Jesus fishes for fishermen
Hello Peter, James, and John1 Back north, in Galilee, Jesus stood along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Crowds were pressing close to hear the word of God. 2 He saw two fishing boats anchored along the shoreline. The fishermen were out of the boats, washing their nets.
3 Jesus waded into the water and climbed up into one of the boats. It was Simon’s boat. Jesus asked Simon to push the boat out a short distance from the shore. Then, sitting in the boat, Jesus taught the crowd as they listened from the shoreline. 4 When Jesus was done talking he told Simon, “Head out into the deep water and drop your nets so you can catch some fish.”
5 Simon said, “Sir, we’ve fished all night and we’ve caught nothing worth keeping. But because you say so, I’ll drop my nets.” 6 When they did that, they trapped a school of fish so huge that it was about to snap the nets. 7 They signaled their partners in the other boat, calling them over to help. The fishermen caught so many fish that both boats nearly sank.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he dropped to his knees right there in the boat, in front of Jesus, and said, “Please stay away from me, sir. I’m a sinner.” 9 He was alarmed by this huge catch. So was everyone else in the boats. 10 Simon’s partners were unnerved as well: James and John, the sons of Zebedee. “Don’t be afraid,” Jesus told Simon. “From now on, you’ll be catching human beings.” 11 They took the boats to shore. Then they left everything and followed Jesus.
Healed: a man with leprosy12 In one of the villages Jesus met a man with leprosy in its advanced stages. When the man saw Jesus, he dropped face-down to the ground in front of him. The man said, “Please sir, you can make me clean if you want to.” 13 “I want to,” Jesus said, as he reached out and touched him. In that moment, the man’s leprosy vanished. He was clean again.
14 Jesus asked him not to tell anyone. Instead, Jesus told him, “Go right to the priest and take the offering Moses prescribed for the cleansing ritual as a proof to them.” 15 Yet somehow news about Jesus spread further and faster than ever before. Huge crowds came to hear him and get healed of their diseases. 16 Still, Jesus made time to slip away to isolated places and pray by himself.
How to shock a Pharisee17 Pharisees and experts in Jewish religious law heard about Jesus, so they came from villages all over Galilee and Judea and even from Jerusalem. They sat among the crowd and listened to Jesus as he taught one day. The Lord’s healing power was ready and waiting for Jesus to use. 18 Some men were carrying a paralyzed man on a stretcher. They were trying to get him through the crowd, to Jesus.
19 The men couldn’t get the stretcher through the thick crowd. So they took the man up to the roof. They made a hole in the roof by pulling out some of the tiles. Then they lowered the man on the stretcher through the hole, and set him smack dab right in front of Jesus.
20 When Jesus saw the determined faith of these men, he said to the man on the stretcher, “Buddy, your sins are forgiven.”
21 Pharisees and scholars known as scribes said to each other, “Who does this guy think he is, insulting God like this? Who forgives sins? Only God, right?”
22 Jesus knew what they were thinking. He told them, “Why are you questioning this? 23 What’s easier to say? ‘Your sins are forgiven?’ Or ‘Get up and walk?’ 24 I’ll tell you what, I’m going to do something to show you that the Son of Humans has the authority to forgive sins." Jesus told the paralyzed man, “I’m talking to you now. Get up. Pick up your stretcher and go home.”
25 Without hesitation, the man stood up in front of the crowd. Then he picked up what he had been carried in on, and he went back to his house thanking God as he left. 26 The people weren’t just astonished. They were rattled. But they praised God and said, “We have seen absolutely incredible things today.”
Tax collectors welcome27 Jesus went outside. He saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the tax booth. Jesus said to him, “Come with me.” 28 And that’s just what the tax collector did. He left the booth and followed Jesus.
29 Levi hosted a huge banquet in his home, in honor of Jesus. A lot of Levi’s fellow tax collectors came to eat with them. 30 Pharisees and Jewish scholars were not impressed. They filed a complaint with the disciples of Jesus: “Why are you people eating and drinking with the likes of tax collectors and known sinners?”
31 Jesus answered them, “Why not? Healthy people don’t need a doctor. Sick people do. 32 I haven’t come here to invite good and godly people to repent. I’ve come to invite sinners.”
33 They tossed another complaint at him: “John’s disciples skip eating so they can fast and pray. So do disciples of the Pharisees. Not your disciples. They eat and drink like it’s nobody’s business.”
34 Jesus said, “Come on now, would you ask guests at a wedding to keep their hands off the food at the reception, when they’re celebrating with the groom? 35 The time is coming when the groom will be taken away from them. They can fast then.”
36 He told them a parable. “If you’re going to patch some old clothing, you’re not going to do it by ruining new clothing—by ripping off a strip from the new clothing and sewing the patch on to the old. If you do that you’ll ruin the new clothing. And the patch won’t match the old clothing anyhow. 37 Think of it this way, no one puts new wine into old and brittle wineskins. If we do that, the new wine which is still fermenting and expanding will burst the old wineskins that can’t stretch any. Suddenly, no more wine or wineskin. 38 Instead, new wine goes into new wineskins. 39 No one who has developed a taste for aged wine wants new wine or grape juice. Instead, they say, ‘I want the good old stuff.’ ”
Luke called it Lake Gennesaret, after a fertile plain nearby; Gennesaret means “garden of princes.” Many Israelis today call it Lake Kinneret because it’s shaped like a harp, kinnor in Hebrew.
Peter (John 1:42).
“They” probably refers to Simon Peter, James, and John – three of Jesus’ 12 disciples. Luke doesn’t say if the men left the work of processing the fish and cleaning the nets to the other fishermen, or if they helped the crew and then left.
Jewish law said lepers and others with skin disease were ritually unclean (Leviticus 13:45). This meant they couldn’t worship in the Temple until a priest declared them cured. Also, anyone who touched them became temporarily unclean and had to offer a sacrifice before a priest declared them clean again (Leviticus 5:2-10).
Jews thought to have been cured of leprosy or any other skin disease had to sacrifice two birds, bathe, and wait another week before the priest could declare the patient cured on the eighth day after a second sacrifice, this one of three lambs, with grain, and olive oil (Leviticus 14).
Pharisees were one of several groups of Jews. It was a bit like Methodists being one of many groups of Christians. Pharisees were known for not only strictly keeping the laws of Moses, but also for keeping hundreds of other laws that were a bit like the rules in church manuals today. For example, Jewish law said Jews should not work on the Sabbath. Pharisees defined what they considered work – such as healing people. Pharisees taught that practicing medicine on the Sabbath was forbidden except when someone was at risk of dying that day.
Usually translated Son of Man. This is a title Jesus used a lot to describe himself. In the Jewish Bible the phrase contains hints of divinity in some passages and humanity in others – perhaps a perfect phrase for describing someone Christians would say was fully God and fully human. Hint of the divine: the prophet Daniel saw someone like a son of man coming from heaven (Daniel 7:13). Hint of the human: God often described Ezekiel as a mortal by using the phrase “son of man” (Ezekiel 2:1).
Jews considered tax collectors collaborators with the enemy – Romans who had been occupying the Jewish homeland for about a century. Tax collectors were often Jews who bid on the job of collecting taxes from their fellow Jews. Their bid was a promise to pay that amount of money to Rome. Whatever they collected above that bid, they kept as profit. Many tax collectors had a reputation for overcharging. Some rabbis later taught that it was perfectly okay to lie to a tax collector – essentially, to cheat a cheater.
A parable is a story with a spiritual message embedded in it.
Many Bible experts say Jesus was probably talking about how hard it would be for Jews to let go of their traditions and to embrace the New Covenant that he was introducing, when laws written on stone are replaced by laws written on the heart and the mind (Jeremiah 31:33).
Why do you think Jesus felt comfortable enough with Simon Peter to simply climb in his boat (5:3) after Simon had been fishing all night, and tell him to push back so he could talk to the crowd?
Jesus is going to pick a motley crew of disciples, a dirty dozen: fishermen, a tax collector, and who knows what else. Why do you think he would entrust the Christian movement to workaday grunts like this instead of to the scholarly minded or movers and shakers?
After Jesus healed the man who had leprosy he “asked him not to tell anyone” (5:14). Why do you think Jesus would ask him to do such a seemingly impossible thing?
What do you think of the men who had the chutzpah to tear open the roof of someone’s home and lower a paralyzed man to Jesus below?
When a paralyzed man on the stretcher got lowered through the ceiling and placed at the feet of Jesus, the first thing Jesus did was not to heal the man. He said, “Buddy, your sins are forgiven” (5:20). That seems to come from out of the blue. Why do you think Jesus did that?
Jewish scholars seemed to firmly believe that Jesus disrespected God by forgiving the sins of the paralyzed man (5:21). So Jesus healed the man to prove he had authority from God. The scholars did not seem convinced. What do you think it would have taken to convince them?
Why do you think Jesus seemed particularly fond of describing himself as the “Son of Humans” (5:24)?
Jewish scholars came from all over the Jewish homeland to witness what was going on with Jesus. What do you think would have been the main attraction with them? The unusual teachings of Jesus that didn’t always track very well with Jewish traditions? Or his healing ministry?
LIFE APPLICATION. When the people saw Jesus forgive the sins of the paralyzed man and then heal him, “The people weren’t just astonished. They were rattled” (5:26). Have you or anyone you know experienced anything like that—God doing something so remarkable that it left you absolutely astonished and maybe a little bit spooked?
LIFE APPLICATION. When have you seen someone get so aggressive in helping another person that they remind you of the stretcher bearers who carried the paralyzed man?