July 6, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 5:4-8 (NRSV)
When [Jesus] had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”
For more context, you can read Luke 5:1-11 here.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
In Luke 5, when Simon Peter observes Jesus doing an extraordinary miracle, he tells Jesus to go away because, as he says, “I am a sinful man.” But Jesus does not go away. Instead, he calls Simon to follow him and join his kingdom-centered mission. This is good news for us! It means we don’t have to try to be perfect in order to follow Jesus. Jesus calls sinners to follow him, people like Simon Peter, people like you and me.
Today we continue our examination of Luke 5:1-11, the account of Jesus’s calling of his first disciples. In last Thursday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we saw that following Jesus begins with his initiative and call. That was true when Jesus was on earth physically and it remains true today.
Luke 5 begins with Jesus using one of the boats belonging to Simon Peter as a platform from which to address the crowds. After he finished speaking, Jesus told Simon to go out into deeper water and let down his nets. Though Simon and his crew had labored all night without success, they did as Jesus asked a gesture of respect. All of a sudden, their nets were filled to the point of breaking. Seeing this miraculous catch, Simon Peter “fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’” (Luke 5:8). But Jesus did not do as Simon said. He did not go away. In fact, Jesus did just the opposite of what Simon expected, actually calling Simon and his partners to join Jesus’s kingdom-proclaiming mission. So, when they brought their boats to shore, Simon, James, and John “left everything and followed Jesus” (Luke 5:11).
So much in this story speaks to us, even though we do not have the honor of encountering Jesus in the flesh or following after him literally. Today, I’m struck by Simon Peter’s response to Jesus’s miracle and Jesus’s response to Simon’s response. Seeing how many fish had been caught in a place that had no fish only hours earlier, Simon knew he had witnessed a miracle. No doubt he sensed in Jesus God’s own holy presence and power. But Simon knew his own moral defects and felt sure that he did not belong with a holy man like Jesus. So-called holy men in first-century Judaism stayed away from people they regarded as sinful.
But Jesus was not your ordinary holy man. He did not withdraw from sinful people. He sought them out. He hung out with them. He brought the good news of God’s kingdom to them (see Luke 5:32). Indeed, he called them to follow him and join his mission. This was good news for Simon. And it is good news for us. It means that we don’t have to clean up our lives in order to say “yes” to Jesus. We don’t have to make ourselves perfect before he calls us, as if this were even possible.
Throughout my pastoral experience, I have talked with people who think they’re not good enough for God. Perhaps you have been or still are one of these people. Like Simon, you know your sin. And, like Simon, you believe you are not worthy to follow Jesus. But Jesus, who knows everything about you, the good, the bad, and the ugly, is not deterred. He calls you to follow him, not because you’re perfect, but because he loves you and seeks your partnership in his mission. In responding to his call, you will find the desire and the power to renounce sin. But this comes in response to the gracious call of Jesus, not as a prerequisite for receiving that call.
Can you understand Simon Peter’s reaction to Jesus? Have you ever felt that way? If so, when? What happened?
Have you ever felt like you’re not worthy to follow Jesus because of your moral failures?
What might it mean for you if you were to follow Jesus today? (Not just “today” as in “these days” but “today” as “this very day.”)
Take some time to reflect on how you have “heard” the call of Jesus. When has his call been especially clear and compelling? What difference has the call of Jesus made in your life?
Lord Jesus, thank you for not leaving when Simon attempted to send you away. Thank you for calling him to follow you in spite of his being “a sinful man.”
Thank you, Lord, for calling me to follow you even though I too am a sinner. Thank you for inviting me to share in your kingdom work in spite of the ways I am not worthy of such an honor.
As I follow you, help me by your grace to turn away from sin. May I experience your freeing, transforming forgiveness. May my life be shaped more and more by your kingdom, power, and glory. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling Archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Way to Perfect Peace