Luke 5


The miraculous draught of fishes at the lake of Gennesaret,


Christ heals a leper, 12-14.

His fame being published abroad, he withdraws to the desert,

15, 16.

He heals a paralytic person, at which the scribes and Pharisees

murmur, but the people glorify God, 17-26.

He calls the publican Levi, who makes a feast for Christ, to

which he invites a great number of publicans and others, at

which the scribes and Pharisees murmur, and our Lord vindicates

his conduct, 27-32.

The question about fasting answered, 33-35.

The parable of the new piece of cloth put on the old garment,

and the new wine in old bottles, 36-39.


Verse 1. The people pressed upon him] There was a glorious

prospect of a plentiful harvest, but how few of these blades came

to full corn in the ear! To hear with diligence and affection is

well; but a preacher of the Gospel may expect that, out of crowds

of hearers, only a few, comparatively, will fully receive the

truth, and hold out to the end.

To hear the word of God] τουλογοντουθεου, The doctrine of

God, or, the heavenly doctrine.

The lake of Gennesaret] Called also the sea of Galilee,

Mt 4:18, and Mr 1:16; and the

sea of Tiberias, Joh 6:1. It was, according to

Josephus, forty furlongs in breadth, and one hundred and forty

in length. No synagogue could have contained the multitudes who

attended our Lord's ministry; and therefore he was obliged to

preach in the open air. But this also some of the most eminent

rabbins were in the habit of doing; though among some of their

brethren it was not deemed reputable.

Verse 2. Two ships] δυοπλοια, Two vessels, It is highly

improper to term these ships. They appear to have been only such

small boats as are used to manage nets on flat smooth beaches:

one end of the net is attached to the shore; the fishermen row

out, and drop the net as they go, making a kind of semicircle from

the shore; they return, and bring the rope attached to the other

end with them, and then the net is hauled on shore; and, as it was

sunk with weights to the bottom, and floated with corks at the

top, all the fish in that compass were included, and drawn to


Verse 3. And taught-out of the ship.] They pressed so much upon

him on the land, through their eagerness to hear the doctrine of

life, that he could not conveniently speak to them, and so was

obliged to get into one of the boats; and, having pushed a little

out from the land, he taught them. The smooth still water of the

lake must have served excellently to convey the sounds to those

who stood on the shore;

Verse 5. Simon-said-Master] επιστατα. This is the first place

where this word occurs; it is used by none of the inspired penmen

but Luke, and he applies it only to our blessed Lord. It properly

signifies a prefect, or one who is set over certain affairs or

persons: it is used also for an instructer, or teacher. Peter

considered Christ, from what he had heard, as teacher of a Divine

doctrine, and as having authority to command, &c. He seems to

comprise both ideas in this appellation; he listened attentively

to his teaching, and readily obeyed his orders. To hear

attentively, and obey cheerfully, are duties we owe, not only to

the sovereign Master of the world, but also to ourselves. No man

ever took Jesus profitably for his teacher, who did not at the

same time receive him as his Lord.

We have toiled all the night] They had cast the net several

times in the course of the night, and drew it to shore without

success, and were now greatly disheartened. I have seen several

laborious draughts of this kind made without fruit. All labour

must be fruitless where the blessing of God is not; but especially

that of the ministry. It is the presence and influence of Christ,

in a congregation, that cause souls to be gathered unto himself:

without these, whatever the preacher's eloquence or abilities may

be, all will be night, and fruitless labour.

At thy word I will let down the net.] He who assumes the

character of a fisher of men, under any authority that does not

proceed from Christ, is sure to catch nothing; but he who labours

by the order and under the direction of the great Shepherd and

Bishop of souls, cannot labour in vain.

Verse 6. Their net brake.] Or, began to break, διερρηγνυτο,

or, was likely to be broken. Had it broke, as our version

states, they could have caught no fish. Grammarians give the

following rule concerning words of this kind. Verba completiva

inchoative intelligenda. Verbs which signify the accomplishment of

a thing, are often to be understood as only signifying the

beginning of that accomplishment. Raphelius gives some very

pertinent examples of this out of Herodotus.

Verse 7. They beckoned unto their partners] Had not these been

called in to assist, the net must have been broken, and all the

fish lost. What a pity there should be such envious separation

among the different sects that profess to believe in Christ Jesus!

Did they help each other in the spirit of Christian fellowship,

more souls would be brought to the knowledge of the truth. Some

will rather leave souls to perish than admit of partners in the

sacred work. It is an intolerable pride to think nothing well done

but what we do ourselves; and a diabolic envy to be afraid lest

others should be more successful than we are.

They-filled both the ships] Both the boats had as many as they

could carry, and were so heavily laden that they were ready to

sink. As one justly observes, "There are fish plenty to be taken,

were there skilful hands to take, and vessels to contain them.

Many are disputing about the size, capacity, and goodness of their

nets and their vessels, while the fish are permitted to make their

escape." Did the faithful fishers in both the vessels in these

lands (the established Church, and the various branches of the

dissenting interest) join heartily together, the nations might

be converted to God; but, while the ridiculous disputes for and

against particular forms last, there can be no unity. Were men

as zealous to catch souls, as they are to support their particular

creeds, and forms of worship, the state of Christianity would be

more flourishing than it is at present. But the wall of separation

is continually strengthened, each party fortifying it on his own


Verse 8. Depart from me; for I am a sinful man] εξελθεαπεμου,

Go out from me, i.e. from my boat. Peter was fully convinced that

this draught of fish was a miraculous one; and that God himself

had particularly interfered in this matter, whose presence and

power he reverenced in the person of Jesus. But as he felt himself

a sinner, he was afraid the Divine purity of Christ could not

possibly endure him; therefore he wished for a separation from

that power, which he was afraid might break forth and consume him.

It seems to have been a received maxim among the Jews, that

whoever had seen a particular manifestation of God should speedily

die. Hence Jacob seemed astonished that his life should have been

preserved, when he had seen God face to face, Ge 32:30. So

the nobles of Israel saw God, and yet did eat and drink; for on

them he had laid not his hand, i.e. to destroy them, though it

appears to have been expected by them, in consequence of this

discovery which he made of himself. See Ex 24:10, 11, and the

notes there. This supposition of the Jews seems to have been

founded on the authority of God himself, Ex 33:20:

There shall no man see my FACE and LIVE. So Moses, De 5:26:

Who is there of all flesh that hath heard the voice of the

living God, speaking out of the midst of the fire as we have, and

LIVED? So Gideon expected to be immediately slain, because he

had seen an angel of the Lord, and a miracle performed by him. See

Jud 6:21-23. So likewise

Manoah and his wife, Jud 13:22:

We shall surely DIE, for we have SEEN GOD. These different

passages sufficiently show in what sense these words of Peter are

to be understood.

Verse 10. Thou shalt catch men.] ανθρωπουςεσηζωγρων, Thou

shalt catch men alive; this is the proper signification of the

word. Fear not: these discoveries of God tend to life, not to

death; and ye shall become the instruments of life and salvation

to a lost world. These fish are taken to be killed and fed on; but

those who are converted under your ministry shall be preserved

unto eternal life. See Clarke on Mt 4:18, &c., where this

subject is considered more at large.

Verse 11. They forsook all, and followed him.] God expects this

from every person, and especially from those in whose hearts, or

in whose behalf, he has wrought a miracle of grace or of

providence. Jesus intended to call Peter, James, and John, to

become his disciples; and that they might see the propriety and

importance of the call, he:-

1st. TEACHES in their presence, that they may know his doctrine.

2dly. He WORKS a MIRACLE before their eyes, that they might see

and be convinced of his power.

3dly. He CALLS them to go forth with this doctrine, and through

this power, that they might teach the ignorant, and be

successful in their work.

Verse 12. A certain city] This was some city of Galilee;

probably Chorazin or Bethsaida.

A man full of leprosy] See this disease, and the cure, largely

explained on Mt 8:2-4; and see it particularly applied to the use

of public preaching, Mr 1:40, &c. See also the notes on Lev. 13,

and 14. Le 13:1ff, Le 14:1ff

Verse 14. And offer for thy cleansing] A Hindoo, after

recovering from sickness, presents the offerings he had vowed

when in distress, as a goat, sweetmeats, milk, or any thing

directed by the Shaster. All nations agreed in these

gratitude-offerings for benefits received from the object of their


Verse 16. And he withdrew himself into the wilderness] Or

rather, He frequently withdrew into the desert. This I believe to

be the import of the original words, ηνυποχωρων. He made it a

frequent custom to withdraw from the multitudes for a time, and

pray, teaching hereby the ministers of the Gospel that they are to

receive fresh supplies of light and power from God by prayer, that

they may be the more successful in their work; and that they ought

to seek frequent opportunities of being in private with God and

their books. A man can give nothing unless he first receive it;

and no man can be successful in the ministry who does not

constantly depend upon God, for the excellence of the power is all

from him. Why is there so much preaching, and so little good done?

Is it not because the preachers mix too much with the world, keep

too long in the crowd, and are so seldom in private with God?

Reader! Art thou a herald for the Lord of hosts? Make full proof

of thy ministry! Let it never be said of thee, "He forsook all to

follow Christ, and to preach his Gospel, but there was little or

no fruit of his labour; for he ceased to be a man of prayer, and

got into the spirit of the world." Alas! alas! is this luminous

star, that was once held in the right hand of Jesus, fallen from

the firmament of heaven, down to the EARTH!

Verse 17. On a certain day] This was when he was at Capernaum.

See Mr 2:1.

The power of the Lord] δυναμιςκυριου The mighty or miraculous

power of the Lord, i.e. of Jesus, was there to heal them-as many

as were diseased either in body or soul. Where the teaching of

Christ is, there also is the power of Christ to redeem and


Verse 18. A man-taken with a palsy] See this case described on

Mt 9:1, &c., and Mr 2:1, &c.

Verse 19. Went upon the housetop] See Clarke on Mt 24:17.

Verse 21. Who can forgive sins, but God alone?] If Jesus were

not God, he could not forgive sins; and his arrogating this

authority would have been blasphemy against God, in the most

proper sense of the word. That these scribes and Pharisees might

have the fullest proof of his Godhead, he works in their presence

three miracles, which from their nature could only be effected by

an omniscient and omnipotent Being. The miracles are: 1. The

remission of the poor man's sins. 2. The discernment of the secret

thoughts of the scribes. 3. The restoration of the paralytic in an

instant to perfect soundness. See on Mt 9:5, 6.

Verse 26. Strange things] παραδοξα, paradoxes. A paradox is

something that appears false and absurd, but is not really so:

or, something contrary to the commonly received opinion. We have

seen wonders wrought which seem impossible; and we should conclude

them to be tricks and illusions, were it not for the indisputable

evidence we have of their reality.

Verse 27. Levi] See on Mt 9:9; Mr 2:14.

Verse 28. And he left all] καταλιπων-completely abandoning his

office, and every thing connected with it. He who wishes to preach

the Gospel, like the disciples of Christ, must have no earthly

entanglement. If he have, his whole labour will be marred by it.

The concerns of his own soul, and those of the multitudes to whom

he preaches, are sufficient to engross all his attention, and to

employ all his powers.

Verse 29. A great feast] δοχηνμεγαλην, A splendid

entertainment. The word refers more properly to the number of

the guests, and the manner in which they were received, than to

the quality or quantity of the fare. A great number of his

friends and acquaintance was collected on the occasion, that they

might be convinced of the propriety of the change he had made,

when they had the opportunity of seeing and hearing his heavenly


Verse 30. Why do ye eat and drink, &c.] See what passed at this

entertainment considered at large on Mt 9:10-17; Mr 2:15-22.

Verse 37. The new wine will burst the bottles] These old bottles

would not be able to stand the fermentation of the new wine, as

the old sewing would be apt to give way. It is scarcely necessary

to remark, that the eastern bottles are made of skins; generally

those of goats.

Verse 39. The old is better.] χρηστοτερος-Is more agreeable to

the taste or palate. Herodotus, the scholiast on Aristophanes,

and Homer, use the word in this sense. See Raphelius. The old

wine, among the rabbins, was the wine of three leaves; that is,

wine three years old; because, from the time that the vine had

produced that wine, it had put forth its leaves three times. See


1. THE miraculous draught of fishes-the cleansing of the

leper-the healing of the paralytic person-the calling of Levi-and

the parable of the old and new bottles, and the old and new

wine-all related in this chapter, make it not only very

entertaining, but highly instructive. There are few chapters in

the New Testament from which a preacher of the Gospel can derive

more lessons of instruction; and the reader would naturally expect

a more particular explanation of its several parts, had not this

been anticipated in the notes and observations on Matt. 9,

Mt 9:1ff to which chapter it will be well to refer.

2. The conduct as well as the preaching of our Lord is highly

edifying. His manner of teaching made every thing he spoke

interesting and impressive. He had many prejudices to remove, and

he used admirable address in order to meet and take them out of

the way. There is as much to be observed in the manner of speaking

the truth, as in the truth itself, in order to make it effectual

to the salvation of them who hear it. A harsh, unfeeling method of

preaching the promises of the Gospel, and a smiling manner of

producing the terrors of the Lord, are equally reprehensible. Some

preachers are always severe and magisterial: others are always

mild and insinuating: neither of these can do God's work; and it

would take two such to make one PREACHER.

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