Luke 5:33
And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?
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(33-39) Why do the disciples of John fast?—See Notes on Matthew 9:14-17, Mark 2:18-22. St. Luke is less definite than the other two in stating who the questioners were. It is only from St. Mark that we learn that they included the two classes to whom the question referred.

Luke 5:33-39. The contents of these verses occur Matthew 9:14-17, where they are explained at large. The disciples of John fast and make prayers — Long and solemn prayers: but thine eat and drink — Freely, though thou professest a high degree of righteousness. And he said, Can ye make, &c. — That is, Is it proper to make men fast and mourn during a festival solemnity? My presence and converse render this a kind of festival to my disciples: for, as John taught his hearers but a little before his confinement, I am the bridegroom of my church; you cannot, therefore, in reason, expect I should command them to fast now, or that they should do it without such a command. But the days will come — And that very soon; when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them — And shall leave them exposed to much toil, hardship, and suffering; “with their hearts full of sorrow, their hands full of work, and the world full of enmity and rage against them.” — Henry. Then shall they fast in those days — They shall have great need, and even shall be compelled so to do. They shall both hunger and thirst, and even be destitute of clothing, 1 Corinthians 4:11. They shall also keep many religious fasts; shall serve the Lord with fastings, Acts 13:2-3; for Providence shall call them to it. He spake also a parable unto them — Taken from clothes and wine, therefore peculiarly proper at a feast. See on Matthew 9:16-17. No man having drunk old wine — As people, who have been accustomed to drink wine made mellow with age, do not willingly drink new wine, which for the most part is harsh and unpleasant; so my disciples, having been accustomed for some time to live without practising any of the severities for which John’s disciples and the Pharisees are remarkable, cannot relish that new way of life which they recommend. They are not yet so fully acquainted with and established in my doctrine as to submit cheerfully to any extraordinary hardships. To this purpose is Le Clerc’s interpretation of the verse; but Wolfius and others apply it to the Pharisees, who were much better pleased with the traditions of the elders than with the doctrines of Christ; because the latter prescribed duties more difficult and disagreeable to the corrupt natures of men than the former. Perhaps the general sense of the sentence may be, that men are not wont to be soon or easily freed from old prejudices. As if Christ had said, Judge how fit it is that I should not oblige my disciples to a new course of severities at once, but should rather gradually form their characters to what the duty of their future profession, and the usefulness of their lives, may require.

5:27-39 It was a wonder of Christ's grace, that he would call a publican to be his disciple and follower. It was a wonder of his grace, that the call was made so effectual. It was a wonder of his grace, that he came to call sinners to repentance, and to assure them of pardon. It was a wonder of his grace, that he so patiently bore the contradiction of sinners against himself and his disciples. It was a wonder of his grace, that he fixed the services of his disciples according to their strength and standing. The Lord trains up his people gradually for the trials allotted them; we should copy his example in dealing with the weak in faith, or the tempted believer.See this passage illustrated in the notes at Matthew 9:14-17.Lu 5:33-39. Fasting.

(See on [1577]Mt 9:14-17.)

The incongruities mentioned in Lu 5:36-38 were intended to illustrate the difference between the genius of the old and new economies, and the danger of mixing up the one with the other. As in the one case supposed, "the rent is made worse," and in the other, "the new wine is spilled," so by a mongrel mixture of the ascetic ritualism of the old with the spiritual freedom of the new economy, both are disfigured and destroyed. The additional parable in Lu 5:39, which is peculiar to Luke, has been variously interpreted. But the "new wine" seems plainly to be the evangelical freedom which Christ was introducing; and the old, the opposite spirit of Judaism: men long accustomed to the latter could not be expected "straightway"—all at once—to take a liking for the former; that is, "These inquiries about the difference between My disciples and the Pharisees," and even John's, are not surprising; they are the effect of a natural revulsion against sudden change, which time will cure; the new wine will itself in time become old, and so acquire all the added charms of antiquity. What lessons does this teach, on the one hand, to those who unreasonably cling to what is getting antiquated; and, on the other, to hasty reformers who have no patience with the timidity of their weaker brethren!

Ver. 33-39. We have also both in Matthew and Mark met with this piece of history. See Poole on "Matthew 9:14", and following verses to Matthew 9:17; See Poole on "Mark 2:18", and following verses to Mark 2:22. Both Matthew and Mark say, that they were the disciples of John who came, and thus said to our Saviour. In our notes upon the two former evangelists, we have fully opened this piece of history. John the Baptist was of a more severe deportment than our Saviour thought fit to show himself; and complying more with the practices of the Pharisees (though in much more sincerity) in their exercises of discipline, the Pharisees did more easily get his disciples to join with them in this address to our Saviour; though probably John’s disciples did it more out of infirmity, and the Pharisees out of malice, that they might have whereby to lessen Christ’s reputation amongst the people: thus weak, though good, men are often drawn in by those who are more subtle and malicious to promote their designs. Besides, we naturally desire to be the standard to all, and that others should take their measures from us, and possibly John’s disciples might have a little of that envy for their master’s sake, which we find them sick of, John 3:26. Our Lord, who might have told them that he was to be their exemplar, and not they his, dealeth more gently with them, and gives them sufficient reason why, as yet, he did not inure his disciples to those severer acts of religion:

1. Because this was all the rejoicing time they were like to have. He was now with them; when he should be gone from them, before which it would not be long, they should have time to mourn.

2. That they were but newly entered into his discipleship, and therefore not at first to be discouraged, that they might not have a temptation upon them to leave off as soon as they began. But see the notes more fully upon the same history in Matthew and Mark.

And they say unto him,.... The Scribes and Pharisees, or the disciples of John; see Matthew 9:14

why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers? set times apart frequently for fasting and prayer. The Ethiopic version reads, "why do the disciples of John baptize frequently, fast, and make prayers?" in which the former clause is added; and as without any authority, so without judgment, since it must suppose that the Pharisees did so likewise, whereas they rejected the baptism of John; for it follows, and "likewise" the disciples of "the Pharisees"; who fasted often, at least twice in the week, and made frequent prayers in the synagogues, and corners of the streets, and in widows' houses.

But thine eat and drink? instead of fasting and praying; See Gill on Matthew 9:14.

{6} And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?

(6) Hypocrites and ignorant men make a point of making fasting and unimportant things a matter of holiness.

Luke 5:33-39. Fasting (Matthew 9:14-17, Mark 2:18-22).

33. And they said] St Luke here omits the remarkable fact that the disciples of John, who still formed a distinct body, joined the Pharisees in asking this question. It is clear that they were sometimes actuated by a not unnatural human jealousy, from which their great teacher was wholly free (John 3:26), but which Jesus always treated with the utmost tenderness (Luke 7:24-28).

the disciples of John fast often] They would naturally adopt the ascetic habits of the Baptist.

and make prayers] Rather, supplications. Of course the disciples prayed, but perhaps they did not use so ‘much speaking’ and connect their prayers with fastings. The preservation of these words by St Luke alone, in spite of the emphasis which he lays on prayer, shews his perfect fidelity.

the disciples of the Pharisees] Those who in Jewish writings are so often spoken of as the ‘pupils of the wise.’ See on Luke 18:12, “I fast twice in the week.” Our Lord points out how much self-seeking and hypocrisy were mingled with their fasting, Matthew 6:16, and the prophets had forcibly taught the utter uselessness of an abstinence dissociated from goodness and charity (Isaiah 58:3-6; Micah 6:6-8; Amos 5:21-24).

Luke 5:33. Δεήσεις) Solemn supplications.

Verses 33-39. - The teaching of the Lord concerning fasting. Verse 33. - And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink? We learn from the parallel passage in St. Mark that "they" who asked the Lord this question were the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees, who united on this occasion. These disciples of John do not seem at first to have regarded Jesus with altogether friendly feelings. Such a jealousy was only too natural, and the rigid, unbending truthfulness of the evangelists compelled them to tell the story of the way the early foundations of the truth were laid without concealment of error or mistake. The Baptist himself practised the sternest asceticism, and required doubtless of his nearest followers that they should imitate his example. The Lord's way of life, his presence at feastings and merry-makings, his consorting with publicans, his choice of one of them as his disciple and friend, no doubt surprised and disturbed not a few of the followers of John; hence such a question as the one we are now considering, and such a querulous complaining as we hear of in the Fourth Gospel (John 3:25, 26). The practice of fasting among the Jews was as follows: In the Law of Moses only one appointed fast in the year was enjoined - that on the sole Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29; Numbers 29:7). After the Exile the one fast was increased to four. But the prophets gave no sanction to this added ritual (see Zechariah 7:1-12; Zechariah 8:19). In the time of our Lord, rigid Jews used to fast twice a week (Luke 18:12) - on Monday and Friday (the day on which, according to tradition, Moses went up Mount Sinai). It is evident that our Lord himself never observed or even approved of these fasts of the Pharisee sect. In the well-known and often-quoted passages, Matthew 17:21; Mark 9:29; Acts 10:30; 1 Corinthians 7:5 - in many of the older authorities, the word 'fasting' does not occur at all. In the Revised Version in each of these instances "fasting" does not appear in the new text. While, then, we must unhesitatingly conclude that fasting is no rite commanded by the Blessed One, still the Church has practised it with signal advantage and profit on certain solemn occasions; but it must ever proceed from the impulse of the sorrow-stricken heart, it must be no penance or duty imposed by authority, least of all must it be regarded as pleasing in the eye of the Almighty, or in any sense a substitute for the practice of the higher virtues really loved of God - justice, mercy, and truth. Luke 5:33Often (πυκνὰ)

Only here, Acts 24:26; 1 Timothy 5:23. The word literally means close-packed, as a thicket, or the plumage of a bird.

Prayers (δεήσεις)

Used by no other evangelist. From δέομαι, to want, and hence distinctively of petitionary prayer. In classical Greek the word is not restricted to sacred uses, but is employed of requests preferred to men. Rev., more correctly, supplications.

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