one will also tear, and the patch from the new one will not match the old one! 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if you do, the new wine will burst the wineskins, it’ll spill out, and the wineskin will be ruined! 38 But new wine must be put into a new wineskin. 39 And no one who drinks the old wants the new. He says, ‘The old is better.’”



“They said to him”: In the previous section, the Pharisees and teachers of the law criticized Jesus’s behavior because he ate with tax collectors and sinners. Now the conversation is carried forward. They find fault with his behavior in other areas. They did not like Jesus’s free-wheeling and free-dealing license of living it up, while the disciples of John and the Pharisees don’t do such frivolous things. They fast and offer prayers. Fasting was commanded on special occasions (Lev. 16:29-34; 23:26-32; Num. 29:7-11). Individual fasts were done for God’s deliverance (2 Sam. 12:16-20; 1 Kings 21:27; Ps. 35:13; 69:10. Others fasted to turn aside calamity (Judg. 20:26; 1 Sam. 7:6; 1 Kings 21:9; Jer. 36:6, 9; 2 Chron. 20:3-4). Isaiah said fasting should be done accompanied by justice and good works and releasing those in bondage (Is. 58).

“disciples”: see v. 31 for more comments.

“prayers”: It is the noun deēsis (pronounced deh-ay-seess), and it means “entreaty, supplication, prayer” (see Luke 1:13 and 2:37).

Let’s look at the practice of fasting from a biblical point of view. There are all sorts of ways to fast:

Eating no food, but drinking water, which is standard;

No food and no water, but only for a short time (Acts 9:9);

No delicacies (Dan. 10:3);

And anything in between.

In the OT the purposes of fasting were, as follows:

Preparing for God’s law (Ex. 34:28; Dt. 9:9, 18);

Preparing for the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29, 31);

Showing grief at time of death (1 Sam. 31:13; 2 Sam. 1:12);

Showing remorse for sin (1 Kings 21:27; Neh. 9:1; Ps. 35:13);

Praying in time of national need (2 Chron. 20:3; Ezr. 8:21; Est. 4:16; Joel 2:15-17);

Praying for personal reasons (2 Sam. 12:16, 21; Neh. 1:4; Dan. 9:3-4);

But be warned: prophets criticized fasting for outward show (Is. 58:3-7; Jer. 14:12; Zec. 7:4-10).

In the NT, the purposes of fasting were as follows:

Jesus fasted to overcome temptation and prepare for his ministry (Matt. 4:1-11 // Luke 4:1-13);

Saul fasted after his conversion to humble himself and work out the massive change in his worldview (Acts 9:9);

Part of worship (Acts 13:2);

Preparing for ministry (Acts 13:1-3; 14:23);

Sending off for ministry (Acts 13:3; 14:23);

Jesus’s disciples did not fast while he was there, but when he was gone, they would fast (Matt. 9:14-15);

Jesus criticized fasting for its outward show (Matt. 6:16-18; Luke 18:9-14).

You can look up those verses to expand on those reasons. It is interesting, however, that nowhere does it say in the NT that believers should fast to prove their remorse and sorrow for sin. Forgiveness is not added to or enhanced by our outer show of works (fasting is a religious work). Forgiveness of sins is received by repentance and faith in Jesus (Acts 13:38).

In this verse, “by combining prayer and fasting, the hope was that God would answer, as often fasting accompanied confession and intercession” (Bock, p. 515).

What Is Prayer?

What Is Petitionary Prayer?

What Is Biblical Intercession?

What Is Biblical Confession?


In this section about the old and the new, from here on, Jesus will be the center of these illustrations. He will be the bridegroom and the new.

Jesus is the bridegroom. The kingdom of God has broken through, by his coming. While he is with the wedding guests (literally “sons”), it would be out of place for them to be severe and austere with fastings and offering prayers of pleading and begging. It is time to celebrate. In Greek the question is formulated to expect the answer, “No, no one can make them fast.”

“fast”: see v. 33.

“The images of the groom and wedding express God’s relationship to his people and are often used to allude to messianic times (Isa. 54:5-6; 62:4-5; Jer. 2:2; Ezek. 16; Hos. 2:14-23 …) The end-time association existed in Judaism, and the image was also used by John the Baptist (John 3:29). Interestingly enough, Jesus’ questioners make reference to John’s disciples. Jesus is alluding to the nature of the times and to his own role by this picture. The end has begun to draw near” (Bock, p. 517).


So when will the bridegroom be taken? It is his death on the cross and burial in the tomb. The disciples were scared. Would they be arrested also, as revolutionaries? No doubt they fasted, though not ritually, and offered prayers. The point is that the celebrations were over. Now what happens at the resurrection? Relief and celebrations. He even ate fish with them, after he cooked it. Then what happens at the ascension? They had to get on with the work of preaching Jesus and the kingdom of God. Now it is time for regular fasting and prayer. Jesus was not against regular prayer and fasting after his ascension. So why mention this issue at all?

Let’s take a step back. The image of the groom and wedding often comes in the context of messianic times (Is. 54:5-6; 62:4-5; Jer. 2:2; Ezek. 16; Hos. 2:14-23). Even in Judaism at the time of Jesus the association between the metaphor of wedding and the Messianic Age was known. God is portrayed as the bridegroom of his people. Fasting was appropriate to usher in the Messianic Age, but now it is here. No need to fast to bring it in. Jesus is hinting—for those with enough biblical knowledge—that the Messiah is right here, in front of them. While he is, let’s celebrate. Jesus presence with them is the key. No fasting. When he is taken from them, then fasting can be done.

Luke and other NT authors use the “already” and “not yet” aspect of the kingdom through the wedding and marriage imagery. It is already here, but it is not here in its fulness: (Luke 12:35-36; Matt. 22:1; 25:1; Eph. 5:23-33; Rev. 19:7; 21:2). Those verses in the Revelation describe the kingdom that is here in its fulness.

See my post about the already and not yet of the kingdom

5 The Kingdom of God: Already Here, But Not Yet Fully

“fast”: see v. 33 for comments.


“illustration”: the noun is parabolē (pronounced pah-rah-boh-lay), and we get our word parable from it. Here it is better translated as “illustration.” What is a parable?

Literally, the word parable (parabolē in Greek) combines para– (pronounced pah-rah and means “alongside”) and bolē (pronounced boh-lay and means “put” or even “throw”). Therefore, a parable puts two or more images or ideas alongside each other to produce a clear truth. It is a story or narrative or short comparison that reveals the kingdom of God and the right way to live in it and the Father’s ways of dealing with humanity and his divine plan expressed in his kingdom and life generally. The Shorter Lexicon says that the Greek word parabolē can sometimes be translated as “symbol,” “type,” “figure,” and “illustration,” the latter term being virtually synonymous with parable. Here you must see yourself in the parable.

What Is a Parable?

The next illustration is designed to look absurd. It is abrupt. No one tears off a patch from a new garment and puts it on an old one! Leave the new one intact. If you do not, then the new and old will not match.

“match”: it is verb sumphōneō (pronounced soom-phoh-neh-oh), and our word symphony is related to it (it actually comes from the Greek noun sumphōnia, but you get the idea). The verb means “agree, come to an agreement, fit in with, match.” In this verse, the new and the old don’t fit or match. Jesus is the new, and the old is Judaism and the old law. The way of the Pharisees and the teacher of the law, with their interpretations and maintaining the traditions—one interpretation piled on top of another—has to be thrown out. Or at least the new garment cannot be used to repair the old. There’s a mismatch.

“The continuation of the story in Acts makes it evident that it is only an exclusionary Judaism that focuses only on preserving the old, that is at odds with the new. Jesus’ emphasis on inclusion and growth stretches the fiber of Judaism to its limits until it rips” (Garland, comment on 5:36).

“The Book of Acts will chronicle the growth understanding in some detail, especially as it related to circumcision, food laws, and Gentiles. Acts will argue two points at once. A good Jew should become a Christian in continuity with the OT promise (Acts 13:16-41), but what comes is new, too (Acts 10:1-11:18). Jesus brings discontinuity in the midst of continuity” (Bock p. 520).


Wineskins were made of treated and groomed animal skins, and the neck of the animal was used for the opening of the large container. After a while, the skin became brittle. Putting new wine, which expanded with fermentation, would burst the old brittle skin.

Obvious parallel: Jesus is the new wine, and old Judaism is the brittle wineskin. God is doing a new thing. You see, you have to imagine Pharisees and teachers of the law roaming the country and going into towns—sometimes living in them—dishing out rules and regulations on how to keep the law. As noted, they read their history in the Hebrew Bible. They knew that God had judged their nation because the ancient Israelites broke the laws of the covenant (together called the law of Moses). So their motives were honorable. But things just got too complicated.

Now Jesus comes along, to take God’s way with man in a new direction. He is currently ushering in the new kingdom, the new covenant. God is in the process of leaving behind the old. With the cross, the resurrection and the ascension, the departure from the old will be completed, and the new direction will go full force.

Here are these links again:

What Does the New Covenant Retain from the Old?

Do Christians Have to ‘Keep’ the Ten Commandments?

Ten Commandments: God’s Great Compromise with Humanity’s Big Failure

One Decisive Difference Between Sinai Covenant and New Covenant

Jesus’s point here is that old Judaism is on the way out. In the Gospel of Luke, when national Israel rejects its Messiah, God will place Judaism and the whole Levitical system under judgment (Luke 19:41-45; 21:20-24; 23:26-31; Matt. 21:33-45), though numerous individual priests (Acts 6:7) and thousands of Jews of Jerusalem and Judea converted (Acts 21:20). God loves people, but he is not enamored with systems.

Bock: “All the accounts [of Matthew, Mark and Luke] have the same basic point: the mixture of the old and the new is destructive and cannot really be done, because the damage is done to both pieces of cloth. Mark and Matthew say in effect that to mix the old and the new makes matters worse. Luke says that to mix them is not good since the new is ripped and the old and the new do not fit together” (p. 519).


Those verses drive home the previous one. New wine is for a new container. Discard the old, brittle container.

This is a strong rebuke. Yes, people prefer the old fermented wine, because it intoxicates. Will they accept the new wine? Some will, but as noted in v. 37, the old religious system and the establishment in Jerusalem will keep the old because it is comforting and intoxicating. However, it is better to choose the new wine. It may not intoxicate, but the new will open up a greater horizon as to who God is.

Marshall states the obvious meaning of v. 39: “The verse expresses the viewpoint of those who are content with the old, because they think it is good, and make no effort to try the new. It is thus an ironical comment on the Jews who refused to taste the ‘new wine’ of the gospel which was not hallowed by age” (comment on v. 39).

GrowApp for Luke 5:33-39

A.. This entire passage is about the new replacing the old. Jesus is the new, and the old Sinai Covenant and the Judaism of his day is the old. In your life today, what drew you to the new way, to Jesus, and away from your old life?

B.. Fasting is a biblical discipline. If you fast or are interested in it, study Isaiah 58. What are your motives? How do you do it? What are the results?

Conclusion and Summary

The themes in this chapter are about calling, commissioning, and a new way.

First, Simon Peter and others were called in the environment of a miracle. God ordained the fish should be there and revealed to Jesus that they would be there. After all, Peter objected that they had been fishing all night. It was a miracle of nature and supernatural knowledge—both. In that environment, Jesus said Peter and others would take men alive in a rescue mission.

Second, the man healed of skin disease cleansed because Jesus was willing to do this. He is not the reluctant Jesus, and his Father and ours is not an erratic genie or mean cosmic butler. Then Jesus told the healed man not to spread the miracle around, but to show his skin to the priest. So we have a reversed calling. The healed man was to contain it. Why? Jesus’s mission was to usher in the kingdom of God, and miracles and healing were simply one part. They are exciting, while teachings can be boring in comparison. But teaching is more important because it appeals to the cognitive side of humankind, while healings touch the body which is doomed to die anyway. Teachings will last into eternity. We will take them with us. They enlarge our souls. I believe that under-taught people will still have a smaller soul in heaven than those who have bigger and deeper teaching. Shriveled redeemed souls versus enlarged redeemed souls. Both groups will be in the eternal kingdom, but one will understand God more deeply. You decide.

Third, Jesus opens a new way of forgiveness, with the paralytic. In the past animals had to be sacrificed. The sins on and in humans were transferred to the animals. Now all we have to do is ask, in Jesus’s name. (Then why did Jesus die on the cross for our sins? To fulfill the sacrificial laws and to pay for the just penalties of our sins. The just penalty says either we die, or someone else dies. He said, “I will die for you.”) Jesus demonstrated his capacity to launch the new way by healing the man. Once again, healing and miracles back up the Word. The Word first, miracles and healings second.

Fourth, then Jesus called Levi, who got up and left everything and “began to follow” Jesus or who “was following Jesus.” For him it was a process. But there were no fireworks, as there were in Peter’s call and commission. Yet he responded to Jesus’s call and gave up a lucrative business. That took courage, to follow the new way.

Fifth and finally, Jesus gives a clear teaching about the new way. He is the bridegroom, and the image of a wedding banquet speaks of the Messianic Age (Is. 54:5-6; 62:4-5; Jer. 2:2; Ezek. 16; Hos. 2:14-23). God sits down, so to speak, and dines with his people. It is an image of intimacy. People don’t eat a banquet when they are in the middle of the battle. They fight. But a wedding speaks of joy and celebration. The Messiah is here. Next illustration: no one tears off a patch from the new cloth to sew it on the old. A torn new garment and a mismatch. He is the new garment, and one cannot combine old Judaism with the new way, without damaging both. Final illustration: Jesus is the new wine, and he cannot be contained in brittle leather wineskin because new wine ferments and will burst the skin and spill out. New wine is for new wineskins. Then why do people prefer the old, fermented wine (v. 39)? Jesus answers: because the old is comfortable and intoxicating. People are used to it, while the new is challenging. They are often reluctant to abandon the old and embrace the new. It is a firm rebuke of the old ways and affirmation of the new.


Bock, Darrel L. Luke 1:1-9:50. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 1 (Baker, 1994).

—. Luke 9:51-24:53. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Vol. 2. (Baker 1996).

Culy, Martin M., Mikael C. Parsons. Joshua J. Stigall. Luke: A Handbook on the Greek Text. (Baylor UP, 2010).

Fitzmyer, Joseph A., SJ. The Gospel according to Luke, I-IX. Vol. 28. The Anchor Bible. (Doubleday, 1981).

—. The Gospel according to St. Luke, X-XIV. The Anchor Bible. Vol. 28A. (Doubleday, 1985).

Garland, David E. Luke. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. (Zondervan, 2011).

The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 2014). The Greek text in the table comes from the Nestle-Aland 28th ed, available here:

Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Eerdmans, 1997).

Liefeld, Walter L and David W. Pao. Luke. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. (Zondervan, 2007).

Marshall, I. Howard. The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text. The New International Greek Testament Commentary. (Eerdman’s, 1978).

Morris, Leon. Luke. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. (IVP Academic, 1988).

Stein, Robert H. Luke: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture. The New American Commentary. Vol. 24. (Broadman and Holman, 1992).

Works Cited


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