One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.” “Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking. When Simon Peter 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.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed. Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus. Luke 5:1-11
This was the first time that Simon (Peter) and Jesus had met. Simon might have known something about Jesus, but this very well could have been their first physical encounter. After a night of unsuccessful fishing, Simon was no doubt frustrated, but when Jesus asked if he could use his boat as a makeshift platform, he obliged.
However, when Jesus instructed Simon to go out to the deep water and cast his nets to catch some fish, we can surmise by the “tone” of Simon’s words that this request was bordering on the unreasonable. But after hearing Jesus teach, Simon was evidently impressed enough that he agreed to indulge Jesus’ and give it one more try.
Everything changed, however, when those nets were suddenly so full of fish that Simon had to call for reinforcements to haul the fish into the boat and bring them to shore. And in that moment, Simon, knowing who he was and what his “badness” looked like, his first and only reaction was to ask Jesus to leave because he didn’t feel worthy to even be in his presence.
I can’t tell you how many times I have invited someone to be my guest at a church service, and the response was something like, “If I came to church, the roof would cave in!” While that reply is usually spoken in jest, there’s an element of fear found in those words.
When we are reminded of our badness, sinfulness, failures, etc., we’re not that different from Simon. Even though Jesus didn’t tell Simon, he was unworthy, his conscious brought that voice into play. And it caused Simon to say, “You shouldn’t even be around me.”
Often times it’s easier to run away than to come face to face with our badness. Not because Jesus is exploiting it, but because we allow our past to define us.
However, please don’t miss Jesus’ actual spoken word to Simon. He said, “Don’t be afraid.” We don’t have to be afraid of Jesus. He wants to speak good news into our lives in spite of the bad news that we too often entertain in our thoughts.
After telling Simon that he didn’t have to be afraid, Jesus then declared good news to him. In effect, he said, “I don’t care about your past, I have a vision for your life, and it’s that vision, not your past that defines you!”
Jesus is speaking those same words to you and me as well. And when we open the eyes of our heart, and follow him, we will see and experience the good news that will replace our bad news.
In light of how Jesus spoke to Simon, and many others throughout his time on earth, how might you imagine Jesus responding to your badness?