Jesus Calls His First Disciples
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” – Luke 5:4-5
After a hard night of fishing, Peter had returned to the shore disheartened, when he saw Jesus approaching. Jesus got into Peter’s boat and started to preach to the people gathered on the beach. Peter wrapped up his fishing gear and joined the others. After the sermon, Jesus wanted to go back out to fish. But Peter, an experienced fishermen, retorted that even after toiling all night he was not able to catch any fishes and was hesitant to go back into the lake.
Let’s put ourselves in Peter’s shoes and think about our respective fields of expertise. We too apply our knowledge and experiences to make conscious decisions rather than blindly obeying a stranger. So why did Peter obey Jesus? Perhaps it was Jesus’ sermon that inspired him or maybe even the healing of his mother-in-law that he had recently witnessed.
When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break … When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” – Luke 5:6-8
When the adrenalin from pulling the heavy load of fishes had settled down, Peter realized who was standing in front of him. He would have heard stories of Moses’ encounter with the God of the Old Testament and felt he did not deserve to be in the presence of Jesus.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. – Luke 5:10-11
This was not the first time Jesus called Peter to be his disciple (Mark 1:16-20). Based on the incidents sandwiched between the accounts of Mark and that of Luke, this was the second recorded calling for Peter to be fishers of men. Maybe the miracle of catching fishes had a more lasting impact for Peter rather than the healing of his mother-in-law and he decided to dedicate his life to Jesus.
We all have different breaking points where we commit to Jesus. As a fisherman, Peter knew how much hard work was required to catch fishes. Jesus knew the fears Peter would have had in his heart. Fishing was the only thing he was good at. What if this new job did not work out? How will he support his family when he is on the road? Jesus made his job seem so easy but more than that he made it seem inconsequential.
Jesus Heals And Forgives
While Jesus was in one of these towns, a man stricken with leprosy came to Him begging for healing. In those days, leprosy brought pain in two folds. First, the disease itself but more significantly it carried a tag of being an untouchable. Jesus did not care about the social stigma attached with the disease and reached out his hand and touched the man and healed him, something his observers would have hated.
Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” – Luke 5:14
Why would Jesus deter this man from giving his testimony of how his life had been changed? Jesus came down with the intention of replacing us on the cross. He did not want the healing aspect of his ministry to derail his journey to the cross. As we see in the later verses that people started coming to him only for healing. Jesus knew that he won’t be able to get his message across Israel if this continued.
But why would Jesus send him to the priest? Maybe to honor God from whom the healing came to the leper or perhaps to ascertain the fact that he was not against the laws of Moses (Leviticus 14:2-32).
The priest was sort of a notary who could give a certificate of admission to a leper to enter back in society. Jesus never asked the blind or the lame he healed to show themselves to the priest but only to the lepers. Jesus said the exact same thing to the ten lepers he met on the outskirts of Samaria and Galilee (Luke 17:11-19). Jesus wanted to give them back the thing they craved the most, social acceptance.
Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. – Luke 5:15
We keep reading that Jesus always sought alone time with God through prayer. Prayer is not always a task finding activity of what we should accomplish next but just simply talking to God. Our conversations with our parents is not only about asking for stuff but simply enjoying their company and sharing about our day. Similarly, we should pray to have fellowship with our Father.
One day when Jesus was preaching in a house that was packed through the roof, literally a man had to be descended from the roof by his friends. By this point in Jesus’ ministry, the Pharisees had started pouring in from all parts of Israel to see Jesus in action. Perhaps out of curiosity of whether Jesus could be the Messiah that they had been waiting for or more likely to gather evidence against him. Unlike the previous healings, Jesus chose to forgive the sins of the paralyzed rather than heal him.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” – Luke 5:20
The Pharisees and the teachers of the law took forgiving of sins as an act of blasphemy, while Jesus wanted them to know that the Son of Man had authority to forgive sins as well and not just heal a person on the outside.
Everyone marveled that the man who had been carried in on a mat, walked out with his mat in his hands. But no one marveled that he had obtained the eternal life that day. We are too worried about life on this earth that we forget about our eternal life.
Jesus Eats With Sinners And People Who Do Not Fast
After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. – Luke 5:27-28
Not much is known about Levi except for this passage. Even in his own book he does not talk about himself. As a tax collector, Levi would have been an outcast from the Jewish society for a different reason than the leper. But again Jesus was breaking all rules when he asked Levi to follow him. Just think about the different roles that Jesus entrusted to his disciples where a tax collector was chosen to chronicle the life of Jesus and Judas, a thief by nature, was entrusted with the money bag.
At his house, Levi invited all his tax collector friends with the hope that they too might find salvation. Does our guest list for a dinner party even remotely resemble the one we make for a prayer meeting? Are we traveling in completely different non-intersecting circles?
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” – Luke 5:30-31
The Pharisees and the teachers of the law had a problem with Jesus spending so much time with ‘sinners’. Everyone needs Jesus, it is just that some do not realize that they are sick. Later, the Pharisees raised concerns regarding the disciples not fasting. They were looking at human actions as a way to please God but forgot the reason why they fasted. Jesus replied saying
No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. – Luke 5:37-38
When new wine is poured in new wineskin, both the wine and wineskin age together. The expanding of the wine is complimented by the toughening of the wineskin. Any other combination results in breaking of the wineskin and spilling of the wine. The wine-skin represents a believer and the wine represents a set of beliefs. Let the new beliefs be for the new believers and old beliefs remain with the old believers.
When we ask a new believer to start fasting or give up something, we are looking for ways to drive them away. Even the Jews of the early Church in Acts, expected the new believers to circumcise themselves according to their traditions (Acts 15). Like the four friends who brought the paralyzed man, our work ends with bringing someone to Christ. Let the Holy Spirit inside the believer handle the rest.
On the flip side, Jesus was also addressing the fact that the new message he brought would not be accepted by old hardened hearts of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.
- Like Peter, do we sometimes think that we are not worthy to come before God?
- Does God heal our friends based on our faith and not theirs?
- Now that Jesus has been crucified, risen from the death and is residing in our hearts, what is the need for fasting?
- Do we place God just below our careers or are we like Peter and Levi, ready to follow Jesus wherever he leads?