At the end of the encounter in the gospel for the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time: “When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.” Tannehill (Luke, 101 – found in Stoffregen) presents the economic and social implications of this leaving:
“Leaving everything” means leaving the family (cf. 14:26) and leaving one’s means of support. The family was the primary producing unit in antiquity. Whatever economic security there was came through the family. In leaving their families these men were abandoning family responsibilities and their own security. However, we will see later that they moved from an original family to a “surrogate family,” the community of disciples (cf. 8:19-21), as the primary group. This decision did not suddenly make the disciples individuals in the modern sense, but it would take some strength and independence to decide against the group to which society gave the highest value.
The boat returns to land. Those who have experienced Jesus’ power on the lake (an image of baptism?), return changed people. They “leave” everything. The word for “leave” (aphiemi) was used earlier of the fever leaving Simon’s mother-in-law (4:39), and the noun form (aphesis) twice in the Lucan quote from Isaiah: “release to the captives” and “let the oppressed go free” (4:18); but most often these words are used of forgiving sins (for example: 5:20, 21, 23, 24).
Perhaps we can restate the action of the fisherman as “freeing themselves from all things” or “being released” from them. Levi the tax collector will do the same thing in v. 28. Might this also illustrate that forgiveness means being freed or released from our sinfulness? That our sins or sinfulness no longer have to control us and that we are freed from whatever hinders us from following God’s call to be and live as God’s children.
From what do we need to be “released” so that we can properly follow Jesus? Following Jesus in 9:23 requires denying oneself = release from one’s own desires. In 9:57-61, three different people wish to follow Jesus, but following him requires leaving comforts behind and family obligations behind. In 18:22, the rich man is unable to leave his possessions in order to follow Jesus. In contrast, Peter indicates that they “have left” (or “been released from”) their own things (idia – homes, possessions, property) and followed Jesus. Jesus promises that they will get back much more in this age and eternal life in the age to come (18:28-30).
- R. Alan Culpepper, “The Gospel of Luke.” New Interpreter’s Bible. Ed. Leander E. Keck. Vol. 9. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994–2004) 112–18
- Joel B. Green, “The Gospel of Luke.” The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997) 230- 35
- Brian Stoffregen, “Brian P. Stoffregen Exegetical Notes” at crossmarks.com
- Scripture quotes from New American Bible