NIV Luke 5:8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wondered why, in this situation, the Lord would tell Peter not to fear. The encouragement seems kind of out of place to me in context of the circumstances. In fact, Peter’s reaction to a boatload of fish has always seemed a bit over the top to me also. I’d be happy to see my business increase like that, not pushing away the “golden touch.” Let me see if I can lend a machete to my own logic.
The Lord is standing lakeside preaching to a crowd of people. Looking around He spots two boats empty of occupants. He jumped into one and asked one of the boats’ owners, Peter, to push him a short distance from land to speak to the people. Peter obliged and the Lord sat down in the boat to teach.
After Jesus finished speaking He instructs the weary fishermen to “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Peter, the experienced fisherman he was, expressed his doubts to the carpenter. Nonetheless Peter, in respect for the Master, wisely did as asked. The results were just as the Lord implied. They caught an overwhelming amount of fish requiring the other boat to join and help hauling in the catch. Of coarse, we know from the story both boats were filled to nearly sinking. This is where Peter makes his curious statement, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” That is not my idea of a good business plan.
After looking at this passage for a while, a couple of things began to dawn upon me. First, we know that Peter at one time had a wife. We read in Luke 5 that the Lord came to Peter’s home and healed his mother-in-law. That implies Peter had responsibilities for the care for his mother-in-law, and for a house at the very minimum. We can only assume his wife was alive so we won’t toss that into the equation. To have these cares meant Peter needed to make money to provide for others and him.
The second thing we learn is found in the Gospel of Mark. Prior to the incident of his mother-in-law, the Lord had been calling Peter to follow him. In the Gospel of Mark the same challenge, to make him a fisher of men, was given and we read Peter immediately left his nets and followed. Luke presents a little different aspect. Peter is found again at the nets. Did Peter return to the nets? Apparently so!
The last thing of note to me was Peter’s voice of frustration at the Lord’s command to “Put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch.” Luke tells us of Peter’s reply. “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing!” I understand the voice of a tired cynic and I’m thinking here is one! In fact, generally when someone sounds a little cranky like this there is something else causing it. Could it be the Lord has been persistently pressing Peter to follow Him? Could it be Peter knew he should follow? Was Peter feeling the weight of family responsibilities? Could it be Peter’s fishing business was not doing to well at the time? I’m just saying maybe these things are in play, who knows?
Let me see if I can put my thoughts together on this. If the Lord was calling Peter all along and Peter was expressing reservations, certainly I can understand the pressures of making sure things at home are taken care of! Then combine that with a lack of success in the fishing business for supporting a family. Maybe Peter was putting off following Jesus 100%? Maybe he felt he was settling for 80%? I can surely understand those reservations. And maybe as the Lord pressed upon Peter that the Heavenly Father would take care of his home, he had major practical doubts. Peter looked at his wasted nightly toils and expressed real fears to the Lord. He could have thought, “Who’s going to take care of my family”, and Peter would be right. However, is that really what the Lord is asking of Peter, to be irresponsible with his kin? I doubt that.
And then suddenly the miraculous answer to a ridiculous request makes a turn in business happen! This poor fearful fisherman is suddenly flush with money from the biggest catch he’d ever had. When the Lord answers our problems after our successive times of expressions of doubt, it is very humbling. Now I can understand why Peter would say, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” And it makes more sense why the Lord would say, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” All of Peter’s concerns and cares where answered. The things he was responsible for would be taken care of! I’d say Peter did the wise thing in waiting for the Lord to give the miracle. So many times people run from responsibilities and blame God’s call for their troubles. Though it was difficult, I my opinion, Peter made the wise choice in waiting for the miracle! If God is calling, He’ll provide it, “What do I Fear!” My best choice is to wait for His miracles and not doubt His goodness to provide what He is calling me to!
J. Robert Hanson