When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 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 fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:4-11)
For over 2000 years Jesus has been reaching out to the guilty, the ashamed, the broken, and to everyone unworthy, which is literally…everyone. In the light of Jesus Christ, when the remembrance of Peter’s sin overwhelms him to the point that he asks God’s own Son to leave his presence, Christ’s response is overwhelmingly revealing of His heart for us. Jesus wasn’t there for the fish and a great story. From Peter’s own failures to the night-long labor in vain, all the way to the hundreds of fish and boats that couldn’t hold up under the weight of the lesson, Jesus was laser-focused on the man, the soul in front of him. Peter’s joy is drowned in sudden, knee-dropping sorrow, and the response of Jesus is perfectly exact in the open-heart surgery of any soul becoming self-aware of its own position in relation to the Living God…
“Don’t be afraid…don’t be afraid.” It was nothing Jesus didn’t already know. Peter’s sin didn’t send Jesus running for the hills. He walked with him, waited for him, and willfully rescued this man from himself. Were Peter’s trials over? Was he finished with sin from that moment forward? Did he yet continue three years and still deny Christ three times? Did Jesus leave him then? Peter decided he wasn’t worthy and couldn’t be useful any longer to the world, so he went back to the beginning. He got in his little boat, he rowed out into the sea, and he fished the night away in vain. In the morning the resurrected Christ, the true Lover of our souls, the One who sees us for what we really are, called out to him to cast his net on the other side of the boat. When he obeyed, once again writhed that familiar haul of fish, and once again this man found himself before the Living God…broken as if for the very first time. Did Christ wait for him along the shore to punish him? No. He cooked him some breakfast over the fire – I’ve always wondered how tasty it must have been – And He spoke the most tender words this man’s soul could ever ache to hear… “Do you love me…Do you love me…Do you love me? Three times, one for every rejection. That is the character of my Lord. The same for Paul as it was hundreds of years before for another broken man, David in the Psalms, the same today for you and me and anyone sinking under the weight and strain of ourselves… “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him.”
What choice have we but to allow ourselves to be chosen? Why wouldn’t we follow such a patient love that can reach into the deepest of darkness, into the most miserable of hearts, to salvage the gold, the treasure within. To be redeemed, or not to be. That is our only eternal question.