“When Jesus had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish . . . . And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear . . . .When Simon realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, ‘Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.’” – Luke 5:1-11
In this passage, Jesus has finished teaching and decides to bless Simon, the owner of the boat He’s been using as a platform. Simon puts up a bit of an argument with the Lord but obeys in the end (Simon argues and finally obeys. This is not my point, but it does sound a bit like me!). The result is a tremendous catch of fish that almost swamps his boat – and this after a night in which Simon and his buddies caught nothing.
It is Peter’s response to this is tremendous catch of fish that I find disturbing. “Oh, Lord, please leave me – I’m too much of a sinner to be around you” (NLT). At first I thought Peter said this because he had never been around a miracle or the power of God before, but this is not true. In Luke 4 Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law, and prior to that, Jesus cast a demon out of a man, and Simon was likely a witness to that miracle, too. Simon was accustomed to seeing the power of God, but still I wondered, Why did Simon react so strangely when God’s power was focused upon him?
I believe the answer is in Peter’s response: “I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.” When the power of God is pointed at our neighbor, or even our mother-in-law, we don’t have to react or deal with the results – we just observe. But when God’s power comes into our lives – and in Peter’s case, his business – then we must make a decision: Am I going to continue to allow this power to remain, or am I going to send it away, because if the power stays, then there is no more room for myself.
I wonder if Isaiah felt the same sensation upon seeing the Lord sitting on his throne, because his reply was similar to Peter’s, “It’s all over! I’m doomed, for I am a sinful man” (6:5 NLT). How does a mere mortal respond the miraculous power of God when it is focused upon their life? How quickly we go from feeling holy and just in God’s sight when He is looking at our neighbor, to searching for a hole in the ground to hide in because God is now focusing His attention upon us.
This attention of God upon my life used to bother me, until I read something in Song of Solomon. God the Lover is calling to His beloved to arise and go away with him. But she is hiding on the mountainside. So the Lover says, “Let me see your face; let me hear your voice. For your voice is pleasant, and your face is lovely” (2:14).
Yes, God enjoys looking at us and thinks that our voice is pleasant! Hey, who can know the ways of a man with a maiden (Prov. 30:19), much the less unending and unconditional love of our God for His creation? I don’t. All I know is that when He looks at me my first response, like Peter’s, is to ask Him to go away. But then He invites me to travel with Him, tells me my face is lovely and my voice is pleasant, and somehow, someway, I can finish the story by leaving everything behind to follow Him.