Luke 5 seems to deal with people’s varying responses to change. First, Peter (who’s already seen Jesus heal his mother-in-law) is confronted with yet another miracle. On their usual nocturnal expedition, they hadn’t caught any fish, but at Jesus’ command, he lets down the nets again and they catch so many, the nets can hardly hold them all! Peter’s initial reaction is one of awe and fear: “Oh, Lord, please leave me – I’m such a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). Jesus lets him know there’s nothing to be afraid of. “From now on you’ll be fishing for people” (Luke 5:10), so immediately, Peter and Andrew and their business partners (James and John) leave everything to follow Jesus. According to “Birth of the Church”, fishermen’s income was higher than average, so that decision would have meant a radical shift economically.
The next man we meet is begging for change. He has leprosy, and Luke (a doctor) takes the trouble to tell us it’s an advanced case (Luke 5:12). Jesus heals the man and tells him to keep quiet about it, but reports of His power must have already been circulating due to the healing of so many in the previous chapter, and now they spread even faster (Luke 5:15).
Next, we come across a paralysed man. His friends are so eager for Jesus to do a work in his life that when they can’t get inside because of the crowds, they take some tiles off the roof and lower him down to Jesus that way! Jesus wants to prove His authority to the Pharisees and teachers of the Law (who seemed to have shown up from everywhere, no doubt to find fault with Him), so as well as forgiving the paralysed man, Jesus heals him and sends him home. “We have seen amazing things today!” the vast crowds say (Luke 5:26).
Then we meet another who leaves everything to follow Jesus – a tax collector this time, known as Levi or Matthew. As an act of devotion, he holds a banquet, making Jesus the guest of honour, but questions are asked. I’ve learnt that to the Pharisees and teachers, eating a meal with sinners is seen as condoning their sin, so comes the complaint: “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” (Luke 5:30). Jesus is straight to the point. He’s come to call people who know they’re sinners and need to repent, not those who see themselves as righteous (Luke 5:32).
The debate continues. The Pharisees’ and John the Baptist’s followers fast regularly, so why are Jesus’ disciples always eating and drinking? Jesus says it’s not right for them to fast when the Bridegroom (I.E. Jesus Himself) is with them, but one day He’ll be taken from them; then they’ll fast. Jesus was obviously referring to His death on the cross when He said that, which makes me wonder about fasting nowadays. Jesus has risen and His Holy Spirit lives in us as Christians so, as He’s now promised to be with us always, should we fast? I’ve never heard this point-of-view taught in church, and I know a lot of Christians do fast; it’s just something I’ve wondered about.
Jesus goes on to talk about old and new wine. Apparently when wine was put into wineskins, the wineskins expanded, so you wouldn’t put new wine into old wineskins because the wineskins would burst, having already been stretched from holding the previous wine. At the end of the chapter, Jesus makes this observation: “No one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say” (Luke 5:39).
So, Luke 5 leaves me taking a look at my own attitude. Am I like that man with the advanced case of leprosy, begging for Jesus to make a change in my life, or have I become complacent? Have I got so used to the way things are that I’m effectively saying the old is just fine; I don’t want the new wine – the new things God might have for me? It’s certainly something to ask myself every so often.