Living the Good News in the Gospel of Luke
Study 1

Calling the first disciples
Luke 5:1-11

In Luke’s narrative so far, Jesus’ baptism has taken place at which the voice from heaven has acknowledged Him as “my beloved Son” (3:21-22). Luke has traced this sonship in a genealogy back to Adam, the son of God, to emphasize that Jesus as God’s Son is the true representative of humanity (3:22-28). As such, he has then been tested for forty days in the wilderness, as Israel was for forty years. While Israel had failed similar tests (cf. Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 8:2-5), Jesus proved to be a true Son of God (4:1-15). Having passed the test, Jesus is then ready to begin his ministry.

To introduce that ministry Luke has placed Jesus’ preaching in the synagogue at Nazareth early (cf. Matthew 13:53-58 where it comes after Jesus has done considerable preaching, teaching, and healing). Luke has done this to emphasize both the central message of Jesus and the response to it. The central message is that Jesus has come as God’s Anointed One to bring the Good News of the Kingdom of God for the afflicted, in which there is liberation and healing, in fulfilment of Isaiah 61:1-2; 58:6. When the response is unbelief, Jesus’ message to them is that the Good News will go to outsiders, just as the great prophets Elijah and Elisha had given help and healing to those outside Israel (4:16-30). However, there are many who do seek Jesus and are amazed at his word and his healings. Even demonic forces which are cast out acknowledge Jesus as “the Holy One of God,” “Son of God” (4:31-44).

This is the landscape for the calling of the first disciples and is the basis on which we too are called to follow. But keep in mind as you study this reading that there is much more to this than just choosing disciples. The story really tells us something of what discipleship is all about. Consider what implications for understanding discipleship are already there in the stories leading up to this call.

Read Luke 5:1-11
1. Compare Luke’s version with the account in Matthew 4:18-22; 13:1-2. What differences do you notice in Luke’s account? Why?

2. Compare this with John 21:1-11. How do these stories differ? What is the basic message in each?

3. Vv. 4-5: Considering that Luke has the whole meaning and experience of discipleship in mind here, what symbolic significance do you see in Peter’s protest? In this connection, discuss the meaning of Jesus’ parables in Luke 13:18-21.

4. Vv. 6-7: What do these verses remind us about discipleship and faith?

5. Vv. 8-9: Why did Simon Peter say he was a sinful man instead of rejoicing at the good fortune and showing gratitude? Consider these possibilities: awe at Jesus’ mighty power, lack of faith, feeling of unworthiness. What are disciples made of, anyway? Cf. Luke 5:27-28.

6 Vv. 9-10a: Although Simon Peter has been singled out in this story, he is not alone—he has partners. What does this say about discipleship? Theirs and ours?

7 V. 10b reads literally: “Jesus said to Simon, ‘Fear not, from now on you shall be one who catches people alive.’” Keep in mind that fishing was by gathering in a net rather than by line and hook. Cf. Matthew 13:47-50. So the emphasis in on gathering into the Kingdom. Luke’s account of this saying is slightly different from that in Matthew 4:21. Jesus used this phrase because of the promise in Jeremiah 16:15-16 that after the Exile God in his compassion would gather them back to him. Look at that passage in its context and compare it with Isaiah 49:5-6 and 54:7-8 (spoken near the end of the Exile).

8 “Fear not,” a favourite saying of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel. Cf. Luke 1:13, 30; 2:10; 8:50; 12:7, 32. Compare these with Isaiah 35:4; 40:9; 41:10,13,14; 43:1,5; 44:2; 51:7; 54:4. What do all these say about discipleship—Peter’s and ours?

What a privilege it is to share the Good News!