“When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
Sooner or later we come to a point where we see how weak or small we are. The evidences are myriad and can range from breathtaking natural vistas, such as the Grand Canyon in the US, the Outback of Australia, or the Alps of Europe to an immense invention of man, such as the Empire State Building, the Eifel Tower, or the Petronas Twin Towers.
As recorded by Luke, Peter was one day confronted with the awesome power of God. The touch of the LORD came to the place in Peter’s life where he felt he was strongest: his profession of fishing. He and his fellow fishermen, including James and John, had just spent the night working. The night proved to be fruitless. In the morning, they put away their tools and cleaned the nets. Perhaps the next night would be better.
Jesus selected Peter’s boat as the place from which He taught the crowd about the things of God. After teaching, He told Peter to let down his nets for a draught. Peter replied, perhaps reluctantly, that he would let down a net. Regardless of his half-hearted obedience, the LORD Jesus provided a catch of fish that was so large that the net broke, and two ships were filled almost to sinking.
This is where the above verse comes in. When he saw the size of the catch, Peter was astonished. And his response was to fall down at Jesus’ knees. And, he requested that Jesus depart from him. The reason for his reaction and request was Peter realized that he was a sinful man, and not worthy to be in the presence of Jesus. At that moment Peter realized how small, weak and sinful he was.
Isaiah, too, had an encounter with God. In Isaiah 6:1-5 we read, “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” His reaction was similar to Peter’s. He realized his sinfulness, and declared himself to be undone.
And John saw the LORD, as recorded in Revelation 1:12-17. “And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not…” John fell at His feet as dead. He, too, realized his smallness, weakness, and sinfulness before Almighty God. And, Jesus told him not to fear!
On these occasions John, Isaiah, and Peter were overwhelmed by the vision of God they were given. Thankfully for Peter, Jesus didn’t depart. He rather told Peter, “… Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.” (Luke 5:10). The rest of the New Testament speaks often of Peter and what he did for the Lord. He even wrote two of the books in the New Testament. In fact, in each case the Lord gave them something to do for Him. Isaiah brought a message to Israel, recorded in the book with his name. And John reported the details of the end of the age.
When we are confronted with our smallness, weakness, and sinfulness the LORD tells us to not fear. And in it we should look to Him for what He would have us to do for Him. Like Isaiah said after his vision, “Here am I; send me.”
Jesus! what a Friend for sinners!
Jesus! Lover of my soul;
Friends may fail me, foes assail me,
He, my Savior, makes me whole.
Hallelujah! what a Savior!
Hallelujah! what a friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.
Jesus! what a strength in weakness!
Let me hide myself in Him.
Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing,
He, my strength, my victory wins.
Jesus! what a help in sorrow!
While the billows over me roll,
Even when my heart is breaking,
He, my comfort, helps my soul.
Jesus! what a guide and keeper!
While the tempest still is high,
Storms about me, night overtakes me,
He, my pilot, hears my cry.
Jesus! I do now receive Him,
More than all in Him I find.
He hath granted me forgiveness,
I am His, and He is mine.
Refrain (J. Wilbur Chapman)