THE GOSPEL OF LUKE

THE GREAT GALILEAN MINISTRY
Luke 4:14-9:50

The Call to Discipleship and the Beginning of the Conflict
Luke 5:1-39

. INTRODUCTION

Jesus’ sermon in Nazareth set the tone for the response Jesus would receive among many of His countrymen. When Jesus came proclaiming the kingdom of God, He was not bringing God’s kingdom into a vacuum. Satan had rightly claimed that he owned the kingdoms of the world (which fell to his power at the fall of man in Gen. 3). As a result, Jesus was entering hostile territory when He began His public ministry. Although Satan is not directly met again during the remainder of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus meets him in the Jewish religious orders: Pharisees, Sadducees, etc. Jesus will meet with some success, as seen in the response of the disciples; however, He will also meet with considerable opposition among the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus’ ministry is an invasion into enemy territory.

Unlike the Gospel of John, the first 3 Gospels highlight Jesus’ ministry in Galilee; John highlights Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem. Although Jesus does spend time in Jerusalem throughout His 3-year ministry, the bulk of His time is spent in Galilee. Why Galilee and not Jerusalem? Because the theological climate in Galilee is healthier than that in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem resided the heartbeat of radical “conservative” Judaism. It was the center of opposition to Jesus’ ministry because of the threat He posed to the Jewish religious leaders who lived there. Galilee, on the other hand, was not entrenched in the radical religious “conservatism” of that day, as seen especially among the Pharisees. Although the Galileans were religious people, they did not adhere quite so steadfastly to all the laws, rules, and regulations of the Pharisees. As a result, they were more open to Jesus and the gospel than the Jews in Jerusalem. (Even today the attitude of the Jews is that if you want to be religious, you go to Jerusalem; if you want to play, you go to Tel Aviv.)


THE CALLING OF THE FIRST DISCIPLES (5:1-11)

Although Jesus’ sermon in Nazareth previews for us the primary response of the Jews to Christ, the truth is that at least some did respond positively to Jesus and His message about the kingdom of God (Luke 4:43). Jesus primarily ministered for three years in the area known as Gennesaret, land which included the city of Capernaum. Capernaum was located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Lake of Gennesaret. (It is not really a sea since it only measures ~14 miles in length and ~7 miles in width. The Jews though who feared water naturally called it a “sea.” While Jesus is ministering and teaching along the Sea of Galilee, a group of fishermen (Peter, Andrew, James, and John) pull up alongside where Jesus is teaching. They have been fishing all night long (the usual time for fishing on the Sea of Galilee), and have started mending and cleaning their nets for the next night’s work. In order to get most likely a better position from which to speak to the crowds, Jesus asks Peter if he will shove off a little from the land so that Jesus can teach from the boat. Peter complies.

After Jesus has finished teaching, He turns to Peter and instructs him to cast out his nets once more into the lake. Peter out of respect for Jesus calls Him, “Master” (the Greek word being "epistata," pronounced eh-PIS-tah-tah). This word simply indicates a sign of respect for somebody in position of authority. It does not necessarily mean that Peter is in subjection to Jesus. Peter goes on to inform Jesus that he and the other fishers have been fishing all night long—the best time for fishing—and have caught nothing. In other words, if Peter did not catch fish during prime time, he wasn’t going to be catching anything in the heat of the day. Out of respect for Jesus though Peter complies.

What happens is truly miraculous. Peter and Andrew (?) bring in a haul of fish so great that their nets can’t sustain the haul; therefore, they call out to James and John to help them retrieve the fish. The haul of fish is so great that it begins to sink not just one of the boats but both of the boats. It was one thing to catch fish during the daytime and quite another to catch one so huge that it sinks 2 boats. (These were no minor boats either. A boat dug up recently from around the time of Jesus and in the vicinity of the Sea of Galilee shows that these boats could measure at least 6 feet wide and 10-15 feet long.)

Peter immediately understands the meaning of this miracle. He is not simply in the presence of a mere man. He’s a tested, experienced fisherman. He knows that he has just witnessed a miracle from the hand of Jesus. He falls on his knees before Jesus and begs Jesus to depart from him. He calls Him “Lord” (Greek kurios) which first of all implies that Peter is submitting to Jesus‘ authority. Second, this is the Greek word used for the God of the OT. Some question whether or not Peter meant it in this second sense. We don’t know. We do know this though, that Luke understood it in this sense. Peter is not standing just before a good man. He is standing before the Lord of nature, the Lord God of the universe.

Why does Peter ask Jesus to leave Him? It’s not that Peter feels threatened by Jesus. It’s that he feels unworthy to be in Jesus’ presence. In Isaiah 6 when Isaiah sees the Lord on His throne and hears the angels singing praises to God, he declares that he is a man of unclean lips. Everybody looks good in the dark. The closer you get to the light the better you see your true self. Well, Peter is standing right next to the Light of the World and sees instantly that he is unclean and is unworthy to be in Jesus’ presence.

Jesus instead of leaving calls Peter to follow Him. He does not tell Peter to walk alongside Him or to walk in front of Him. Jesus calls us to be His disciples and that means following Him. In other relationship with Jesus only one person is in charge and it is not us. It is Him.

What happens whenever we follow Jesus? We become fishers of men: “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus does not call us primarily to be good fathers and mothers, although we will become those when we follow Jesus. He does not primarily call us into wonderful marriages, although these result from following Jesus. Jesus calls us to fish for men, for all people. Jesus like Jesus fished for Peter that day, Peter and we are to fish for people to come and follow Jesus.

We have really reduced Christianity to being nothing more than listening to good Bible studies, self-improvement courses, marriage enrichment weekends, 5th Quarters, worship on Sundays and Wednesdays, etc. Jesus calls us to fish for men. Jesus said that the primary reason He gave us the Holy Spirit is that we might be His witnesses: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses . . .” (Acts 1:8). Why don’t our churches experience the power of the Holy Spirit? Because we are not engaged in the work of the Spirit. He is fishing for men, and we’re concentrating on ourselves. You can forget the Spirit endorsing our agenda. He has come to obey Jesus and the Father, and that means He is going to fish for men. If we are going to experience His presence and power, then we are going to have to fish for men also.

Moreover, think about the significance of witnessing to people for Christ. What is the one thing we can do here on earth in our Christian life we cannot do in heaven? Has God called us primarily for worship here on earth? If worship were the primary thing, then He would translate us immediately up to heaven where worship is going to blow away any earthly worship. Bible study? Bible study is going to be a lot better at the feet of Jesus than in the presence of Carey Ford or any other earthly teacher. Fellowship? In heaven fellowship is tons better. Witnessing is the only thing we can do on earth we can’t do in heaven. That is the primary reason Christ has left us here and not taken us on to heaven.

Peter’s response? He left EVERYTHING and followed Jesus. (Peter was not the only one. Apparently his brother Andrew and his partners James and John left all as well and followed Jesus.) Following Jesus means leaving EVERYTHING. Peter and the rest were not going to return to their fishing business once they followed Jesus. They left everything. Following Jesus means leaving everything. How do we leave everything? By following Jesus in each and every area of our lives. Our jobs are no longer ours to do with as we please. They are His and we are to acknowledge His leadership in the way we conduct ourselves at work. Our families are not ours. They are His, and we are to follow Him in the way we treat our spouses and children. Our money is not ours. They are His, and we are to use our money the way Jesus would have us use it.


THE BEGINNING OF CONFLICT—JESUS HEALS THE PARALYTIC (5:17-26)

Jesus has definitely aroused the attention of the Jewish religious leaders. While Jesus is teaching in a home in Capernaum, in the audience are members of the Pharisees and other religious sects. These come not simply from Capernaum and Galilee but also from Jerusalem, a good 2-3-day journey away. They are experts in the Law of Moses and feel it their duty to evaluate the man so that they can steer the people either towards Him or away from Him.

As Jesus is teaching, four men try to bring a friend who is paralyzed to Jesus so that he might be healed. Because of the crowd blocking the entrance to the house where Jesus is teaching, they take the man on top of the roof, dig a hole through the roof, and then lower the man down to Jesus. Jesus is impressed not only by the man's faith but also by the faith of the four friends. To the surprise of the crowd, Jesus tells the man that his sins have been forgiven him.

The religious leaders begin to murmur among themselves. They correctly believe that God alone can forgive sins. While it is true that we do forgive sins that are committed against us, it is ultimately true that all sin is against God and that He ultimately forgives sin. They have correctly assumed that Jesus is speaking about forgiveness in the ultimate sense because Jesus does not contradict this or explain it. The religious leaders err in that they automatically assume Jesus cannot forgive sins. They have reduced Him to being nothing more than a man. The idea that He is God simply does not compute with them. They believe that He is not God because He CANNOT be God. They believed that God was so far above and beyond man that He would never become man.

The Jews are right in that God is transcendent, that He is far and above beyond mankind. Isaiah writes: "For My ways are not your ways, and My thoughts are not your thoughts. As high as the heavens are above the earth so are My thoughts above yours" (Is. 55:11). Yet to say that God WOULD NEVER become man contradicts the evidence we have that in Jesus God actually did become man. What is the evidence? Jesus' claims for Himself backed up by the resurrection. Jesus as this passage shows claimed to be God. The resurrection validates His claims because resurrection is a God-kind of event. Only God can raise the dead the way Jesus was raised. If Jesus lied about being God, then God validated a liar and a blasphemer, something He would never do.

This is the point where Jews and Christians part ways. The Jews have already determined what God will and will not do, and have based their beliefs upon these prejudices. Christians, on the other hand, have based their beliefs on what God has done--Jesus' claims and His resurrection. The early Jewish Christians weren't going around looking for God to become man; that was something they had been taught all their lives would not happen. They just simply accepted the truth when it did occur.

Jesus asks the religious leaders the question which is easier for a person to say: "Rise and be healed" or "Your sins are forgiven you"? The command to be healed is harder because it is verifiable, whereas telling somebody their sins are forgiven are not verifiable. If you tell a person to be healed and they aren't healed, you're a fake. Yet you can tell somebody that their sins are forgiven them and you can't prove it one way or the other. Moreover, if Jesus heals this man AFTER He has claimed to have forgiven His sins, then God is with Jesus; otherwise, once more, God would have vindicated a liar and blasphemer.

Jesus tells them that in order to show them that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins He will heal the man. At this point Jesus speaks the words of healing and the man is healed. Starting from this point on, the religious leaders are definitely hostile towards Jesus. In their opinion He not only irks them, He is a blasphemer worthy of death. For the next 3 years they will hound Him each step of the way until they finally kill Him.

One topic though needs to be addressed before leaving this section. What does Jesus mean when He calls Himself "the Son of Man"? Although the NT unabashedly calls Jesus "the Christ," the person who ushers in the kingdom of God, that was not the name Jesus applied to Himself. He knew He was the Christ, the One christened with God's Spirit to bring about God's kingdom; yet He did not openly apply this term to Himself because of the political ideas associated with this term. The Jews thought that the Christ would be a warrior like David who would conquer the political enemies of the Jews, the Romans. They believed that He would set up an earthly kingdom and rule from Jerusalem with the Jews heading up this kingdom. At the present time this was not the kind of kingdom Jesus had come to set up. Parts of that await His second coming. For Jesus to have embraced that term would have undermined the message He was trying to bring to them.

When Jesus calls Himself "the Son of Man," He is referring to Daniel 7:13, 14 in which Daniel claims that he saw in a night vision One like a Son of Man. "He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom. That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed." In this passage the Son of Man comes across as being divine with human characteristics. Moreover, because He has dominion, He has the responsibility of judging (forgiving and retaining sins). Jesus is saying He is that Son of Man.

Jesus goes even further though than the Daniel passage. Daniel says that this person was like a son of man. Jesus claims to be more than "like" a son of man; He claims to be Son of Man. In other words, He is not simply like a man; He is Man. Although He is fully God, He is also fully Man. Why was it necessary for Him to become fully Man? Because only a man could get us out of the mess we got ourselves into. The principle goes like this: if you get yourself into a mess, then you have to get yourself out. Since man through his sin in the Garden of Eden got himself into this mess, then man has to get himself out. Only a perfect man can do it though. No such perfect man existed though until Christ became a Man. By becoming a Man, He can now die for Man's sins. Because He is perfect, He doesn't have to pay for His sins but can pay for ours.