For an introduction to this series, click here.
Feb. 19, 2007
This chapter opens with the conversion of Peter. Peter is the primary secondary (does that make sense?) character of the Gospels, especially the first three. Jesus was teaching by the shore of the "lake of Genessaret" (interesting side note: Luke never calls the Sea of Galilee a "sea." He had likely traversed the Mediterranean lots of times. That was a real sea. There was no way Luke was going to call a little body of water like the Galilee a sea.) and He got into Peter's boat. After He finished, He told Peter to go out and let down his nets for a big catch. Peter disputed, and basically told Jesus he was going to do it just to humor Him. I think he was hoping to prove Jesus wrong. When they caught so many fish their boat began to sink, Peter cried out, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." (5:8)
At what point does obedience trump motive? A case can certainly be made that it did in this story. Peter's words - "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." (5:5) - tell us that at the very least Peter was just doing this to please Jesus, not because he believed Jesus would perform a miracle. We hear people say all the time that if we serve God with the wrong motives we aren't serving at all. At some point obviously that is true. Jesus said if we do good works for the praise of men, we lose our reward in heaven. But we don't apply that to other areas of life. God tells us stealing is wrong. If I really want something, and I'm just following the honest desires of my heart, does that make stealing OK? No. We honor God by obeying in that situation, even when our motive may not be the best and even if our obedience doesn't come from a heart of love for God's word. I'm not sure I have all the answers; it's just something I've been thinking about.
The next story is of the leper who came to Jesus and said "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean." (5:12) The most significant word in that sentence is "Lord." Jews knew better than to throw the name Lord around loosely. That name was reserved only for God. Jesus responded to this man's faith.
The next section is of the man lowered through the roof. I love this story. This story is mostly about the reaction of the people in the house more than it is about the crippled man or about his friends. The scribes and Pharisees were sitting in there in their proud self-righteousness and could do nothing but criticize these guys who were tearing up the house to get their friend to Jesus. Jesus blows them away with this question: "Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'?" (5:23) Jesus proved to them that He had power both to forgive sins and to heal.
Finally Jesus talks about fasting and the parable of the wine skins. I love the frankness of the last verse of the chapter: "And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, 'The old is good.'" (5:39, ESV) You can say what you will, but that doesn't sound like something a teetotaler would throw in at the end of a parable.