The mission of the Messiah, 1:5-9:50

3. The signs of the Messiah, 4:31-6:11

v] Sign of the outcast - Lord of the lost


After the healing of the paralytic, Luke records the call of Levi and the banquet that was held later in his home. This dinner with tax collectors and sinners prompts a strong reaction from the Pharisees, to which Jesus responds, "I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance." Luke then records the question over fasting. The Pharisees are not impressed with the rather sloppy approach to fasting regulations employed by Jesus and his disciples, to which criticism Jesus makes the point that a wedding is not for fasting. A collection of parabolic sayings illustrate this point: new cloth on old; new wine in new wineskins; a person who has started drinking well-aged wine will not put up with a young wine.


This episode, with its focus on the tax collector's banquet, serves as a sign of the new age, a sign of the ingathering of the lost. Something new is here; God is gathering the lost into his promised kingdom. "The Anointed One has brought with him the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises, and the joy of the awaited age has come. As a result there is no room for fasting or mourning", Stein. This new age is like a beautifully aged wine, once tasted, nothing else compares.


i] Context: See 4:31-44. The calling of Levi and the question about fasting is the fifth episode of six in the section The signs of the Messiah which, by focusing on his acts, reveals the nature of his authority, 4:31-6:11. He does what only God can do.


ii] Structure: This narrative, The sign of the outcast, presents as follows:

The call of Levi, v27-28;

The question over associating with sinners, v29-32:

Setting, v29;

Reaction, v30;

Jesus' response, v31-32:

"it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick."

"I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

The question on fasting, v33-39:

Question, v33;

Jesus' reply, v34-35;

"can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast ........"

Parables, 37-38:

New cloth on old;

New wine in old wineskins.

Saying, v39:

"no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, 'The old is better.'"


iii] Interpretation:

In the call of the tax collector Levi, Jesus breaks the existing religious mould. He is inaugurating a new age and in so doing will inevitably incorporate those who are lost and broken before the Lord ("those who are sick"). It is more than likely that the point of this episode is theological, ie. Levi represents the incoming of the lost remnant of Israel. It seems unlikely that this episode is ethical, ie. it does not set out to instruct the Christian fellowship to incorporate social outcasts into the church, so Danker, Fitzmyer.

So, Jesus calls "sinners to repentance." Yet, what does he mean when he says he has "not come to call the righteous"? The parenthetical qualification indicating that the call is not to the "righteous / just" causes no end of problems. The promised eschatological kingdom of God is inaugurated in the calling out of the lost of Israel, the dispersed remnant of Israel, the broken, enslaved, scattered people of God who wait expectantly for the day of their redemption. In establishing the kingdom the messiah calls out the lost, not the unlost, he calls out those waiting for redemption, not those already redeemed; he has come not to gather in those who are already in, "the righteous", those who are right before God, but to gather in those who are out, those who want to be right before God. If Jesus is engaging with the Pharisees at this point, then "the righteous" could mean "self-righteous", but probably he does have in mind the righteous before God, people like Simeon or Anna, children of Israel resting firmly on the faith of Abraham and waiting earnestly for the dawning of the kingdom. Jesus is certainly not suggesting that the Pharisees are "the righteous." Hopefully many of them are, like Levi, the lost waiting expectantly for the day of redemption, although as Jesus notes in v39, most are happy with their existing state.


Is Jesus' saying, "the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them", referring to his crucifixion? It is possible that Jesus treats the bridegroom proverb allegorically and applies it to himself in verse 35. He, as the bridegroom, will be "taken away / removed", then the disciples ("guests") will fast/mourn. "Taken away" may well refer to Jesus' death, while the fasting/mourning may last till his resurrection / pentecost??? Old Testament allusions have been suggested, cf. Ez.10:1-4, Tobit 6:13ff, and of the Servant being "taken away", Isa.53:8. On the other hand, it seems better if we treat v34 and 35 as a simple illustration which makes the point that a wedding is not for fasting/mourning, but for celebration; fasting/mourning is for another day. The dawning of the new age of the kingdom prompts celebration, not sobriety.


The Parables of the patch and the wineskins. These teaching parables illustrate the radical incompatibility ("incompatible", Marshall, "dichotomy", Ellis) that exists between the piety of Israel's religious elite age and the dawning of the promised kingdom in Christ. The incompatibility of the two is evident in the comparison between the fasting of the Pharisees / the disciples of John and the celebrating of Jesus and his disciples.

Some commentators argue that the parables illustrate the difference between scribal law, as opposed to Christian freedom, so Danker, or the distance between the old forms of religious piety and politics and the kingdom message of Jesus, so Johnson. Yet, we are on safer ground if we follow Nolland who argues that they state nothing more than a truism - some things just don't go together, so "the new must be allowed to have its own integrity", Nolland.


The saying: "no one after drinking a well-aged wine desires this year's vintage, for he says, 'a finely aged drop is better.'" This saying, recorded only in Luke, sums up the episode, although its sense is not overly clear. Is the comment negative or positive?

Taken negatively, the point seems to be that the Pharisees and their scribes are hooked on the old wine - they prefer the struggle of waiting over the joy of arrival. "Those who are most accustomed to the old wine will not even taste the new; the old, they say, is good enough. To drink the new wine offered at Jesus' banquet, to wear the new garment for his wedding feast, one must have a new heart, go through metanoia, 'a change of mind', such as that shown by tax-agents and sinners", Johnson. Plummer makes the point simply, "you have set your course, you will never change your ways"; "Some people will not taste the new wine of the gospel, since some tastes never change", Bock. So, referencing the Pharisees, they treat the new wine of the gospel "as inferior to the old wine", Nolland.

Taken positively, what Jesus offers is good mature wine, wine that reflects God's ancient purposes in Israel, whereas the Pharisees offer a young wine, innovative theology which is inconsistent with God's will, so Green. "Whoever has begun drinking the old wine will not put up with the new. ..... What is new in the Gospel is also ancient .... in comparison to the more recent doctrinal deviations (of the Pharisees)", Bovon. The positive approach is somewhat left-of-field, but has much to commend it.


iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 5:27

Lord of the lost, v27-39: i] The call of Levi, v27-28. Tax in the first century was insidious. Not only was it too high, it was fraudulently collected. The tax collectors would often pocket up to 50% for themselves. Levi, often identified by his common name Matthew, was in his tax booth collecting taxes. Obviously he had already been touched by Jesus' ministry, and when asked to be a disciple, he jumps at the chance.

meta tauta "after this" - after these things. Temporal use of the preposition meta, "after". Referring to the events surrounding the previous episode.

exhlqen (exercomai) aor. "Jesus went out" - he went out. Probably went out of the town, which according to Mark was Capernaum.

telwnhn (hV ou) "a tax collector" - A person employed by either the Roman authorities or Herod to collect custom dues for the transportation of goods. Jewish tax collectors were regarded as collaborators as well as thieves (they took a commission for their work).

onamati (a atoV) dat. "by the name of [Levi]" - Dative of reference / respect; "with respect to his name, Levi."

kaqhmenon (kaqhmai) aor. part. "sitting" - sitting. The participle serves as an object complement, complement of the object "saw"; "saw .... sitting at the tax office / customs office / revenue office".

epi + acc. "at" - Spacial; "at the tax booth", ESV.

autw/ dat. pro. "[Jesus said] to him" - [he said] to him. Dative of indirect object.

akolouqei moi "follow me" - The meaning is "become a disciple." Such involves "participation in, and commitment to, the destiny of one whose actions and movements constitute a divinely appointed journey to be accomplished; with which journey are bound up the kingdom of God and eternal life", Evans.


katalipwn (kataleipw) aor. part. "left [everything]" - having left behind [all]. This participle, as with "having arisen", is attendant circumstance, expressing action accompanying the main verb "he followed" which is imperfect, and so possibly durative, or even inceptive; "Levi rose from his seat, left everything, and began to be his follower", Barclay. The position of "left everything" is emphatic, given that Levi would "get up" first before leaving. It is unclear whether his leaving everything is to be understood as a total renunciation of the things of this world, or simply that he leaves "everything in the tollhouse behind; .... leaves one occupation to take up another", Fitzmyer.

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - Dative of direct object.


ii] Jesus' association with tax collectors and sinners, 29-32. a) Setting, v29. Jesus' socializing with the lost of Israel further illustrates the dawning of the new age. Jesus has come to call the sinners to repentance.

autw/ dat. "[held a great banquet] for Jesus" - for him. Dative of interest, advantage.

en + dat. "at [his house]" - in [the house]. Local; expressing space / sphere, as NIV.

telwnwn (hV ou) gen. "[a large crowd] of tax collectors" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive / wholative. Outcasts socialize with outcasts!

h\san ... katakeimenoi (katakeimai) pres. part. "were eating [with him]" - [who] were reclining (at table) [with them]. A periphrastic imperfect construction, possibly emphasizing aspect, durative action; "reclined at the table, eating and drinking", Junkins.

met (meta) + gen. "with [them]" - Expressing association.


b) Reaction, v30: Somehow the Pharisees get in on the act, although as the separated ones they would certainly not have entered the home of a collaborator and thief. In their question to the disciples, the Pharisees probe the issue of religious cleanliness. Jesus cannot be the messiah if he allows himself to become ritually unclean. "Over against the Pharisaic idea of salvation by segregation, Jesus sets up the new principle of salvation by association", T.W. Manson.

autwn gen. pro. "[the teachers of the law] who belonged to their sect" - [the scribes] of them. The genitive is probably adjectival, possessive, as NIV. A rather strange statement, even more complex in Mark, "scribes of the Pharisees." Many scribes / experts in the Law were Pharisees, so "Pharisaic scribes", Nolland.

egegguzon (gogguzw) imperf. "complained" - were grumbling, murmuring, complaining. The imperfect is probably durative expressing ongoing grumbling; "made this a bone of contention with his disciples", Rieu.

proV + acc. "to [his disciples]" - Introducing a prepositional construction serving as the indirect object of "complained", a construction often used by Luke instead of a dative.

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "-" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant (pleonastic).

dia ti "why" - because why. This construction forms a question asking for a reason; "why".

meta + gen. "with" - Expressing association.

aJmartwlwn (oV) "sinners" - Referring to ritually unclean people, so "people with whom no respectable Jew would have anything to do", Barclay.


c) Jesus response, v31-32: This proverbial saying has Hellenistic parallels; "only the sick need a physician, the healthy do not". As the sick need a physician, so sinners need an advocate. If Jesus is in the business of renovating sinners then he obviously has to attend to their sin. Any interpretation of this proverb must be controlled by v32, since it is likely that it is nothing more than a sarcastic quip.

apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "[Jesus] answered" - having answered [Jesus said]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb said, virtually redundant.

proV "them" - to them. Again Luke uses the preposition instead of a dative for an indirect object, a construction he continues to use, eg., v33, 34, 36.

oiJ uJgiainonteV (uJgiainw) pres. part. "the healthy" - the ones being healthy, well, sound. The participle serves as a substantive.

ou creian ecousin "have no need" - no need have. "It is not those who are in good health ... who are in need of a physician", Cassirer.

iatrou (oV) gen. "a doctor" - of a doctor, physician. The genitive is usually taken as verbal, objective.

alla "but" - Adversative.

econteV (ecw) pres. part. "the [sick]" - the ones having [illness]. The participle serves as a substantive.

kakwV adv. "sick" - badly, wrong = illness.


In line with the Old Testament prophets, Jesus declares that the dawning kingdom of God is for the lost, broken, dispersed, enslaved..... remnant of Israel. Messiah comes to gather those who yearn for the day of redemption. Jesus therefore, as the messiah, rightly associates with "sinners" and invites, or better, summons them to enter the kingdom.

kalesai (kalew) aor. inf. "[I have not come] to call" - The infinitive is adverbial, probably final, expressing purpose; "I have .... come .... in order to call". Like the prophets of old Jesus comes from God, as a messenger of God, to call/invite (possibly better summons, cf. Isa. 41:9, 42:6) the remnant of Israel to participate in the blessings of God's promised eschatological kingdom.

dikaiouV (oV) "the righteous" - righteous, just. The parenthetical qualification indicating that this call is not to the "righteous / just."

alla "but [sinners to repentance]" - Adversative.

eiV "[sinners] to [repentance]" - Here expressing purpose / end-view; Jesus comes with the purpose of summoning those who are separated from God, ("sinners"), with a view to a decision on their part to return to God ("repentance").


iii] The question on fasting, v33-35. Although it is true that even the disciples of John the Baptist fast, the dawning of the new age of the kingdom is a time of joy, a time of celebration.

a) Question, v33: The Pharisees note that even the disciples of John the Baptist fast, so why is it that Jesus and his disciples are more prone to partying than fasting?

Iwannou (oV) gen. "John's [disciples]" - The genitive is adjectival, relational.

pukna adv. "often [fast]" - [fast] frequently. The Day of Atonement is the only official fasting day, but the Pharisees added their own days. It is interesting to note that the disciples of John join in this practice. Were some Pharisees? The practice of fasting in sackcloth and ashes served to express a state of loss, sadness, brokenness before God, particularly for Israel's subjection.

oiJ "the disciples" - the ones [of the Pharisees]. The article serves as a nominalizer turning the genitive "of the Pharisees" into a substantive construction subject of the verb "to do"; "the ones of the Pharisees do likewise" = "just like the Pharisees disciples", Phillips.

twn Farisaiwn (oV) gen. "the Pharisees" - The genitive is adjectival, relational or possessive.

de "but" - but, and. Here adversative, as NIV.

oiJ ... soi "yours [eat and drink]" - the ones to you. Again the article oiJ serves as a nominalizer turning the dative pronoun soi into a substantive construction subject of the verbs "eat and drink"; "the ones to you eat and drink" - durative present, "keep on eating and drinking." The dative soi may be classified as a dative of reference / respect, but better possession, as NIV. We may simply have an observation here which notes that the life-style of Jesus and his disciples aligns with that of secular society more than the accepted piety of religious Judaism, but it is likely that something stronger is intended; "You and your disciples spend most of your time at parties", cf. Peterson. This observation should help deflate the view that Christianity is a kill-joy religion.


b) Jesus' reply, v34-35: In a simple illustration Jesus makes the point that a wedding is not a time for sadness, but rather joy. The inauguration of the new age of the kingdom is not a time for fasting, but a time of celebration.

mh "-" - Used in a question expecting the answer "no". "You can't make ....... can you?" The expected answer is "of course not."

poihsai (poiew) aor. inf. "[can you] make" - [being able] to make. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "being able".

tou numfwnoV (wn wnoV) "[the guests] of the bridegroom" - [the sons] of the wedding hall, bridal chamber = the wedding guests of the house celebrating the wedding. The genitive is adjectival, relational.

nhsteuousai (nhsteuw) aor. inf. "fast" - to fast. The infinitive is complementary, and along with "to make", completes the sense of the verb "being able"; "not being able to be made to fast." Matthew has "to mourn", but the word "to fast" can take a similar sense, "to be sad". Fasting is surely intended, but given the context is not the prayer and fasting type, but the mourning type. "It is foolish to expect the companions of Jesus to fast/mourn as it is to expect the companions of the bridegroom to fast/mourn", Marshall.

en w|/ "while" - while [the bridegroom is with them]. Forming a temporal clause expressing contemporaneous time; "while, during." On rare occasions this construction is causal, but obviously temporal here.

met (meta) + gen. "with [them]" - Expressing association.


o[tan + subj. "when [the bridegroom will be taken]" - when [may be taken away]. This construction forms an indefinite temporal clause, future time, as NIV.

ap (apo) + gen. "from [them]" - Expressing separation; "away from."

tote adv. "-" - then [the bridegroom will fast in those days]. The temporal use of the preposition en introducing the temporal phrase "in those days" is somewhat pointless given the use of the temporal adverb tote, although Culy suggests that it "helps highlight the fact that those days have not yet arrived"


c) The parables of the new cloth on old and new wine in old wineskins, v36-38. Jesus then, with two short illustrations, makes the point that some things in life simply cannot go together, they are totally incompatible. There is a total dichotomy between an age when people wait for the coming of God's kingdom and an age when people enter it. The day of entry is a day of celebration.

de kai "-" - but and, and and. A common coordinative construction used by Luke. Plummer argues that it is emphatic; "indeed".

parabolhn (h) "parable" - Properly classified as a simple teaching parable and not a kingdom parable (a gospel riddle), although the word "illustration" best identifies its function.

oJti "-" - Introducing a dependent statement, direct speech.

scisaV (scizw) aor. part. "[no one] tears" - having torn. The participle can be treated as adverbial, probably temporal, "no one, after tearing a patch from a new garment, uses it to patch an old garment", or attendant circumstance, "no one tears a piece from a garment and puts it on an old garment", ESV.

ei de mh ge "if he does" - if but not indeed = but if indeed (anybody does) not (follow this advice). Expressing a "hypothetical result", Guelich. Rather than the more common ei de mh Luke favors a stronger construction; "but if he indeed does", or simply "otherwise" when following a negative as here. "Otherwise, both (kai) the new garment will be torn, and furthermore (kai) the patch from the new [garment] will not match with the old one."

to "-" - [the piece] which is [from the new will not match the old]. The article serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase apo tou kainou, "from the old", into an attributive clause limiting "piece, patch."

apo + gen. "from" - Expressing source / origin.

tw/ palaiw/ dat. adj. "the old" - [will not match] the old. Dative of direct object after the negated sun prefix verb "to agree with, harmonize with, match." "The patch will shrink and make the hole even bigger", CEV.


askouV (oV) "wineskins" - leather bags = wineskins. "The new wine would swell and burst the old skins. Then the wine would be lost, and the skins would be ruined.", CEV.


alla "no" - but. Here used as a strong adversative, as NIV. "New wine must be put only into new wineskins", CEV.

blhteon adj. "must be poured" - A gerundive, verbal adjective, with the force of an imperative. The point being new goes with new.


d) Concluding saying - lovers of mature wine detest a young wine, v39. In a final note, only found in Luke's gospel, Jesus observes that the dawning kingdom of God is like a well-aged wine, once tasted nothing else compares.

piwn (pinw) aor. part. "[no one] after drinking" - [no one] having drunk. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, as NIV.

qelei (qelw) pres. "wants" - wants, wills. "Desires".

gar "for [he says]" - Expressing cause/reason; introducing a causal clause explaining why no one is interested in a young wine, having tasted a full-bodied mature red, like a Penfolds Grange. At my mate's 40th., a friend gave him a bottle of Grange (value $1,000???). He didn't realize what he was given, opened it and put it on the drinks table. I noticed it, and with another mate we nonchalantly worked our way through it. In good Aussie fashion, we later thanked him for the quality of the wine he had on offer, and have continued to reminded him ever since!!! So yes, no one who has tasted a beautiful red wants anything to do with cheap fresh plonk.

crhstoV adj. "[the old is] better" - kind / useful / better, superior / pleasant, easy, suitable. The numerous base meanings of this adjective have spawned a variety of translations. "Superior", as NIV, is widely accepted, or something slightly less, eg. "good", REB, ESV, ... Given the context, the comment possibly doesn't claim the high moral ground, but rather the middle ground; "the old suits me", Rieu.


Luke Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]