v. 1 the lake of Genessaret - Another name for the Sea of Galilee. Since it only measures about eight miles by 13 miles it is seldom considered a Sea, and Luke more often refers to it as a lake.
v. 3 He got into one of the boats - Jesus accomplishes two things by entering the boat. He first ensures that the pressing crowd would not crush him, and He also takes advantage of the natural amplification effect that the water would provide.
v. 5 we have toiled all night and caught nothing - Because the best time for fishing was at night, and Peter was a professional fisherman, he did not expect to have any chance of making a catch during the day. However, Peter will obey Jesus and discover the blessing that always accompanies simple faith and obedience, as God provides for him a miraculous catch.
v. 8 depart from me, for I am a sinful man - Peter’s initial doubts about Jesus here give way to doubts about himself, as he finds that Jesus’s power and authority extend even to the realm of successful fishing.
v. 10 James and John, the Sons of Zebedee - This was not the first experience that Peter, James, and John had with Jesus. John 1:35-42 reveals that James and John had already been disciples of John the Baptist by that time, had spoken with Jesus, and that they were beginning to transfer their allegiance to Jesus on the advice of John the Baptist. This miracle further solidifies their attraction to Jesus, as well as providing the catalyst for their official invitation to discipleship.
you will catch men - The Greek word for catch means “to capture alive,” and its tense implies a continuous action. Therefore, Jesus is promising that as they follow Him and He transforms them, Peter, James and John will become powerful evangelists who are continuously capturing people and bringing them alive into the kingdom of God.
v. 11 they forsook all and followed Him - As explained above, this was not the first time that Peter, James, and John had walked and talked with Jesus; however, this was their first official call to personal, full-time discipleship unto Him. It is at this point that they leave their careers and family attachments and begin to walk with Him everywhere.
v. 12 full of leprosy - Luke, who was a physician, uses precise medical terms of the day to declare that this man was in the final stages of the disease. Victims of leprosy commonly experienced the loss of skin and even extremities of their body while in advanced stages, and Luke leads his audience to believe that this man was indeed in advanced stages. This would therefore be a notable miracle with highly visible results.
v. 13 He put out His hand and touched Him - A noteworthy action, as the leper would have been not only feared as highly contagious but considered ceremonially “unclean.”
v. 14 go and show yourself to the priest and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them - Leviticus 13 describes the treatment of lepers in Israel, and chapter 14 describes the ritual prescribed by God through Moses for the day in which a leper would be healed in Israel. It is a noteworthy chapter, as the elements of cleansing all point symbolically to Jesus the Messiah and His work of cleansing humanity of the greatest threat to life, which is sin.
v. 16 so He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed - The Greek verb tense indicates that Jesus did in fact habitually withdraw to a solitary place in order to pray. Because the need around Him was so great, and because Jesus was fully aware of His dependence on direction and power from His Father, even He needed to find a place and a habit of frequent prayer. This should also serve as an example to us.
v. 17 the power of the Lord was present to heal them - The construction of the sentence, including the specific phrase “the power of the Lord,” implies that it was specifically the power of the Holy Spirit which was upon Jesus to heal the people (4:18).
v. 18 paralyzed - Luke again uses a precise medical term which in English means “paralyzed,” as opposed to the general terms used by Matthew and Mark in their respective Gospels.
v. 19 on the housetop - Roofs were commonly flat and accessible as a gathering place (Acts 10:9).
v. 21 “Who can forgive sin but God alone?” - As Psalm 32:5 and Isaiah 43:25 state, it is in fact God alone who has the right and the authority to forgive sin. This is because in truth it is God against whom all sin is ultimately committed. Therefore if Jesus was not God, the claim He makes here (to be one who could forgive sin) would in fact be blasphemy. However, Jesus demonstrates His deity three different ways in this passage: He heals the paralyzed man, He knows the secret thoughts of the onlookers, and, most importantly, He forgives the man’s sin.
v. 23 which is easier? - Although the healing of a paralytic is more outward and obvious, the forgiveness of sins is by far the more difficult and costly act. In order to heal sickness, Jesus merely had to will the miracle to be performed. However in order to provide the means for a human being to be forgiven, He had to die on the Cross.
v. 25 glorifying God - A Greek verb (doxazó) which means that he went his way publishing the glory of God, or verbally praising Him. This, as the next verse indicates, led everyone in the house to also outwardly praise and glorify God.
v. 27 Levi - This is the name given to the Apostle Matthew at birth. The name “Levi” implies that he was likely a descendant of the tribe of Levi, which was the family of Israel given the privilege of entering into full-time service of the Lord in the Temple. However, Matthew Levi (for an undisclosed reason) chose to become a tax collector rather than enter into the ministry; a notable choice, as in so doing he became a public enemy of his people and a person who would be barred from even entering the Temple to worship.
v. 28 so he left all - While Peter, James, and John could always return to their boats and their fishing career (which they temporarily did after Jesus’ crucifixion in John 21:3), a tax collector who abandons his post could never again return to that profession.
v. 29 a great number of tax collectors and others - Matthew’s own version of this account (Matt. 9:9-10) makes it again clear that there were a great number of “sinners” who were gathered there. These were all people who were outcasts from the religious society in Israel, and yet Matthew is simply desirous that all of his friends get the chance to meet Jesus just as he did.
v. 31-32 “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” - Jesus makes it clear that He did not come to associate with those who believed that they were already “righteous” in themselves, but rather those that were aware of their need for a Savior.
v. 33 “why do the disciples of John fast often...and likewise those of the Pharisees?” - It is recorded in Scripture that the Pharisees would fast and pray very religiously, in a public manner, desiring to be seen by men (Matt. 6:5-18). However Jesus’ disciples were not known to fast at this time, and this provoked the question.
v. 34 can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast - No groom declares a fast as he is celebrating his wedding with his friends. In like manner, the time that Jesus spent with His disciples on Earth was meant to be a unique time, which should have been characterized by rejoicing rather than somber reflection.
v. 36 no one puts a piece from an old garment on a new one - If a new piece of fabric that has not been shrunk is used to patch on an old garment (which is not going to shrink any further), the shrinkage of the new piece will cause it to tear away and rip the old fabric and the hole in the fabric would be made worse than it was before the patch was put on.
v. 37 no one puts new wine into old wineskins - The illustration is repeated, using wine and wineskins. Animal skins were used in ancient Israel as containers for wine, and as the wine aged and gave off gasses the skins would be forced to expand. As long as the skin was fairly new and flexible, it would be able to stretch. If, however, new wine was poured into an old skin which had already been stretched or become brittle, the natural expansion of the new wine would burst the old skin, wasting the wine.
v. 39 no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new - The Jewish people in Jesus’ day rejected Him as the Messiah and rejected the New Covenant He had come to offer. Even though His coming and His New Covenant were predicted in the prophecies of the Old Testament, the Jews resisted the change.