Luke chapters 4 through 9 give us glimpses of the ministry of Jesus, especially in preaching, teaching and miracles, particularly healing miracles. But the focus is not so much on the miracles themselves. They are signs, pointing to Jesus and His work of bringing the kingdom of God into the midst of the people.
As you read this chapter—and really, throughout this book—it's important to note that the healings, miracles, and deeds of Jesus are all connected to His word: when He speaks, something happens. To be able to read Luke's Gospel account on more than just a surface level that notices that important events are happening, we need to understand what we read at the end of chapter 4 (4:43): Jesus must preach; that is why He was sent. And so it is His word that is the primary cause of action. His word causes the results: the catch of fish, the healing of lepers and a paralytic, the calling of Levi. It is also His word, and His speaking with His own authority, that causes opponents to begin their opposition.
Let's look at a few specific places where these things are happening:
- 5:1-11The metaphor of fishing becomes an important one as Jesus institutes the Apostles into their callings. It's important not to import our picture of recreational fishing onto this (poles and bait, leisure time); the right context is that of commercial fishing (nets, large "casts", wide areas).
- 5:1 The crowds are pressing in on Him why? "To hear the Word of God".
- 5:3 Here we also see a use of technology to allow God's Word to be heard: Jesus gets into a boat and puts out a little from shore. If you've ever been out on the water, you know how easily sound carries; the water acts like a natural microphone.
- 5:4-5 Jesus directs the unthinkable for a fisherman—to try again after a full night of empty nets, yet Peter follows "at Your word".
- 5:12-16 Jewish Law dictated that a leper was to be kept outside the city, outside the community. A leper would. make others unclean. But Jesus, because He is God, reverses the effect: His word and His touch brings cleanness—both spiritual and physical cleansing!
- 5:17-26 Notice where Jesus starts with the paralytic. Not with his physical state, but his spiritual state. The physical healing comes only as a demonstration of the spiritual.
- 5:21 This is the first indication of opposition to Jesus in Luke's Gospel account. The opposition will intensify as the account continues. Notice the opposition is theological; the Pharisees and teachers of the law believe that Jesus is committing blasphemy by speaking the forgiveness of sins. They're right that only God can forgive sins. What they fail to recognize is that Jesus is in fact God, and therefore actually does have the authority to forgive sins. The physical healing is a sign of His authority to forgive sins, not the other way around.
- 5:27-32 The calling to discipleship produces a response of faith, which includes celebration. "Table fellowship" is a recurring theme in Luke as well. This also produces opposition with the religious leaders, who take the approach that "good religious people" shouldn't associate with "sinners". The religious leaders fail to understand that all people are sinners, not just the "captital-S" sinners.
- 5:31-32 This is an important saying. Jesus is using (and the physician Luke is highlighting) medical language to describe a spiritual reality. People who are self-righteous (i.e. "well") think they don't need a doctor (Jesus and His grace), but those who recognize their sin (the sick) do. To repent is to acknowledge your "sickness".
- 5:33 Again we see the theme of celebration and feasting. To eat and drink is the right thing to do at a feast. When the bridegroom is present, it's not a time to fast.
- 5:36-39 This short parable is profound. What Jesus is doing doesn't fit the Old Covenant; it is altogether new, and must be responded to as such.