Did you hear about the day when the apostle Simon Peter asked Jesus to go away? That’s right, (Simon) Peter couldn’t stand for Jesus to be in his presence any more. Let me give you a little more insight into the story. Over recent weeks, I have been sharing from the fifth chapter of Luke. In this passage, Jesus gets into Peter’s boat and teaches the crowds. Then he asks Peter to launch out to the deep and let down his nets for a catch. Peter had been fishing all night and caught nothing. He most likely didn’t want to do what Jesus said, but he did. He wasn’t expecting to catch anything at all, but when he pulled in his nets they were overflowing with fish to the point of almost breaking the nets. The boats began to sink in the water because they were so loaded with fish. This is when Peter wasn’t sure he wanted Jesus in the boat anymore.
Scripture records, “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man!’” At this point, the boat wasn’t the only thing about to sink. Peter’s heart began to sink as well. The weight of the full nets and the weighted down boats seem symbolic of the weight of God’s presence in the boat with Peter. In the person of Jesus Christ, Peter came face to face with the weight of God’s holiness and power. And Peter seemed to feel the weight of his own sin pulling him down into the water.
I think Peter saw how shallow his existence had been. He truly understood he was unworthy to have this man, Jesus, in his boat, much less to have him in his life. Peter was a selfish, stubborn, prideful human who wanted life on his own terms.
“I am a sinful man,” Peter cried. He was thinking, “I am undone. I am sinking under the weight of all this.” He felt so unworthy that he bid Christ to go away. It seemed that the presence of Christ reminded him of everything that he should be, but everything that he was not. He became a broken man. He no longer called Jesus, Master, instead he called him Lord. It was a word that held much greater weight. It meant Master of all — God. Peter knew in his heart that he was not right with God.
When you really encounter Jesus, you will come in touch with your own sin. As Jesus calls you deeper, you will get a glimpse at how shallow your life may be. In those moments when you feel the weight of God’s holiness and your sin, part of you will want to run away from God. You too may ask him just to go away and leave you in your misery.
Jesus didn’t leave Peter though. As Peter cried out in sorrow for his sin, Jesus saw something in him. Jesus didn’t see a man worth drowning. He saw a man worth saving. In Peter’s humility, Jesus saw a man he could actually use. Peter understood that he was nothing without Jesus. Peter’s sin became something that would cause him to run to Jesus instead of from Jesus.
So instead of hopping out of the boat, walking on water and leaving Peter, Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Don’t be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” It was an invitation to follow Jesus and to be used by Jesus.
Have you ever felt so unworthy that you just wanted Jesus to leave you alone? Don’t run from him. Run to him. You just may be in the perfect place for God to use you — humble, broken, and surrendered to Jesus. And that’s the Word.
The Rev. David Yarborough is pastor of St. Simons Community Church. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 912-634-2960.