Was there ever a time in your life when it suddenly dawned on you that you were a sinner and that you did not deserve to be in the presence of God? How did you respond or deal with it then? I believe that we all have our own personal encounters with the Lord. It could have come in the normal course of our day to day life or in an extraordinary manner. In the case of the apostle Peter, his real encounter with the Lord was powerful and it overwhelmed him. He responded by saying, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). He did not feel worthy of being blessed the way that the Lord blessed him that day.
Peter had been following the Lord Jesus for quite a while and had seen the Lord perform miracles upon miracles in the villages, and people came to him with their needs. On that particular day, however, Jesus ministered to Peter in a very personal way. After spending the whole night fishing, Peter and his partners did not catch anything. But when Jesus said, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch”, he did so and caught such a large number of fish that he needed the help of his partners to fill two boats. It was this personal experience that overwhelmed Peter and caused him to realize how unworthy he was to receive such a personal blessing from the Lord. Suddenly, Peter agonized over his spiritual worth but Jesus said, “Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men” (Luke 5:11).
Peter’s response of asking the Lord to go away is not uncommon. In fact, it is too common to those who refuse to leave their life of sin. The Lord Jesus himself revealed this truth when he said, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (John 3:19-20). The wicked are enjoying their lives in the dark and for them to come close to God will mean they have to forgo such enjoyment for which they refuse to do. They are darkened in their mind and the only way for deliverance is to draw close to the light. Unless they do, their destiny is sealed.
The people in the region of Gerasenes had the same reaction when Jesus performed a healing miracle there. A man who was demon-possessed was instantly healed when Jesus commanded the evil spirits, saying, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!” (Mark 5:8). But the demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. When the people of the region saw the man dressed and in his right mind and the pigs drowned, fear came to them and they beg Jesus to leave their place. Was it because they valued the pigs more than the man who was demon-possessed? That could have been the case but a more probable reason was that they could have believed that they were next to be delivered, and fear came upon them for they did not want the Lord Jesus to fix their lives.
A better response when we have an encounter with the Lord is draw close to him. This was how Peter responded to the Lord the next time he had a personal encounter with the Lord. It was similar in setting to the previous encounter where Peter went fishing and caught no fish. However, this time it happened after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter and his friends went fishing again and labored the whole night but caught none. When Jesus, whom they did not recognize at first, told them to throw their net on the right side of the boat, they again got such a big catch that they could not haul their net in. Realizing it was the risen Jesus who gave the instruction to throw the net on the right of the boat, Peter put his garments on, jumped into the water and approached Jesus, followed by the rest. This time, he did not ask the Lord to go away. His conscience was clearer now since his hidden sin was exposed at the trial of Jesus when he denied knowing him three times. Peter was not a true follower up until that time as shown by his refusal risk his life for Jesus.
For Peter and his friends, the good news for them was that they did not only have a big catch but had breakfast prepared for them too. Such is the reward of those who approach Jesus in faith. Our sins should not cause us to drive Jesus away but should cause us to draw close to him because he is the only one that can save us. Let us admit that we have sinned against the Lord and humbly submit ourselves to him in repentance. If we do, he will want to have breakfast with us. Indeed, we are sinful men and women, but thanks be to God for his love and his salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. Glory to God!