Week 5 | Luke 5
By Rev. Terry Walton
Crowds follow Jesus wherever he goes. Luke 5 begins “beside the lake of Gennesaret and the crowd pressing in on him to hear the ‘word of God’.” This is the first usage of the ‘word of God’, an expression that occurs frequently in both of Luke’s writings (Luke and Acts). When the expression is used in Acts, it refers to the gospel, the message of the church. In Luke, Jesus uses it in reference to the kingdom of God. By using the same expression in both the Gospel and Acts, Luke provides a strong link between Jesus’ preaching and the later apostolic preaching.
The fifth chapter of Luke’s Gospel contains the convincing of Simon that Jesus does see what he cannot see (more fish to be caught) and thus a convincing metaphor that there are people to be ‘caught’ for the kingdom, whether we can see it now or not…they are there, swimming aimlessly in a world that is all that they know.
Some think Jesus created this huge catch of fish or maybe it is that Jesus’ ever-discerning eye picked out this phenomenal school. Either way, it is as if Simon suddenly realizes that Jesus is different. He falls to his knees, “Go away, I can’t handle this.”
Simon has seen God working in Jesus and does not want God working on him. Simon trusts himself and nobody else, but now he has met someone whose instincts are better than his. Jesus knows more than Simon even in the area Simon thought he knew better, “I don’t want you working on me.”
Simon’s experience not only impacted Simon but also James and John, his business partners. It was then that Jesus says to Simon Peter, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”
It was an experience that would cause them to come to shore, leave everything they knew and did, to follow Jesus. We call this ‘the call of Jesus’ first disciples.’
It took some patience on Jesus’ part but he entered their world, met them at their point of need, and then showed them what they had not seen. He segued into life with the metaphor of reaching people just as they had caught fish.
From there, Luke travels to cities where leprosy is cleansed. Jesus does know what his followers are yet to know, but he also does what no one else will do, ‘touches the unclean’ demonstrating to them that love and compassion are more important than rigid compliance with any legal code. And yet there is respect for the law by Jesus as he instructs the man to present himself to the priest as required by the law.
Now the word of Jesus spreads like wildfire. The friends bring their paralytic friend, and all receive a lesson in forgiveness and healing. Those who witnessed were amazed and called the events ‘strange things.’ Luke wants us to see how differently those of the world and those of faith view the same events. For God’s people, healing and forgiveness are occasions for praise, not confusion.
People are scratching their heads when Levi/Matthew, the Tax Collector is invited to follow. Matthew leaves everything and follows. As John Wesley noted, “Levi does not leave literally everything, only his “business and gain” (Notes, 5:28). Levi can afford to host “a great banquet” even after leaving everything. The banquet becomes an occasion to discuss why Jesus’ disciples banquet rather than fast.
Jesus sees what we cannot see and knows what we are yet to know. However, as we follow, it becomes clearer and life changing. Yes Jesus’ call is radical, but in the midst of saying ‘yes’ to radical call, life is found. So much is found that we lay down our comfort zones and use what we have as an offering to others.
Questions/Thoughts to Ponder
May God guide us in the discovery of what we cannot see and are yet to know. Where we thought there was no more, may we find so much more than we ever dreamed…so much so that we much tell the story of Jesus.
Rev. Terry Walton is Superintendent of the Atlanta-Marietta District.
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