And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,
Fishers of Men.
I. This passage reminds us that discipleship comes before apostleship. Peter had been, for at least some months, a docile learner in the school of Christ before he was called here to forsake all, and follow Him as an Apostle. They who would teach others about the Lord must first be acquainted with Him themselves.
II. That the knowledge of self, obtained through the discovery of Christ, is one of the main elements of power in seeking to benefit others. It is not a little remarkable that when God has called some of His greatest servants to signal service He has begun by giving them a thorough revelation of themselves, through the unveiling to them of Himself. Thus, when He appeared to Moses at the bush, the first effect was that Moses trembled and durst not behold, and the ultimate issue was that he cried, "O my Lord, I am not eloquent:... but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue." Peter recognised the deity of Jesus through the miracle; but the light of that Godhead did, at the same time, flash into his own heart, and reveal him unto himself as he had never had himself revealed unto him before. Then came the Master's "Fear not," with its soothing influence; and thus, through his discovery of himself, and his knowledge of his Lord, he was prepared for his apostolic service.
III. That the work of the Christian ministry demands the concentration of the whole man upon it. These first Apostles "forsook all, and followed Christ." This was their response to the call to active and official service by the Lord. Their ordination came later, but their acceptance of the call was now, and was signalised by their withdrawal from their ordinary pursuits.
IV. That the higher life of the ministry lifts into itself, and utilises all the experiences of the lower life that preceded it. "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." This phrase tells us (1) that if we would catch men we must use the right kind of net; (2) that we must follow men to their haunts if we would win them for Christ; (3) that we ought to improve special seasons of opportunity.
W. M. Taylor, Peter the Apostle, p. 36.
References: Luke 5:1-11—A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 11; W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 154; W. Scott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 88; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 33; vol. v., p. 193; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 350; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 342. Luke 5:4.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 287; Ibid., Sermons, vol. viii., No. 443; J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. ii., p. 51: Talmage, Old Wells Dug Out, p. 323. Luke 5:4-6.—S. Leathes, Truth and Life, p. 147; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 225; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 422. Luke 5:4-11.—Ibid., vol. ii., p. 560.
Luke 5:5I. The great multitude of fishes was the reward of the disciples' ready and willing obedience. It was the justification of their unshaken confidence in Jesus; none ever relied on Him and was deceived. It was their remuneration for placing their time and their boat at Christ's disposal, to do with them what seemed good in His sight. It would convince them that no one should ever work in God's service, and be a loser for doing so. Above all, it was to be an encouragement to Simon and his partners to enter with all their heart upon the ministry of the word with which they were now to be entrusted. That would involve them in work very toilsome, and often thankless; but undertaken at the command of Christ, and with His never-failing help and countenance, it could not be in vain.
II. The text bids us persevere in the path of duty, whatever may be its discouragements. It tells us after failure to try again in the Name of the Lord, seeking His aid, committing ourselves to Him. It seems to say, "Be not weary in welldoing; for in due season ye shall reap, if ye faint not." The lesson is a hard one to learn, but it has been learned, and that effectually. To hope against hope, to struggle in the face of failure, is no easy task for flesh and blood. But many have so struggled, and have eventually brought the whole to good effect. Any one who is really anxious to do good, or to correct what is amiss in his own immediate sphere, may derive encouragement from this passage of Scripture. It seems to say, "Do not be daunted by apparent failure. Persevere, and all shall come right in the end." Act like the obedient and confiding fisherman, "At Thy word I will let down the net." "Be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."
J. Edmund, Sixty Sermons, p. 285.
Luke 5:5-6Obedience to the word of Christ, and the success with which it is crowned.
I. Obedience to the word of Christ—"Nevertheless at Thy word." It is wise to have authority for every work we undertake. To know that we have authority, and a sufficient one, is more than half the inspiration of our life. It is enough for the soldier that he has the authority of his officer, for the officer that he has the authority of his general, for the ambassador that he has the authority of his king; and for the Christian labourer it is enough that he has the authority of Christ. Nothing short of this authority would either inspire or justify us in pursuing the work to which we have set our hands. Be sure of this, that Peter would have turned a deaf ear to any other voice than that of Christ if it had enjoined a like command. But he is willing to try at Christ's word. "Nevertheless," said Peter, that is, not because of success, but in spite of failure, "at Thy word I will let down the net." And still the word "nevertheless" is on the lips of the Church. The night had been discouraging, and the Church has its discouragements, too; but nevertheless it has to do the work given it to do by the word of Christ
II. Look at the result of this obedience. It had in it not much of cheerfulness, nor, perhaps, any faith, but it was obedience under trying circumstances, and as such it was crowned with success. The failure of the previous night was not unforeseen or unarranged. Christ was in that failure as much as in the success that followed it. He saw those fishermen at their work in that long, profitless night, and He meant they should bring back empty nets. It was part of His gracious purpose to teach them that without Him they could do nothing, and that with Him they could do all things. Empty nets without His blessing, and full nets with it. And this lesson they were to remember henceforth when they should become fishers of men. The night of failure was not without its lesson and its benefit. We can do worse than fail—we can succeed, and be proud of our success; we can succeed, and burn incense to our net; we can succeed, and despise those who fail; we can succeed, and forget the Hand whose it is to give or to withhold, to kill or to make alive. He is but a weak and worthless man who can only labour so long as he succeeds, fight as long as he conquers, run as long as he wins the race. Such a fair-weather soul is not fit for any kingdom, least of all for the kingdom of God.
E. Mellor, The Hem of Christ's Garment, p. 272.
References: Luke 5:5.—J. Vaughan, Sermons, 10th series, p. 117; Spurgeon, Ibid., vol. xxviii., No. 1,654; J. Menzies, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 271; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 213; vol. viii., p. 267; C. J. Vaughan, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvi., p. 225. Luke 5:5, Luke 5:6.—C. Girdlestone, A Course of Sermons, vol. i., p. 149.
Luke 5:6What was the teaching of this miracle for the Apostles and for us?
I. To Peter, indeed, and his fellows it was the Divine assurance that henceforth their life was to be spent for Him alone. No more fishing on the Lake of Galilee; henceforth they must toil night and day to save souls alive. The miracle was their warranty that, so only they abide within the ship of God's holy Church, so only they have Christ with them all days, directing and protecting; however futile, humanly speaking, their work may be, it cannot fail. Christ the Source and Centre of the Church's life on earth, in heaven; for time, for eternity; Christ using human instruments to draw souls out of the waters of this troublesome world, and bring them safe to the eternal shore; this surely was the meaning of the miracle for Peter and for us.
II. Yet, further, it tells me that whatsoever I take in hand, if I fail to bid Jesus Christ be my Friend, must end in loss. All success in life, success in home, success in business, success in scientific pursuits, depends on Jesus Christ's help. "Without Me ye can do nothing." Men may think to dispense with Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God; but their efforts are doomed to failure. How shall I then secure this presence? By making everything in life a matter of prayer. Referring all to Him; not merely things appertaining to my soul's needs, but my daily business, my home life, my recreation, my pleasures. So does our daily life become supernatural, Divine; the light of God's countenance shines full upon us; our lives are simple, natural, bright, lovely, all because they are lives of faith in God; they are lived in God, referred to Him in every detail; they have Him for their end; failure is impossible.
III. Yet more. Did not this miracle teach St. Peter a salutary lesson of Divine Omnipotence? The eye of Jesus Christ could reach the depths of the Sea of Galilee; He knew exactly where and when the fish would be found. He who could read the secrets of the Sea of Galilee could also read the secrets of Peter's heart, read his selfishness, read his faithlessness, his impetuosity, and his cowardice. He knows us, yet He bids us know ourselves, that knowing ourselves, and bewailing our wasted life, He may say to us, Fear not.
T. Birkett Dover, The Ministry of Mercy, p. 34.
References: Luke 5:6.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 62; W. C. E. Newbolt, Counsels of Faith and Practice, p. 157. Luke 5:7.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 65; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 150.
Luke 5:8It is easy to trace the way by which Peter's thoughts had travelled to this conclusion. The miracle—such a thing as had never been seen before on those familiar waters—had taken a wonderful hold upon the fisherman's mind. His veneration for the mighty Stranger who had done it at once rose to the highest. From the contemplation of the wonderworker the eyes of his mind, as they are wont, turned, and in a moment turned in upon himself, and the contrast became intolerable. He was softened at the moment that he was convinced, and upon his melted heart's conscience he wrote the large, deep characters of sin.
I. The greatest and surest test of every man's state before God is this, "What is sin?" How does he feel to sin? In a child, I always notice, that quick perception of sin in little things, and a keen distress at it, is the most certain index of early piety. And, as it is in childhood, so it is in the Christian's after-life, which is childhood over again; the measure of the saint is always the depth of his convictions.
II. Until the spiritual eye has been fully opened, the sense of the distance which there is, and which the natural mind feels there ought to be, between God and the sinner, is ever strong in thoughtful, serious, and really converted persons. In one this feeling becomes despair. The soul dares not to admit the thought that it could ever be received into the love of God. The dread of the sin of presumption—from which it is the farthest off—is ever haunting it. (2) In another man this feeling destroys all present sense of God's mercy. A real deprecation of sin, acting unscripturally, leads to a wrong perception of the entire spirit of the Gospel. "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord."
III. It is an unspeakable comfort to know the awful prayer that Peter made in ignorance was never answered. Christ did not depart from him. Thank God, He knows when to refuse a prayer. He never leaves those who are only ignorant. On the contrary, Christ instantly gave Peter something more than forgiveness. He gave the employment to him which ensured his pardon: "Fear not, from henceforth thou shalt catch men." Those who have ever feared lest they have lost the love of one whose love they most prized, will best understand the delicacy and the beauty of this way of treating a discouraged disciple.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 1874, p. 209.
Consider what it was that could lead St. Peter to wish the Lord to go away and depart from him; what he could mean, and what he could be feeling, that should make him shrink from Christ, and actually, on his knees, beg Him to go away and leave him, at the very moment when He had shown so signal a proof of His Divine power and goodness.
I. St. Peter's words in the text were the natural exclamation of wonder; and with wonder a natural shrinking back from One so good, so holy, so powerful, and so Divine. 1 think Peter felt as though he said: "Thou art too good, too great for me to be near Thee. Let me be Thy disciple farther off. Do not come to me; I am not good enough for Thy near company. Depart from me. I shrink, in uneasiness and distress of mind, from Thy closer presence." I believe this to be the true account of St. Peter's meaning, and of the feeling with which he spoke; and if it is so, it seems to me one which is very common. Men, conscious of sin, conscious of weakness, and not very much in earnest, do shrink from God in this sort of way. It is possible that their shrinking may seem to themselves like modesty and humility; but it is a shrinking away from God, and it may be extremely serious in its consequences. In its extremest form it is none other than the same thing which the poor creatures, possessed with devils in the country of the Gergesenes, cried out, "What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God? Art Thou come hither to torment us before the time?"
II. But mark the difference in these two cases. In the one, a man shrinks altogether away from God, flies from Him, will not believe His love; is sure that he is quite hopelessly lost and ruined, falls into despair and that terrible recklessness of unclean living which is the characteristic of despair. And so he falls into complete and hopeless rebellion, and his end is utter loss and death. In the other case, a man, penetrated with the sense of his unworthiness and sin, also shrinks, or at least is tempted to shrink, away from God; he feels disposed to cry, with St. Peter, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord." But he knows that he must not yield to such a temptation. He soon recalls and repents of his faithless cry. He learns by grace to trust his Saviour's love. He learns to repent of the yielding, such as it was, to the temptation of shrinking away. There may have been some likeness in the original feeling of the two, but the one has ended in despair, and the other in the high estate of a favoured apostle, one of the chief seats in the everlasting kingdom of glory.
G. Moberly, Parochial Sermons, p. 180.
References: Luke 5:8.—G. Calthrop, Words Spoken to My Friends, p. 239; Bishop Lightfoot, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 177; J. Martineau, Endeavours after the Christian Life, p. 147; F. W. Robertson, The Human Race and Other Sermons, p. 125; G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons and Addresses in Marlborough College, p. 9. Luke 5:10. Church of England Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 54.
Luke 5:12-13(with Luke 5:20)
I. So long as there is any religion at all in the world it will, of course, busy itself with the eternal question of the difference between right and wrong. It will, in some sense, make itself the champion of right and the enemy of wrong. But then wrongdoing may be very differently regarded, even by religious men. Roughly speaking, it may be regarded as directed either against man or against God; either as an injury or an offence; either as a weakness or a wickedness; either as a defect or a sin. Roughly speaking, again, the world takes the former view, Scripture the latter. The sentence of worldly men and of the natural conscience is, "I have injured him, and I must do what I can to make amends." The sentence of Scripture is that of the Psalmist, "Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight."
II. If at any time sin as sin is thought little of, the prevalent ideal of goodness among Christians will be that of doing good to man rather than walking humbly with God. Philanthropy, in short, will take the place of holiness. And I think we see many signs of this at the present day—signs which we are bound to hail with thankfulness, even while, as Christians, we note their deficiencies.
III. Christ assumes our sinfulness as the very basis of His work. He speaks to us as sinners, but as sinners loved, not despised; and there is all the difference. His deeds have an interest indeed, and a charm for thousands, and thousands who are, as yet at least, but little burdened by a sense of sin. But it was not to interest these that He lived and died. He came not to call the righteous, or the sensible, or the indifferent, or the critical, but sinners to repentance. That was His distinguishing work. All other works—the unfelt duties He has revealed, the dormant philosophy He has stimulated, the social kindness He has aroused, the august institutions He has founded and hallowed—all these works, glorious as they are, are but secondary to His great design. He is, first and chief, the Friend of sinners. "He shall save His people from their sins." He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied; by His knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities.
H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, 2nd series, p. 252.
References: Luke 5:12, Luke 5:13.—M. R. Vincent, God and Bread, p. 227. Luke 5:12-26.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., pp. 124, 132; W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 134. Luke 5:13.—Parker, Hidden Springs, p. 324. Luke 5:14-21.—Ibid., p. 128, Luke 5:15.—Outline Sermons to Children, p. 139.
Luke 5:16I. When we read in this and in so many other passages that our blessed Lord in the days of His flesh offered prayers unto God, it greatly concerns us that we do not accept an explanation only too commonly suggested of these His prayers. It is sometimes said that Christ our Lord prayed by way of example, that so He might teach us the duty of prayer, and that His prayers had no other purpose and meaning but this. Doubtless He was our example in this as in every other point. But His prayers were no such hollow, unreal things, as we must needs confess them to have been, if such was the only intention which they had. Our Lord, the head of the race of men, but still man as truly as He was God, prayed, as any one of His servants might pray, because—in prayer is strength; in prayer is victory over temptation; in prayer, and in the grace of God obtained through prayer, is deliverance from all evil.
II. If times of prayer were needful for Christ, how much more for all others; for as He was in the world, so are we; the only difference being that we lie open to the injurious influences which it exerts, as He neither did nor could; that the evil in the world finds an echo and an answer in our hearts which it found not at all in His. In a world where there is so much to dissipate and distract the spirit, how needful for us is that communion with God, in which alone the spirit collects itself at its true centre, which is God again; in a world where there is so much to ruffle the spirit's plumes, how needful that entering into the secret of the pavilion, which will alone bring it back to composure and peace; in a world where there is so much to sadden and depress, how blessed that communion with Him, in whom is the one source and fountain of all true gladness and abiding joy; in a world where so much is ever seeking to unhallow our spirits, to render them common and profane, how high the privilege of consecrating them anew in prayer to holiness and to God.
R. C. Trench, Sermons in Westminster Abbey, p. 138.
References: Luke 5:16.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. vi., p. 205; J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 9th series, p. 128; Homilist, vol. vi., p. 229. Luke 5:16-26.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii., No. 981. Luke 5:17.—Ibid., vol. xii., No. 720. Luke 5:18-25.—G. Macdonald, Miracles of Our Lord, p. 145. Luke 5:22, Luke 5:25.—N. Smyth, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 72. Luke 5:26.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 88.
Luke 5:27The text tells us of the power which Christ exercised over the mind, the will, and the affections. "Follow Me, follow Me," and immediately he rose up, and followed Him. There was power—power over the mind, power over the will, power over the affections; and that is the demonstration beyond all parallel that Christ is God. Now, about this Levi. We know very little about him, except that he was a Jew, a native of Galilee, and that he was a publican—that is, a collector of the Roman taxes. Now for a Roman citizen to become a collector of the taxes upon the Jews was an offence to them, for it carried the conviction constantly to their minds that they were a subjugated people; but that a Jew should be so far recreant to the honour of his country and to the feeling of his people as to take office under the Roman government for such a purpose, it carried the conviction home still further. How did Levi come to follow Christ? There are four things that will help us to determine the reality of his conversion.
I. First, the change of occupation in obedience to Christ. The rule is to continue in that calling in which we were unless the providence of God, or some other reason, justifies the change. There are but two exceptions to this rule. The first is where the business in which a man is called, converted, is itself injurious to himself and his fellowmen. The other is where a man is called to a different field of labour.
II. The second evidence is the sacrifice endured. Levi sacrificed the source of his wealth. The publicans did get rich; he forsook it, gave it up. You know it takes grace to do that.
III. The third evidence is his identifying himself with Christ. He did not act as Nicodemus did, who said, "I will come round the corner at night;" nor like Joseph of Arimathæa, who was secretly a disciple. He was no neutral; he came right out, identified himself with Jesus Christ, to go where He went, and suffer or rejoice as He suffered or rejoiced.
IV. I have one more evidence—his concern for his fellowmen. It is added, "He made a great feast in his own house, and there was a great company of publicans and others that sat down with them." Why did he make that feast? Levi understood human nature; he knew that more people would come to a feast than to a prayer meeting. He made a feast; he called the publicans to it; he designed to tell them why he had determined to quit that business. He made a public profession of religion. He had a hope that as he had experienced a saving benefit, so those others would also desire to share it with him. If any individual should bring in such evidences as Levi's in proof of his conversion, I take it that he would be received into the Church.
J. Patton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 120.
Luke 5:27-28How was it that a man like Levi, with aims so low and pleasures so earthly, was found to listen, not only with willingness, but with profit and attention, to the teachings of the Lord Jesus? We cannot explain that difficulty away by saying that our Saviour spoke seldom or leniently of this particular class of men; for it would be difficult to name any sin, save hypocrisy, which He reproved with greater frequency and severity than covetousness. Anything more opposite than the tone of His preaching to the state of public teaching and practice it would be impossible to conceive, and yet the fact is incontestable, that in this class of publicans our Saviour found numerous disciples and one apostle. How, then, are we to explain it? The result was due, I believe,
I. To the honesty of the Lord Jesus Himself. In censuring sinners He reproved all alike, not only the poor and despised, but also the nominally pious and respectable. No station was so lofty as to lift the offender above the reach of His censure; no profession so pious or respectable as to cloak from his searching eye the pride, or lust, or covetousness, which might lurk concealed beneath it. By such a prophet the publicans could bear to be censured, who told the Pharisees that they were accursed outcasts, that their phylacteries and broad garments, and greetings in the market-place, were all hypocrisy. If, then, we are desiring that the love of Christ should touch men's hearts, and change their lives, let us endeavour to be more like our Saviour. More bold and true in what we say; more simple and self-denying in what we do; practising no more than what we believe and what we intend.
II. But then, in the second place, if we would worthily follow the Lord Jesus, our Master, we must not only imitate His truthfulness and self-denial, but we must be content, like Matthew, to leave all in order to do it; content, that is to say, with no more of this world's wealth and honour and pleasant things, than are consistent with a simple and holy-hearted surrender of our wills and ways to the will and direction of our blessed Saviour. If there be any pleasure, any pursuit, any friend, any indulgence, any gain, which is inconsistent with the devotion of our life and work and heart to the service and glory of our Lord, all that must be given up without reservation; we must throw it off and cast it behind us, finally and decisively, as Matthew did, when, rising up from the toll-booth at the call of the Saviour, he deserted his occupation for ever.
Bishop Moorhouse, Penny Pulpit, No. 536.
I. One of the most conspicuous instances of the attractive power of Jesus is presented by the narrative in our text. The Lord laid a spell on Matthew, and he yielded in a moment. Christ drew him irresistibly, imperially. He swept him with Him in His progress as a satellite is swept by its sun. And what was the secret of the spell? The Man Christ Jesus embodied all the higher thoughts, influences, aspirations, and hopes, by which His life had ever been blessed. Man is double. He is what he is, what the world and the devil have made him, and he is what he was meant to be, what his soul pines to be—his idea. And he and his idea dwell together, strange comrades in this case of flesh. The one is and suffers; the other dreams, and while it dreams is blessed.
II. The Lord came by as Matthew was brooding there; the Lord comes by as you sit brooding; He is the Author and Finisher of those dreams. His is the voice which has often spoken to you in night watches, and stirred your aspirations; in bitter sorrow He has come to you and kindled your hope; out of the depths He has lifted you to visions of a glorious future, and made the germs of all blessed fruits stir in the cold breast of your despair. Every voice of the better nature, every pining of the nobler heart, every vision of the purer imagination, every stirring of the immortal spirit that you have from God, every sigh for deliverance from sin, every resolution to fight it out, God helping you, with the devil, is the Lord's inspiration; and they all rise up and beckon you to follow Him, when Jesus of Nazareth at length draws near. "And Matthew left all, rose up, and followed Him." Young man, standing there by the devil's toll-booth, paying in the tax of thy young life to his accursed treasury, go thou and do likewise.
J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, p. 106.
References: Luke 5:27-29.—Homilist, new series, vol. vii., p. 141; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 190. Luke 5:27-32.—A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 20. Luke 5:27-39.—W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 154. Luke 5:28.—G. Huntington, Sermons for Holy Seasons, p. 249.
Luke 5:29Our Lord's example teaches us what sort of employment is always, perhaps so far as we can pursue it, the most useful to our souls; it shows us, at any rate, what business there is which we can none of us safely neglect altogether; for that which Christ did always, Christ's servants cannot certainly be justified if they never do. And this business consists in mixing with others, not in the mere line of our trade or calling, and still less for mere purposes of gaiety; but the mixing with others, neither for business, nor yet for pleasure, but in the largest sense of the word, for charity.
I. It will, then, be seen how many persons there are who have need to be reminded of this duty. They who really live mostly to themselves are indeed in these days very few, and embrace only that small number of persons whose time is principally spent in study; that is, men who are devoted to literature or science. But those who, while they mix with others, yet do it in the line of their business, or for pleasure's sake, include a very large portion of the world indeed. Statesmen, lawyers, soldiers, sailors, tradesmen, merchants, farmers, labourers—all are necessarily brought much into contact with their fellowmen; there is no danger of their living in loneliness. And persons of no profession—the young, and women of all ages, in the richer classes especially—they desire society for the pleasure of it; they think it dull to live out of the world. For it is very possible that neither of these two large classes of people may mix with others in the way that Christ mixed with them; they may do it for business or for pleasure, but not for charity.
II. To those, then, who are not inclined to be idle, but who, whether from necessity or from activity of mind, are sure to have plenty of employment, nay, who are so much engrossed by it that it leaves them, as was the case with Christ, "no leisure so much as to eat," it becomes of great consequence, not only that they should be as busy as Christ was, but that part of their business, at least, should be of the same kind; not only that they should be fully employed, but that their employment may, in part at least, be of that sort, as, when they fail, they cause them to be received into everlasting habitations.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. ii., p. 164.
Reference: Luke 5:31.—D. Fraser, Metaphors of the Gospels, p. 95.
Christian Mutual Tolerance. Christ is here claiming for His disciples that their spiritual life be left to unfold itself naturally; that they be not fettered with forms; that they be not judged by religious traditions and old habits; that they be free to show themselves glad when they have cause of gladness, and that their expressions of sorrow and their self-discipline follow their feeling of sorrow and their need of discipline.
I. Christ's vindication of freedom to all His disciples. We cannot ante-date maturity nor hurry experience. Endeavour not to force a young and vigorous, even though incomplete, Christian character into the mould and habit of an older one, which may perchance, in its turn, be too despondent, too cheerless; but rather notice and admire how God develops each according to its own vitality, and appoints to each its proper sphere and mode of service. There is a work to be done by the young, and God has given them the impulses for it. Their native energy will be always breaking through their conventionalities; the new wine will burst the bottles. Put the new wine into new bottles, and both will be preserved.
II. Christ's plea for consideration of one another. Be patient, Christ is saying to those who were offended at the exuberance of His disciples; they will not always be as joyous as they are now. The realities of life and the variations of Christian experience will surely take away from younger disciples the undue exaltation which shocks the elder saints. Without your schooling they will pass through much tribulation. They will be sober enough, subdued enough, by-and-by. While the more sombre Christians attempt to bind their sadness as a law on the whole Church, there will surely be strife and bitterness, insincerity, unfitness for the stress of the Christian conflict. But the life which Christ develops in its own fitting forms will give the joyous, confident Christian, matured by painful discipline, sympathy even with those whose sadness is the sadness of doubt. He will be very gentle with them, for His own life has taught Him that without full and abiding confidence in Jesus religious experience must be a gloomy thing. The new wine is better than the old. Not only is Christianity better than Judaism; even under the Gospel the new days are better than the old. God gives His best blessings latest. "Thou hast kept the good wine till now."
A. Mackennal, Christ's Healing Touch, p. 218.
References: Luke 5:33.—F. W. Robertson, The Human Race and Other Sermons, p. 190. Luke 5:33-39.—A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 69; D. Fraser, Metaphors of the Gospels, p. 106. Luke 5:35.—J. Keble, Sermons from Lent to Passiontide, p. 410. Luke 6:1-12.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xi., p. 95; A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 88; F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven, p. 82. Luke 6:1-49.—E. Aston, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 327. Luke 6:6-11.—Homilist, vol. vi., p. 166.
And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.
And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.
Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.
And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.
And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken:
And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.
And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.
And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him.
And he charged him to tell no man: but go, and shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.
But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities.
And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.
And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.
And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him.
And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.
And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.
And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?
But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts?
Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?
But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.
And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.
And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.
And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me.
And he left all, rose up, and followed him.
And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them.
But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?
And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.
I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?
And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them?
But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.
And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old.
And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.
But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.
No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.