5:1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret [Sea of Galilee, a freshwater lake 650 feet below sea level, 13 miles long and 7 miles wide], with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God,
5:2 he saw at the water’s edge two boats [boats used by fishermen were up to twenty feet long with a sail attached to a central mast], left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets [fishermen cared properly for the equipment that was vital to their livelihood].
5:3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon [Peter], and asked him to put out a little from shore [gave Jesus visual and vocal access to the people on the shore]. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
5:4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon [the owner of the boat who was not yet a disciple of Jesus], “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets [a dragnet was used in deep water] for a catch.”
5:5 Simon answered, “Master [Simon would address Jesus as “Lord” in 5:8], we’ve worked hard all night [indicates Simon was probably physically tired] and haven’t caught anything. But [Simon was willing to obey Jesus] because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
5:6 When they [indicates Simon enlisted the help of others (cf. 5:9-10)] had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.
5:7 So they signaled 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.
5:8 When Simon Peter saw this [the miracle of catching so many fish], he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me [Simon did not feel worthy to be in the presence of Jesus], Lord [note that Simon addressed Jesus as “Master” in 5:5]; I am a sinful man!”
5:9 For he and all his companions [those who had assisted him on the boat (5:6) as well as James and John (5:10)] were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken,
5:10 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 catch men [Jesus used the figure of their old work to describe their new calling; instead of dragging the Sea of Galilee for fish these men would now cast their nets into “the sea of sin” to “rescue the perishing”].”
5:11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything [including the largest single catch of fish in their careers as fishermen; their boats and nets represented their livelihood and security] and followed him [in following Jesus their lives took on an eternal dimension; instead of making a living, they would now be making a life].
5:12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered [indicates the disease was at an advanced stage] with leprosy [cf. Lev. 13-14 re: instructions about skin diseases; lepers were required to keep a certain distance from others (they had to call out “unclean” to warn others of their approach as per Lev. 13:45) and prohibited from participation in social and religious activities]. When he saw Jesus [people in need moved in the direction of Jesus], he fell with his face to the ground and begged [indicates the leper desperately wanted to be cleansed] him, “Lord, if you are willing [the leper believed that Jesus could heal him], you can make me clean [cleansing meant that this man would be restored to his family and could again participate in the social and religious life of his town`].”
5:13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched [Jewish law prohibited touching lepers (Lev. 5:3; 13:1-46; Num. 5:2); possible that no one had touched this man in years; Jesus moved in the direction of people in need] the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him [indicates complete restoration of health rather than just a remission; healing lepers a sign of Messiah’s arrival (Matt. 11:5)].
5:14 Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone [lest doing so create a hindrance to Jesus’ ministry and cause others to seek Jesus for the wrong reasons], but go, show yourself to the priest [as per instructions in Lev. 14] and offer the sacrifices [Lev. 14:2-32] that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them [to those who witnessed the healing and to the priest].”
5:15 Yet the news about him [Jesus] spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses.
5:16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places [places free of distraction] and prayed [Luke recorded many occasions on which Jesus prayed (cf. 3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:29; 23:46) and also taught about prayer (cf. 11:1-4, 9-13; 18:9-14)].
5:17 One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law [scribes: scholars of the Mosaic law; trained in interpreting, teaching, and enforcing the Law], who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick.
5:18 Some men came carrying a paralytic [could not get to Jesus by himself] on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus.
5:19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd [represented an obstacle], they [resourcefully and single-mindedly] went up on the roof [probably climbed an outside staircase leading to the roof and “made an opening” (Mk. 2:4); roof probably flat and had beams and rafters covered with branches and sod] and lowered him on his mat [the paralytic’s bed] through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
5:20 When Jesus saw [actions demonstrated faith] their [friends and the paralytic] faith, he said [authoritatively], “Friend, your sins [spiritual need deeper than the physical need; Mark did not indicate if there was a cause-effect relationship between the man’s sins and his paralysis] are forgiven [“to release” or “to leave” or “to cancel a debt;” what the man needed most; read analogies of forgiveness in Isa. 1:18; Ps. 103:12; Mic. 7:19].”
5:21 The Pharisees [means “separated ones;” the major religious party in Jesus’ day] and the teachers of the law [scribes: scholars of the Mosaic law; trained in interpreting, teaching, and enforcing the Law] began thinking [to reason, to debate] to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy [to insult, defame, or profane God or God’s name, in this case by claiming prerogatives and privileges that belong only to God: an act punishable by stoning: Lev. 24:10-23; Num. 15:30]? Who can forgive sins but God alone [according to first-century Jewish tradition, not even the Messiah could forgive sins]?”
Note: Jesus encountered conflict and experienced opposition almost from the beginning of His ministry. What can we expect as His disciples (see John 16:1-4; 17:14)? How should we respond? (see Matt. 5:10-12)
5:22 Jesus knew [to perceive; to recognize; cf. Jn. 2:24-25] what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?
5:23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven [something not open to direct observation],’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk [something more difficult because everyone can witness the result]‘?
5:24 But that you may know that the Son of Man [Jesus’ favorite self-designation during His earthly ministry; title for Messiah (cf. Dan. 7:13-14); a less familiar title for the Messiah that Jesus filled with His own meaning] has authority [power; moral or legal right to use power; Jesus claimed the moral right to forgive sins] on earth to forgive sins….” He said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”
5:25 Immediately he stood up [immediately obeyed the command of Jesus] in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising [to give glory to] God.
5:26 Everyone was amazed [to be beside one’s self] and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”
5:27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi [Matthew (cf. Matt. 9:9); son of Alphaeus (Mk. 2:14)] sitting at his tax booth [custom office; toll booth; may have been a tax station on the trade route (Damascus to Egypt) or a place for port duties and fishing tolls; he collected taxes for Herod Antipas; tax collectors had a reputation for overcharging in order to line their own pockets, as in the case of Zacchaeus in Lk. 19:8]. “Follow me [a brief and urgent call; a call to relationship],” Jesus said to him,
5:28 and Levi got up, left everything [left his financial security] and followed [to follow as a disciple] him [knowing that he could never again return to his work as a tax-collector; a decisive break with his past; his response was immediate and his commitment total].
5:29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house [first act as a follower of Jesus was to host a dinner to introduce his friends to Jesus], and a large crowd of tax collectors [not Roman, but native Jews who had been contracted to collect taxes in a small town or district; publicans] and others were eating with them.
5:30 But the Pharisees [means “separated ones;” the major religious party in Jesus’ day] and the teachers of the law [scribes: experts in the law of Moses] who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with [to recline at the table together] tax collectors and ‘sinners’ [term used by Pharisees to designate those who did not keep requirements of Mosaic Law; cf. Lk. 15:1-2]?”
5:31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy [strong] who need a doctor, but the sick [“to have it badly”].
5:32 I have not come to call the righteous [Jesus was not implying that the Pharisees were righteous; Pharisees thought they were righteous when they too were among the sick Jesus came to save], but sinners [conscious of their unworthiness before holy God and their need for salvation (cf. Lk. 18:9-14)] to repentance.”
5:33 They said to him, “John’s disciples often [regularly/habitually: Pharisees voluntarily fasted two days each week as in Luke 18:12] fast [going without food in order to focus on spiritual matters/prayer; an accepted and expected religious expression in Jesus’ day] and pray, and so do the disciples [Pharisees-in-training] of the Pharisees [required by law to fast only on Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29)], but yours [this was an indirect criticism of Jesus] go on eating and drinking [do not observe formal times of fasting].”
5:34 Jesus answered [used illustration of a Jewish wedding feast], “Can you make the guests [those who had come to believe in Jesus] of the bridegroom [Jesus; cf. Jn. 3:29] fast [rather than feast (something unthinkable and inappropriate)] while he is with them?
5:35 But the time will come when the bridegroom [Jesus] will be taken [abruptly] from [veiled reference to Jesus’ death on the cross] them [disciples]; in those days [the appropriate time: cf. 2 Sam. 12:22-23] they will fast [an expression of grief and sadness].”
5:36 He told them this parable: “No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does [doing so ruins both garments], he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.
5:37 And no one pours new wine [expands as it ferments] into old wineskins [have lost elasticity]. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.
5:38 No, new wine [unfermented] must be poured into new wineskins [have the elasticity to stretch as wine ferments].
5:39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.'”