The Gospel reading for the 5th Sunday of the Year – and this year the last Sunday before Lent – shows us Jesus ministering the word of God, and performing a great miracle, and Simon Peter (self-)convicted of sin.
Jesus was standing one day by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the crowd pressing round him listening to the word of God, when he caught sight of two boats close to the bank. The fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats – it was Simon’s – and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
When he had finished speaking he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.’ ‘Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.’ And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, so they signalled to their companions in the other boat to come and help them; when these came, they filled the two boats to sinking point.
When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying, ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.’ For he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners. But Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.’ Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.
There’s no indication in the Gospel that Simon Peter has done anything particularly bad or even anything bad, but faced by the goodness and power of Jesus he finds himself saying – ‘Leave me Lord, I’m a sinful man.’
These days we might say Simon has a poor self image – like lots of us do. We do not see ourselves as good enough for the best of things. Not infrequently, when this sense of guilt and unworthiness overwhelms us, we push the good away from us, and – as if to punish ourselves – we seek refuge in all sorts of rubbish, because that’s all we deserve, all we’re good for.
Well, Jesus knows better. Jesus knows God does not make rubbish. He only makes the good. And even if sometimes we do do wrong, then that’s never intended to be the end of the story. God always wants the last word, and the last word is…
Well, sometimes the last word is mercy, sometimes it’s healing, but always it is ‘do not be afraid’: guilty or innocent, do not be afraid, but let the Lord close. Sometimes he comes with a huge catch of fish. Sometimes! But always he comes with love, always with whatever it takes to draw us closer, bring us home.
- From what – this Lent – do you want loving better?
- Ask someone to pray for you this Lent that you might receive the love of God, more fruitfully yet.