Coming Close: Depart from me

Peet DickinsonBut when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” ~ Luke 5:8

It’s always been one of my favorite passages in the Gospels.  It’s that memorable encounter Jesus had with Simon Peter on one heck of a good day fishing.  Peter knew that it was not a good idea to go out fishing at that point in the day.  High noon is not the time to be out on the water.  The fish weren’t biting during the night when they were supposed to be, so what on earth could possibly make this Jesus think that they would bite now?  Well, what Simon came to realize that day was that heaven was on earth, and when the one who has dominion over all of creation, including the fish of the sea, is sitting in your boat, a whole lot of things are possible that never were before.

Simon also realizes there in the presence of Almighty God that it is devastating.  Simon Peter acts in very much the same way that Isaiah does when he enters the throne room of heaven in Isaiah 6 and cries out before God, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips!”  Simon Peter is devastated by the glory of God, and his sinful self burns in the white hot presence of the perfect Holy One.  It’s too much to take, so he falls down and cries, “Depart from me!”

Now, as we read the rest of the story, we see that Jesus does not depart from Simon in that moment.  He doesn’t correct him and say, “Oh no, you’re not a sinful man, Peter, and why are you calling ME Lord?”  No, Simon absolutely is a sinful man, and Jesus absolutely is the Lord, but he does not depart from this fisherman heaped at his knees on the floor of this boat.  Instead, the Lord of the sea, the fish, and the fishermen calls that sinful man into his service.  He says, “I am going to send YOU, yes even you, out and make you a fisher of men.”  Simon Peter saw Jesus for who he really was and that caused him to see himself for what he really was.  Now, do you think that Jesus would have sent Simon Peter if he hadn’t been crying “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord?”  Do you think that Simon Peter would have dropped everything to follow Jesus if he had a posture different than the one we read about here in Luke 5:8?

Have I been devastated before the holiness of the Living God?  When seeing my sin, does that holiness cause me to cry out? “Woe is me!  Depart from me!”  Have I heard my Lord speak into my ear as only one who has not departed from me could, and say, “Do not be afraid; from now on, you will be catching men.”  Have I dropped everything to answer that call?  Have you?