5 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding round him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’
5 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.’
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.’ 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Last week we observed how Luke gives his readers a clear view of who Jesus is. Jesus was commissioned by God the Father and anointed by the Holy Spirit. He spoke with authority and he had authority over evil and over sickness. Now we see Jesus Lord over the animal kingdom. There were not just a few fish in the catch, but an abundance. Our Lord doesn’t do things by halves – you only have to look at the insect world to see that! He is an extravagant God! He lavishes his grace and love [Eph 1:8, 1 John 3:1], he blesses abundantly [2 Cor 9:8], he pours out the Holy Spirit [Acts 10:45], our blessing will run over [Luke 6:38], he richly provides us with everything to enjoy [1 Tim 6:17-19], we will reap bountifully [2 Cor 9:6]… you get the message I’m sure. This incident is a display of the power and authority of God, and Peter gets the message. Jesus commanded the fish in the sea. Peter realises who Jesus is, and who he himself is. For a man who so often gets it wrong with his unthinking outbursts, here he gets it so right. He is in a tiny boat with the holy Son of God! He is in deadly peril for God hates sin. As the writer of Hebrews says, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”. [Hebrews 10:31].
There are many ways for us to view our relationship with Jesus: as our friend, as our brother, as our Lord, as our helper, but we start the relationship through a recognition of our need for rescue. There is no salvation without repentance for sin. Jesus’ message was “Repent and believe the good news” [Mark 1:15]. Peter’s words don’t necessarily indicate repentance, but they are the first step. The wonder of our Lord is that he can say “Don’t be afraid.” We don’t need to fear God’s holy and righteous anger at our sin. There is forgiveness. All it takes is true repentance and faith in Jesus. He can say “don’t be afraid” because he will deal with our sin at the cross.
Sometimes we can take our sin too lightly and Jesus’ forgiveness too easily. On the other hand, we can sometimes let our sense of sin and failure overwhelm us. It is right to feel the weight of sin but we must always end with Jesus’ words “Don’t be afraid.”
Are you more prone to feel the weight of failure and sin or to take Jesus’ forgiveness too lightly? Balance is usually a matter of managing the wobble one way and then other.
God of Grace, thank you for the gift of forgiveness and renewal. Give me a realistic view of my sinful state and the incredible standing you give me in Jesus. Amen
12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’
13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ And immediately the leprosy left him.
14 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.’
15 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their illnesses. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
In these early chapters Luke is piling up incident after incident to give us a clear picture of who Jesus is and what he is capable of. Here he shows Jesus as being above the cleanliness laws of the Jews. As you will know, leprosy was perhaps the most obvious and extreme example of the cleanliness laws of the Bible because not only were you ceremonially unclean if you had the disease you were also cast out from participating in the religious rites of your community:you were actually expelled from the community itself [Lev 13:45 & 46]. It was the ancient quarantine system at work, and it was permanent as long as you had the disease. The word “leprosy” covered a multitude of skin diseases but leprosy itself was incurable. You were an outcast for life. This man was a particularly bad case – he was “covered with leprosy”.
“Lord if you are willing you can make me clean.” What agony and desperation there is in those words! He falls on his face, puts his face to the ground and begs for healing.
Is this not a picture of how we all come to Jesus to be cleansed? We have nothing to offer. We cannot earn his cleansing in any way. All we can do is ask. The great D.L. Moody is credited with saying that spreading the Good News is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.
Jesus reaches out his hand and touches the man. Luke’s phrasing makes it clear that this wasa deliberate act by Jesus; it was no accidental touching. He is deliberately overruling the law of the Old Testament, the law given by God himself, by touching the man. Theoretically the touch would make Jesus unclean but, as the Son of God, Jesus’ purity is so intense that it overpowers the uncleanness. This foreshadows what happens at the cross where the perfection and purity of Christ overwhelms evil completely.
With just four words years of disease and disgrace are wiped out. When Peter was overwhelmed by his sinfulness, Jesus’ words to him were “don’t be afraid”; we now have the reason why fear is not necessary - Jesus can overcome our “uncleanness”.
Does your new status in Christ fill you with Joy? [1 Peter 1:8]
Does it make you want to spread that Good News?
Lord God our helper, keep me focussed on your great blessings to me. Amen
17 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal those who were ill. 18 Some men came carrying a paralysed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.’
21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, ‘Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’
22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, ‘Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So he said to the paralysed man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, ‘We have seen remarkable things today.’
‘Triage’ is the name given to medical assessment to work out the degree of severity of illness or injury. It enables the medicos to deal with the most serious things first. There’s no point spending time stitching a wound if the patient is having a heart attack.
This incident is still early on in Luke’s Gospel, where he is carefully building up a picture of Jesus and who he is. Luke, the doctor, shows Jesus conducting what we can see with hindsight is triage on the paralysed man. The man is laying at the feet of Jesus after his dramatic entry through the roof. It is very obvious what he is after. We’re familiar with the story so the shock doesn’t really hit us as it would have those people gathered around Jesus. They’d have expected Jesus to say “Friend, be healed.” After all, that is what he’d been doing according to verse 17, “The power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal those who were ill.”
Instead Jesus says, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” We don’t know what the man thought about that, but if it had been me I’d have thought “OK, but what about my legs!” Jesus goes to the heart of the man’s problem. His physical condition is terrible but it is nothing compared to his condition if he faces God on the last day unforgiven. Jesus sees the man in the light of eternity. His world view is so much bigger than ours.
He forgives the man his sins. Think about that for a moment. If I wrong someone it’s irrelevant if someone else says that they, the third party, forgive me. They aren’t the person wronged. That is why the pharisees are so upset. They say, “Who does this bloke think he is? Only God can forgive sins committed against him.” They see Jesus’ words for what they are - a claim at being equal with God.
He asks “Which is easier?” [v23], and it’s obvious that claiming to forgive sins is the easier thing to do because no one can disprove that you’ve done it. It is far more difficult to heal someone, especially when your claim is so easily proved or disproved.
Then Jesus goes on to heal the man. Why? Sure, he loves the man and his compassion reaches out to heal him, but notice Jesus’ words here - he says that he will heal this man so that you will know that he has the authority to forgive sins [v 24]. The priority is forgiving sins. All of Jesus’ miracles point to who he is; that’s why in John’s gospel they’re called “signs” [John 4:54].
Do you put the same priority on the message about the forgiveness of sins?
God our rescuer, help me to take up the opportunities you bring my way to talk about the forgiveness you offer. Amen
18 Some men came carrying a paralysed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.’
What part does faith play in the forgiveness of sins? In this incident it does not seem likely that they were trusting Jesus for forgiveness but rather for healing. Jesus was able to see their faith. Their actions demonstrated what was in their hearts. It reminds us of James’ words, “Faith without works is dead” [James 2:20]. I can remember many years ago someone asking me, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”
The writer to the Hebrews says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” [Heb 11:6].
So the big question is, who are you trusting to put you right with God? It’s not even a question of how much faith you have. What the friends did was to put their friend in Jesus’ hands – they entrusted him to Jesus. It is enough that we entrust our eternity to Jesus.
Of course God could save us without our faith playing a part because he is completely sovereign, but in his plan it is faith that is the vehicle.
In case this looks like we contribute to our salvation, it’s important to realise that it is God who gives us faith. Phil 1:29 says, For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.” Not only is suffering a gift from God, but so is belief – faith.
Acts 13:48 says, “… all who were appointed for eternal life believed.”
It works like this – we are by nature dead in our sin; slaves to sin. Dead people cannot have faith. Romans 8:8 says that those controlled by the sinful nature (all of us if we’re not saved) cannot please God. We cannot even exercise faith without God working in us. So God grants us a new heart which now is able to put faith in him. Eph 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” What is the thing that saves us? Grace. The gift of God. God grants us the capacity to believe.
What a relief that is! I don’t have to doubt that I have “enough faith”. If I have entrusted my eternity into Jesus’ hands then I can be completely confident that God has done all that is necessary to make me his child. My faith, small as it might be, is the evidence that God has changed me. I have that assurance.
God of all grace, help me to live in the assurance of your rescue. Amen
Jesus calls Levi and eats with sinners
27 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, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’
31 Jesus answered them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’
Jesus’ words are authoritative. He speaks and demons are cast out his authority as a teacher is recognised, he heals with a word, and now he speaks and, Levi follows him. David says of God’s words,
“The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon….
…. The voice of the Lord twists the oaks[c]
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’” [Psalm 29]
What does Jesus mean when he says that he hasn’t come to call the righteous but sinners? He means that he came for those who need him. Sinners need him! No one should be left out and not invited into the kingdom. His salvation is for the lowly and the outcast as much as it for those who seem to have it all together.
It’s been said that you can judge a church by the number of people present who would normally be outcasts in our culture[see Luke 14:21]. Do you agree? Why not chat about that this week?
No one is too far gone for Jesus. The pharisees don’t think that they need to be saved. They were “the righteous ones”. You can read Jesus’ explanation of this in chapter 18 in the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector. Without God’s intervention, those who are confident in their own righteousness will never accept what Jesus is offering because they don’t think thatthey need it.
When we look around in church we are in the company of the saved. We have responded to the call of Jesus, underserving as we are. There is no division between the goldy and the not-so-godly, the got-it-all-together people and the dysfunctional. We are all brothers and sisters who have recognised our common dysfunction before God and our common need for being remade.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
God of all people everywhere, please send out your life-giving word to all people. Help me to be a vehicle of that word. Amen