Study Notes

Luke 5:17-39

5:17 Pharisees & teachers of the Law

"Pharisees" means "separated ones". They were the ultra-religious, separating themselves from everything that was "unclean". We might wonder: Why were they there? Because the Pharisees were always checking out where the religious action was. Remember, earlier they had gone out with everyone else to the Jordan River to see what that John the Baptist thing was all about, too. Religion always leaves you feeling empty and unfulfilled - you're always looking for something, but you don't know what.

Power of the Lord was present

Luke 5:17 ...and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing.

When we read that statement, we're very likely to misunderstand it like so many other people do. We might have a tendency to think that there is some mysterious hocus-pocus thing associated with the power of the Lord. Like we can only get it if we have a certain experience or go to a certain place. It reminds me of when Jesus said:

Mark 12:24 ..."Is this not the reason you are mistaken: that you do not understand the Scriptures, or the power of God?

You see, we need to forget about man's wisdom: what people have told us, books that we've read, and even our past church experiences, and begin to rely completely on the wisdom of the Word of God. If we want to understand the real meaning of this passage, we don't need to ask anyone, we just need to grab a concordance and search the Scriptures.

What does it mean that "the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing"? 1Corinthians 1:18 says:

1Cor. 1:18 For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

What is the power of God? The word of the cross. This ties in directly to Romans 1:16, which says that the gospel is:

Rom. 1:16 ...the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes

Rom 15:13 says...

Rom. 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Where does this power come from? Believing, which ties right into 1Pet 1:5 where Peter wrote that you

1Pet. 1:5 ...are protected by the power of God through faith...

As we put all of these references together, one thing comes out about the power of God: it has nothing to do with the hocus pocus that many people want you to buy into. It has everything to do with the word of the cross, the gospel, believing, and faith. The power of God comes to us by faith in the gospel. The more faith you have in Jesus Christ, the more the power of God is present in you to see miraculous things happen.

And when we understand that, it totally explains that strange thing we read in Mark 6, when Jesus was in his hometown, teaching in the synagogue, and people were saying, "Who does this guy think He is? He's just the local carpenter..."

Mark 6:5-6 ...And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands upon a few sick people and healed them. And He wondered at their unbelief.

Little belief, little power present for healing. So how can we partake of this power of God? By going to a certain church, or having a certain experience, or asking a certain person lay hands on you? No. By growing in faith. And how can we grow in faith? The answer in the Word is simply: the Word.

Rom. 10:17 ...Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

In Jesus' hometown, the power wasn't there because the faith wasn't there. But here in Luke 5, the power is present because the faith is present.

5:18-26 Healing and forgiving the paralytic

Here is an example of that powerful faith we just talked about. It says in v.20:

Luke 5:20 And seeing their faith, He said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven you."

The faith of this guy's friends accessed the power of God for his forgiveness and healing.

Don't we all have friends that need forgiveness and healing? We need to be like these guys. Going the extra mile to bring them to Jesus. They carried the guy, climbed up on the roof, dug a hole, and lowered him down. How much effort are we expending to bring our friends to Jesus?

Who can forgive sin?

Now during all this, the Pharisees accused Jesus of speaking blasphemies. They said "Who can forgive sins, but God alone?" What they are saying is true. And their accusation would be valid, except for one thing: Jesus IS God. His answer to them is so simple. "Okay, I said 'Your sins are forgiven'. And you can't see any result of that. So it's easy for you to doubt My authority. So I'll tell you what - I'll say another thing that you can see the result of. You on the mat - rise up an walk." He shows them that He has the power to do the invisible - forgiving - by doing something that is visible - healing.

5:27-28 The call of Levi

We've talked about tax collectors in the past. When the Romans came into Palestine and became rulers over the Jews, an interesting job opportunity opened up for Jews who cared more about money than popularity: Tax collector. Jews taxing Jews for the Romans. The Romans said, "Collect this much tax, and anything more than that you keep yourself."

As a result, two things happened. The Jews who became tax collectors got very very rich, and also very very unpopular. Levi was one of those guys - a traitor, an extortionist. But this day, Jesus walks up to him and says, "Follow me". And he leaves everything behind to follow Him. Levi had it made, but he just left. Paul wrote in Philippians 3:

Phil. 3:7-8 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss, in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ...

Have you given up everything to follow Christ? Are you still hanging on to things that the Lord's told you to leave behind? I can't tell you what those things are, but then again, I don't need to. The Lord's already told you. Stop and think for a moment: What's He told you to leave behind? And why haven't you?

5:29-32 Party at Levi's house

The King James version calls this a "feast". But this is more than a feast, it is a "doche" - a reception, a social gathering for the purpose of extending a formal welcome. Who was the reception for? Who was Levi welcoming? Jesus Christ.

Levi had made a commitment to follow Christ, and now he wanted all of his friends to know about it. (Of course, being a tax collector, his only friends were other tax collectors and a sordid bunch of sinners!) And he wanted his friends to meet Jesus too. Remember this: A man who's been saved from the fires of hell desperately wants his friends saved as well.

Flack from Pharisees

And of course, this party is a prime opportunity for the Pharisees to get on Jesus' case about hanging out with "sinners". Jesus' answer is simple: He says, "I came for Sickos and Sinners, not you so-called "righteous" people who think you've got no problems with sin." The people that Jesus is offering salvation to are the people that know they need it. They know they don't measure up to God's standards. They know they're separated from Him. They know they need a savior. The Great Physician only admits patients who know that they are sick and in need of a doctor.

5:33-35 They will fast in those days

We generally associate fasting with either ancient days, or religious extremists. Most Christians today never even consider it. But when Jesus said that His followers would fast in "those days", what days did He mean? These days. So let's talk about fasting - What is it? It is the denial of our flesh through abstinence. Although we sometimes toy with the idea of a television fast, or a coffee fast, or whatever, in the Bible, fasts always relate to food.

There are three main types: 1) The absolute fast, where you neither eat food or drink water (and you can't really do this for more than three days). 2) A regular fast, like Jesus had in the wilderness when the devil tempted Him, where you eat no food, but allow yourself to drink water (you can do this for up to 40 days). And 3) A partial fast which is more of a restriction of your diet, like Daniel did when he said:

Dan. 10:3 I did not eat any tasty food, nor did meat or wine enter my mouth, nor did I use any ointment at all, until the entire three weeks were completed.

This all sounds pretty miserable, doesn't it? No food? No water? C'mon, why would anyone do that? The first question really should be: "Who would do anything like that?" Every follower of Jesus Christ is called to fast. Read up on it: in all His teachings, Jesus did not say, "if you fast", He said, "when you fast".

What does it accomplish? There are several reasons, but the first and foremost is control over the flesh. The Bible says to...

Gal. 5:16-17 ...Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another...

There's an old saying that goes, "An army travels on its stomach". If that's the case, and your flesh is at war against your spirit, who do you think will win? Certainly the one who you've fed the most. Have you ever wondered why time and again you have no victory? Because we feed our bodies at least three times a day, and our spirit is lucky to get fed even once! We must bring our flesh into submission to our spirit instead of our spirit being in submission to our flesh. We must make it obedient.

But fasting is miserable! Yes it is - it's no wonder that they weren't fasting when Jesus was there - it was a time of great joy! But the book of Hebrews says that Jesus

Hebr. 5:8 ... learned obedience from the things which He suffered.

So why do we think there's any other way to learn it? Paul didn't know of any other way, either. He said:

1Cor. 9:27 ...I buffet my body and make it my slave...

Teaching the flesh to be obedient to the spirit is miserable, but necessary. If we are to be disciples of Christ, we must be willing to be disciplined.

5:36-39 New & Old Wineskins

In Scripture, wine is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. And the Lord wants to continually pour new wine into us. But the problem is, religiosity makes people staunch and stiff like an old wineskin. They cannot and will not accept new things. Today, much of the church is like an old wineskin - refusing to accept God's desire to meet this generation in a relevant way. The stiffness of "You will wear a suit to church. You will sing these hymns written in the 1800's. You will read the King James Version of the Bible. You will conform to our rules and religion because that's the way we've always done it." God doesn't usually spark revivals in churches like that, does He? Because He won't pour His new wine into old wineskins.

I want to be a fresh wineskin - I want our church to be a fresh wineskin. How can I? How can we? Well, since Jesus is using the fresh wineskin as the example - How they make fresh wineskins...?

When a man made wine, it was both impractical and impossible to have a new wineskin for each new batch. It was simply too expensive. So what he would do is take the old wineskins and renew them. How? He took those hardened, inflexible wineskins and soaked them for a period of time in water. Water in Scripture is symbolic of the Word. Once again, we find that the Word of God is the answer.