Revolutionary Adventures in the Gospel of Luke
Luke Chapter 5 (Luke 5:1-38)
by Brad Duncan
Join me on this adventure through the Gospel of Luke as I explore the revolution of God's grace poured out to us, and how it can lead to our fulfilling God's greatest plan to build his kingdom on Earth.
The Journey so far follows these themes: Preparation. Incarnation. Revolution. Liberation. Transformation.
Outline of Luke 5:1-38:
- Jesus meets Simon, James and John
- Jesus borrows the boat
- Jesus performs a miracle by catching fish
- Simon, James and John are amazed. Simon is humbled when he realizes Jesus' authority and says "Leave me, Lord, for I'm a sinner." Jesus comforts him, accepts him and tells him that he will inspire others to accept God.
- The three of them follow Jesus.
- Jesus heals a man with a skin disease
- The man recognizes Jesus' authority to heal him.
- Jesus acknowledges his authority, and his good will to help the man.
- Jesus restores the man to society by instructing him to present himself as a clean person at the temple.
- Jesus heals a paralyzed man while teaching
- The faith of the man and his friends lead to the man being healed
- But Jesus makes a point to the surrounding crowd -- he tells the man that his sins are forgiven, and later commands him to get up and walk. The connection between forgiving sins and healing is clear to those that accept Jesus authority as the Son of God. But many do not accept or understand.
- Jesus meets Levi
- Jesus simply calls him to leave his profession and to follow him as his disciple.
- Levi readily accepts and throws a big party, telling all his friends and inviting Jesus. He clearly recognized what an amazing blessing had fallen to him that Jesus would call him to be his disciple.
- The religious leaders are offended at who Jesus has dinner with. Jesus makes the point to them that sick people are the ones who need a doctor, and sinners are the ones who need God. Again, connecting forgiving sins and healing. Also pointing out that people have to acknowledge their sin before they can find redemption.
- Parable of the old and the new
- Finally, the religious leaders question the practices of Jesus disciples. They expect that if these disciples are seeking God, that they should be fasting a praying! In their minds seekers of God should perform actions to please God and get his favor.
- Jesus points out what nonsense it is to seek God's favor through actions when he is already pouring his favor out on you!
- He points out that the old way of thinking about pleasing God is completely incompatible with the reality of God's plan. People need to change. They need to give up their misconceptions about how to please God or they just will not be able to receive the message of the kingdom.
In Luke 5, we see Jesus interacting with people one-on-one and in large groups, in a way predicted by John the Baptist. Some people's hearts were somehow ready to see the Messiah, Christ the Lord, and to hear God's new message. They seemed to readily accept the authority of Jesus. When Jesus performed the miracle of catching fish in the lake to point where the boats were overflowing, Simon's response is telling. He said "Leave me Lord, for I'm a sinner."! He went straight to the truth. This man, Jesus, was God. It was honestly scary, and Simon was honestly acknowledging that we was not ready to meet God because he felt unworthy. This was the truth! Jesus did not disagree with him, but instead valued his honesty before God. He tried to set Simon at ease ("Don't be afraid.") and showed him the potential that he had to do good because of his honest heart -- in fact he would be the leader in inspiring other people's hearts to also follow Jesus. The outcome should not be overlooked; after this conversation Simon, James and John left their profession as fishermen, and followed Jesus as his disciples. The path for them to see the truth was straight - from honest heart to following Christ.
We see similar clarity in the man with the skin disease. He sees Jesus, and he recognizes his authority. Jesus not only heals his body, but he also guides the man on how to restore himself in a society where we had been discarded because of his condition. By going to the priest he would be able to be clean again and to go home. As many (hundreds, thousands?) of people were healed, I can just picture them lining up at the temple to show themselves to the priests. What a testament that something amazing was happening! The priests must have been amazed at the whole, healed, people that were coming to them, some of them whom they had never seen healthy!
The paralyzed man and his friends have faith in who Jesus is. Jesus makes a point of their faith in front of the crowd that is gathered to hear his teachings. He says "Friend, your sins are forgiven", rather than simply saying the man would be healed. For those whose hearts were ready, Jesus was God and would forgive sins, cast out demons and heal diseases. How would you feel if you met God and his first words were, "Friend, your sins are forgiven"? What amazing relief and gratitude I would feel. Accepting God is a state of the heart, and then his authority over the world is naturally assumed. Jesus had to point this obvious connection between his authority to heal and his deity as the Son of God -- those that were not ready could not easily understand this.
Again, for Levi it was a straight path. Jesus called him to "follow me". What did he do? He left his profession and followed Jesus as a disciple. He threw a big party to celebrate his new life with all of his friends! Somehow his heart was ready to see, follow, celebrate, and declare to all the authority of Jesus!
All Mountains and Valleys for Some People
What about those people who John had addressed because they were taking comfort in their religious pedigree? People who were already "okay with God" in their own minds, because of something they were doing or what class they were born into, what about them? They just couldn't see it. They said "Who is this that insults God? Only God can forgive sins!". They also said, (in my own words) "Why do you hang out with people who do not have a good religious pedigree? Shouldn't you like us better because we are special?" They also said, "Shouldn't your disciples be trying to earn God's favor by praying and fasting?" Jesus said their minds were filled with questions. They just didn't get it, but it was no surprise - they thought the way to God was NOT through the heart. So, they could not see the truth right in front of them. Because of their predisposition against God's way of changing people, it would be very difficult for them to come to faith. They would need to abandon many previous conceptions about God, give up their elitist status as religious leaders, and accept change in their own hearts. Not impossible, but very difficult. They would have to climb many mountains and cross many valleys to see God.
Jesus explained the near-impossibility of this -- God's message was something new. You could not retrofit it to the old way of thinking. You have to make a choice: change my way of thinking and accept what is new, or stick to the old way and say "the old wine is better". You clearly have to discard the old pattern to accept the new one, since they are incompatible.
Jesus brings it to a clear point in v31: "Isn't it the sick people who need a doctor?". The question is rhetorical. The implication is deeper: "Don't sick people have to acknowledge that they are sick before they will see a doctor?" People have to acknowledge that their hearts need to change before they can see what God is really doing.
So, our are hearts compatible with the message Jesus brought? Do we want so badly to please God through some other means, that we can't change at the heart level? Do we acknowledge that we are the sinners that Jesus came for, or do we think we are the righteous that don't need further help? If our hearts are not compatible with God's way of working, then it will be like crossing mountains for us to see him. On the other hand if we can be like Simon, honest about our own hearts, we can much more easily see the kingdom of God.
One point I want to make it that this is not about God rejecting us. It is about our lack of readiness to accept him. He accepts us, whether we are scared, guilty, or sick. He can even accept the religious elite. The problem lies with us. Can we hear him calling?
This chapter shows the Incarnation of Christ in a more personal light. The collision between God and man hinges on the readiness of people to see what is right in front of them. The revolution of the Holy Spirit is a straight path for those who turn their hearts to God. For others, it is like trying to bring medicine to people who don't think they are sick! It's just really difficult.