Luke 5:1-11


At John 1:35-51, during the early Judean ministry of Jesus, six of Jesus' disciples begin following Him. At Matthew 4:18-22, same as Mark 1:16-20, during the Galilean ministry of Jesus, Peter, Andres, James, and John are called to follow Jesus. Evidently, at least occasionally, they went back to their daily work.

At Luke 5:1-11 at least Peter, James, and John (Andrew is not mentioned by name) are called a second time. There are scholars who think that the accounts in Matthew, Mark and Luke are the same occasion. But most scholars conclude that there were two calls. The account in Luke is quite different from that in Matthew and Mark. Could Jesus not call His disciples more than once? Of course He could. It is a rare pastor who receives only one call in his lifetime. Each call is a meaningful call. It's the call that makes the pastor.

Finally, the account at John 21:1-14, a post-resurrection account, though similar to the account at Luke 5:1-11, is a different occasion. Negative critics claim that the account in John is the same as that in Luke, redacted, revised, rewritten for a theological purpose. As if Jesus could not give two miraculous draughts of fishes! Their real purpose is to deny the miraculous. They claim that, quite by accident, Jesus saw a school of fish and made it look as if He performed a miracle. But, on with the text.

Luke 5:1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God,

ONE DAY - This phrase is frequent in Luke. It is a Hebraism. It calls our attention to an important occasion.

CROWDING AROUND - This indicates that the people were eager to hear Him.

THE WORD OF GOD - Luke stresses the prophetic office of Christ.

Luke 5:2 he saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.

Jesus was on land at the water's edge and the boats stood in water at the land's edge. The disciples are identified merely as  "the fisherman."  They had evidently finished fishing.

Luke 5:3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

TAUGHT - The word indicates He began to teach and continued for some time.

Luke 5:4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch."

Jesus is already indicating that this time they will be successful. The command contains a promise.

Luke 5:5 Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets."

Luke never uses  "Rabbi"  but always the word which means  "Master."

Although they had worked hard all night, they caught not a single fish. One can imagine how tired and frustrated this experienced fisherman was. And then to be told to try again under circumstance not conducive to good fishing! Contrary to the know-how and experience of good fishermen, they will try again.

BUT BECAUSE YOU SAY SO - The NIV translation might sound too flippant. Arndt suggests:  "In reliance on Your Word."  Lenski:  "The fact that thou hast spoken commands my will."

Stoeckhardt: In such faith we too should pursue our earthly calling. That should be our daily morning-blessing: 'At your Word! At your command, Lord, I cheerfully go to work. You have promised me. You placed me into my situation and calling so that therein I can serve God and my neighbor. At your Word! I trust your promise. You have promised your aid and blessing to those who fear you and walk in your ways.' And precisely then, if need and misfortune have occurred, one must believe, trust, and obey the Word.

Luke 5:6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.

CAUGHT -  "Enclosed" is better than  "caught."  The point is that it was completely effortless on their part. The text implies that it was immediate.

Luke 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.

Bengel: The net, no doubt, was broken in the upper end of it, where it was made fast.

That makes sense. The text implies that they could see the tearing above water, not below.

SIGNALED - Evidently not a word was spoken. This indicates their amazement.

PARTNERS - Probably these men were hired helpers, who were watching from shore.

BEGAN TO SINK - The boats were at the critical point of buoyancy and non-buoyancy.

Luke 5:8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!"

Marshall: Simon is given his full name. Elsewhere Luke uses the form 'Simon...called Peter.'
Lenski: Luke calls him Simon Peter adding the name that Jesus gave him to designate the rocklike faith that would mature in him.

To fall at someone's knees in a sinking boat is truly remarkable. Simultaneously Peter recognizes that this humble carpenter is the Lord of heaven and earth, look at Psalm 8:3-6, and his own utter, sinful, unworthiness.

LORD - This must mean that Peter recognized Jesus as the Messiah.

Lenski: This was a miracle wrought for Peter direct, in his own boat, in his own profession, of a kind so phenomenal that it brought home to Peter the realization that he had the heavenly Lord in his boat, he a wretched sinner, who could not even fully trust his Lord's command with the implied promise, and Jesus the omnipotent Lord.
Stoeckhardt: The blessing of the Lord, great blessing, humbles and should humble us and remind us that we are worthy of nothing and have not earned it.
Greatness is always preceded by true humility and recognition that this man Jesus is the saving God. Look at Isaiah 6:5. Isaiah saw Jesus' glory, John 12:41. And look at 1 Timothy 1:14-15. Peter's confession is like that of the penitential Psalms.

It should not be overlooked that now Peter realizes that Jesus' command in verse 4 contained a promise.

Luke 5:9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken,

A mixture of fear and awe, perhaps somewhat like that of seeing a total eclipse of the sun.

Luke 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."

AND -  "Likewise."

PARTNERS - Partners in business.

DON'T BE AFRAID - It is Gospel. Even though all were affected alike, Jesus addressed Peter personally. Peter had asked the Lord to leave, but He didn't. He comforts Peter. He assures him of forgiveness of sins and of constant help. This expression is frequent in the Old and New Testaments, from the Lord or from His angel, to allay the fears of a sinner. Look at Genesis 15:1; 26:24; Daniel 10:12,19; Isaiah 41:10,13; Luke 1:30; 2:10; Acts 18:9; 27:24; Matthew 1:20; 28:5; Revelation 1:17; Luke 5:10; 8:50 and many more.

MEN - Means people.

WILL CATCH - A continuous action. The verb means  "to catch alive."  In the LXX this word is used for saving people alive from danger. Look at Numbers 31:15,18; Deuteronomy 20:16.

Arndt: While fish are caught to be put to death, the beings caught in the Gospel net of the Apostles are to be led to true life.

Luke 5:11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

They abandoned their work, but not recklessly. This is the beginning of Christian ministry. But it should not be interpreted to mean that they completely disregarded their former life, for example, leaving their wives. They did fish later in John 21 but from this point on they were full-time Apostles.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Luke-John, Festival Season Sundays Gospel Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1979, pp. 27-29. Used with permission.

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