Picture this… I’m imagining Jesus out at sea in a creaky, smelly old fishing boat. The waves are happily slapping up against its wooden bow as an exhausted crew “put out into the deep” where Jesus wanted them to let down their nets despite the long fruitless night they’d already endured (Luke 5:1-11). The expressions on the faces of those seasoned fisherman must have been a mixture of weary frustration as they looked back out to sea, and of wary self-doubt as they glanced back at this miracle-working rabbi who was now telling them how to fish.
“How far does he want us to sail?” they must have wondered, until perhaps Jesus finally told them that this is a good spot. I wonder if they silently brooded as they wondered how Jesus would know what a “good spot” was when it was already the wrong time to be fishing! But once those strong but night-strained arms cast those nets into those deep, dark waters, I suspect it was only moments before Jesus would have been grinning at those men as he knelt amidst a sinking boat full of flopping fish, watching the looks of amazement on their faces, everybody scrambling and clamoring, desperately trying to understand what was happening!
Suddenly – can you see it? – I see Peter abruptly turning from the fish and the nets and the shouts of joy, and falling to his knees amidst the chaos on the boat, crying out to Jesus, “Depart from me, O Lord, for I’m a sinful man!” At that moment, Peter must have been very aware of Jesus’s complete otherness – Jesus’ awesomeness – and his response was to say, “I’m not worthy to be with you!”
But it’s valuable to remind ourselves that prior to the miracle of that catch, Peter had been sharing his boat with this amazing Man, Jesus, kneeling with him amidst the nets and the ropes, both of them feeling the spray of the waves and the warmth of the sun together. Peter was experiencing the gift of Jesus’ complete nearness and was experiencing the privilege of getting to know who he was and what he was like, up close and personal. And though Peter ended up awestruck by what Jesus was capable of doing, Jesus responded gently to Peter’s plea to depart from him with an invitation of, “I want you close to me so that you can learn to catch men from now on!” Peter’s response was to leave everything – the great catch of fish, the waters that he knew so well – to follow this Jesus. Though awed by Jesus’s presence, Peter desperately wanted to be near this great Man who offered him his friendship.
That’s how I want to know Jesus… always with me, and in fact, always wanting to be with me – inviting me into friendship, and calling me into partnership in his purpose. But also so awesome that I’m always amazed by what he’s able to accomplish in my life and in this world. Yes, he wants to be near us, but as we live for him and get to know him, may his nearness continually astound us!