“NOW IT occurred that while the people pressed upon Jesus to hear the message of God, He was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret (Sea of Galilee).
And He saw two boats drawn up by the lake, but the fishermen had gone down from them and were washing their nets.
And getting into one of the boats, [the one] that belonged to Simon (Peter), He requested him to draw away a little from the shore. Then He sat down and continued to teach the crowd [of people] from the boat.
When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon (Peter), Put out into the deep [water], and lower your nets for a haul.
And Simon (Peter) answered, Master, we toiled all night [exhaustingly] and caught nothing [in our nets]. But on the ground of Your word, I will lower the nets [again].
And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish; and as their nets were [at the point of] breaking.
They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and take hold with them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.
But when Simon Peter saw this, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
Upon reading this passage, so many thoughts came to mind towards Peter and his state. I mean, Peter, you just witnessed an incredible miracle. Aren’t you curious? Don’t you want to know the secret behind what this man just did so you can try to repeat it and enjoy early retirement? You allowed Him on your boat before He showed His awesomeness, and now you want Him to depart?
And it kind of hit me. I’m not too far from that reaction when presented with something Holy and Good. There’s a small sense of worry poking its way with its snout into the heart of that moment.
“This really shouldn’t happen to me. He must have entered the wrong boat! Perhaps, He doesn’t fully know the extent of my sins. It’s only a matter of time before I ruin this?”
It initially smells like the incense of humility but it’s quite the opposite. If it succeeds, I find myself getting out of that boat immediately and walking away. And I would walk away missing that moment when Christ calls me by my name and affirms me by telling me “Fear not! I am entrusting you with this.”
I’d fail to realize that the smell of sweet incense was coming from Christ, humbly entering into my boat. It’s fear that lurks in, welcomed openly by pride, that causes me to reject the gift of His presence. I’d think of my own condition. I’d glance at my calloused hands and the dirt in my nails, ignoring His gentle embrace. Consumed with my state, I can never enjoy His warmth and feel the fullness of joy in that moment. I entered my boat broken but I’d leave it broken, hopeless, and alone.
A few verses down from that passage you’ll find how Matthew (Levi) responds to meeting Christ; sinful Matthew makes a great banquet for Christ in his own sinful house and invites all the sinful tax collector friends he can gather (Luke 5:29). Wow!!! It’s not like Matthew was unaware of his state. He was a tax collector, that title was a scarlet letter he wore around. But he entered into the grace of that invite with celebration, looking onto Christ and not his brokenness.
Why let pride welcome it’s pesky friend, fear, so that we remain friendless? Why let that fox steal an opportunity to have a party, celebrating His presence? Why let it steal my Joy?
Later in scripture, Peter will be proven right countless times as to how sinful he is (and some of these moments are very public) but I guess that’s what it takes for him to ask for Christ to draw near to him as opposed to depart.
“Draw near to me, for I am a sinful man O Lord!”
And in the moment that He does draw near, his identity is transformed. “I the sinful” becomes “I the loved”, “I the embraced”, “I the joyous”.
There is a great song by John Mayer that describes a man talking to his love saying “If my past is any sign of your future, you should be warned before I let you inside.” In its essence, it’s saying “I have full confidence in myself messing this up, and I have a proven record in doing so. My fears are preventing me from experiencing the goodness we have to offer.” The song is called “I don’t trust myself with loving you”, and the title is rightly stated but there would be no hope for this man if the song is left as it is. His trust in himself and his sense of value would cause an endless cycle of failure; the relationships he’s failed in would fail to bring in any new ones. Although the person in this song may have every right not to trust in himself, he may have toiled all night on his miserable boat with no reward, he would be foolish not to trust, love, and enjoy the person who comes into his failed state and accepts him.
But aren’t we all foolish sometimes, our pride casts a verdict on ourselves keeping us behind imaginary prison bars when we should really be celebrating our freedom. So let’s put up the party banners and send the invitations! Let’s be more like Matthew!