LUKE 5:1-11 (NIV) | … Jesus sat in [Simon’s] boat and taught the crowd. When he finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Push the boat out further to the deep water, and you and your partners let down your nets for a catch.” “Master,” Simon answered, “we worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I will let down the nets.” They let them down and caught such a large number of fish that the nets were about to break … When Simon Peter saw what had happened, he fell on his knees before Jesus and said, “Go away from me, Lord! I am a sinful man!” … Jesus said to Simon, “Don't be afraid; from now on you will be catching people. They pulled the boats up on the beach, left everything, and followed Jesus.
I am not a humble person. It’s not that I go around bragging about myself all the time, but inwardly, I feel pretty competent most of the time, and in control of my life. Peter strikes me as someone who might have shared these qualities, so it catches my attention when Luke records Peter crying out to Jesus, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” What prompted Peter to say such a thing?
In Luke’s account, Jesus, being surrounded by eager listeners, got Peter to row him out on the lake so that he could better address the crowds. Luke doesn’t tell us anything about the content of that teaching, only that when he was finished, he said to Peter, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
We can’t know for certain, but I wonder if Jesus had noticed that Peter was only half-listening to his teaching, mending his nets and fiddling with his boat while Jesus spoke of “spiritual things.” Probably part of Peter was really interested in Jesus’ message, but as a fisherman, his latest efforts to make a living had come up empty. His mind must have been distracted by his everyday concerns. So when Jesus tells him to head back out into the deep water to let down his nets, Peter reminds Jesus that “he’s the fisherman, and that they’ve already wasted all night proving there were not any fish to be caught in the area.” Still, Peter obeyed, and that set the stage for deeper revelation.
Amazingly, the Kingdom of God broke into Peter’s life through a swarming school of fish! Peter, rather than focusing on his good fortune, was confronted with a clear picture of his inner-self. Peter hadn’t expected Jesus’s “spirituality” to intersect with his “everyday life” in any significant way. So when Jesus demonstrated his Lordship over Peter’s “everyday life” realm, Peter realized just how little he truly knew God. The shock of God’s nearness and power was too much for Peter to handle, thus he cried out, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man.”
I, too, am regularly guilty of assuming God is only concerned with “religious things” and not my “everyday life.” Though I should know better, I easily slip into trusting God to take care of spiritual matters, but relying on myself to take care of the rest. For example, when dealing with parenting issues of our two teenaged kids, I can immediately move towards a “control and correct” posture instead of slowing down and asking what God might be doing in the situation. Rather than straining to stay in control, Jesus reminds me that I can actually relax and trust God is already at work, if I simply take the time to listen and obey.
Thankfully, God isn’t content to let me keep my illusion of self-sufficiency, just as Jesus wasn’t content to let Peter live with his limited understanding of God. The end of this scene in Luke 5 shows Jesus comforting Peter by stating his prideful attitude would not disqualify him from participating in God’s work in the world. In fact, Jesus chose that teachable moment to invite Peter into a life of greater significance by becoming his follower and a “fisher of men.”
I believe Jesus continues to hold out this offer to all of us who respond with humility when we are confronted by our own distorted images of God. Through God’s grace, I pray we all follow Peter’s example by letting go of our attempts at self-sufficiency in order to follow Jesus into greater things.
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION
- Can you recall a time where God broke into your personal world in such a way that you were confronted with your own low expectations of God? If so, what happened and what came out of that experience?
- In what areas do you assume God is interested and not interested? How do these beliefs impact your expectations of God’s involvement in the world?
- In which areas of life are you most likely to assume control and not expect God’s engagement? What might repentance look like for you in these areas?
This reading is part of our "On Earth as It Is in Heaven" devotional series. You can also sign up to receive these meditations by email.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dave Zovak and his wife, Kim, have been with CRM since 2001. They have served in Melbourne, Australia for 10 years, and are currently in their fourth year serving in Asia with their children Zane and Kyra.