Go away from me, Lord, I am a sinner…

Isaiah 6:1-8 and Luke 5:1-11

What a story Isaiah had to tell. The story of a vision from God and a vision of God. And he was terrified. Why so scared? You heard him – I’m unclean; I am sin. Sin and holy don’t mix.  Think of a sinner dressed in coveralls that have been doused in gasoline. Think of God as a blazing torch – mix the two and the sinner would be ruined, burned, consumed. Isaiah was out of place near the presence and power of God Almighty.

That’s how it is. The closer one comes to God’s power, the more that soul becomes aware of just how unworthy and out of place it is. Isaiah was frightened to death.

Until an angel flew to the altar, took a hot coal, and touched Isaiah’s lips with it. And Isaiah’s fear melted away as his sin was taken away.  “Your sin is atoned for. You are forgiven, Isaiah.”

And nothing was the same. Isaiah’s heart was taken captive to the love of his Lord, and his tune changed – Here am I Lord, send me! What a story Isaiah had to tell – I thought I was a dead man, but He didn’t come to hurt me, He came and made me holy and gave me new life!

What a story Peter had to tell. It was not a good night for fish. They were washing the nets, getting ready to put them away and go home and get some rest.

“Put the nets in the water again, Peter, out there in the deep water.” He let Jesus know it wasn’t a good idea. We’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. Silly as putting a hook in the water without bait on it. So Peter has his doubts, but here’s what he has right: “because you say so Jesus,” (literally, at your word) “I will let down the nets.”

You know the rest of the story. When Jesus Christ, who is the Lord of Creation, who made this planet, speaks, the fish have to obey Him. He created fish and water and nets and boats and day and night and Peter. The nets began to break they were so full. So many fish in the boat that they had to call the other boat over. So many fish that the boats began to sink.

Might Peter be dancing? Isn’t he exhilarated over the biggest catch they’d ever had – they were going to make a killing at the fish market.

Peter fell down on his knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord, I am a sinful man.” He saw the power of Jesus up close and personal and it frightened him to death. That’s what happens when you come close to the Lord and you see his power at work. You become so aware of how unworthy and little you are. You sense how silly your concerns are, how evil your thoughts have been. Peter was scared – Go away!

But this is the best part: Jesus didn’t go away. He sent words flying into Peter’s ears: “Don’t be afraid, Peter”. I’m the thing you don’t have to be afraid of. Jesus wanted to be with Peter and He always would be. Peter’s fear melted away because his sin was taken away.

And nothing was the same. Peter’s heart was caught by Christ. He had a story to tell, and that’s just what Jesus had in mind for him: from now on Peter, you’re fishing for people, you’ll throw out the net of my Word. And they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything (I assume even the thousands of dollars of fish) and followed Him. Yes, because you say so, “at your word,”…because the living, life-giving, life-changing voice of Jesus inspires forgiven people to say: Here I am Lord, send me!

How about your story and mine?  Are we afraid of God anymore?

Your story is kind of like Peter’s. You too are called by the Gospel to faith, and so you too are Jesus’s disciples, His followers. He hasn’t called you to the towns of Israel to preach the Gospel, but He has called you to tend faithfully the nets He’s given you right now. And He promises to bless you as you do that.

But you have your doubts. You have felt like the struggle is not really worth it – another week, same struggle in the marriage, to use the gifts you’re given rightly, same struggle to get over some things – is it worth the struggle?  You have wondered if your prayers really make a difference. You’ve looked at the Lord’s Supper and thought, it still just looks like bread and wine. You have your doubts.

Your story is kind of like Isaiah’s: sinful and unclean. God says this and you do that. You’ve snapped at your spouse or people at work, you’ve abused and wasted God’s gifts, you’ve loved yourself the most, you’ve lied, you’ve gossiped, you’ve been lazy. What else? And sometimes you can even feel the uncleanness in you.

What if God came close for a moment? But of course He is. If you think of who God really is, if you think of who you really are, if it really sunk in, what else could you think to say? Go away from me, Lord, I am a sinner.

But this is the best part: Jesus doesn’t go away.

Jesus said “Here am I, send me. Send me, Father, in their place and fill up my blood with their wickedness.” He entered our story to change it for the better forever. And because He did, today, right now, He’s saying it to you: “Don’t be afraid.” The cross of Jesus Christ has destroyed everything that you ever really had to fear. Won’t you take Him at His word on it?

Come close to God on the basis of who you are in Jesus Christ. He comes close to you, right there in your boat with you – but it’s okay, he’s already judged you and it’s good news. His living voice flies into our ears: “Don’t be afraid”. And at your altar it’s better than hot coal; God’s body and blood is carried from the altar and it touches your lips and makes you alive and holy. 

“But Jesus, I’ve doubted your promises, I’ve snapped at my wife, I’ve abused and wasted your gifts, I’ve loved myself more than others, I’ve been lazy, I’ve gossiped, I’ve lied.”

But He just won’t go away, relentlessly, He keeps on with it: “Don’t be afraid.” Let fear melt away with forgiveness.

He caught you. Pulled you up from the bottom of the lake in His net, His Word, His baptismal water. He placed you safely in His church and is bringing you safely home. Because He loves you. Take Him at His word: Yes, you love me! You died for me!

And nothing is the same. What a story you have to tell. Now you have something new to say to God…Here am I, send me! Tell it. Live it out loud.

Jesus has called you to follow. And He intends to bless you and make you a blessing as you listen to Him. Lord, could you please use us and arrange our lives so that they will be useful to you in spreading out the love?

This will not always easy, but it is always a blessed thing to struggle with Jesus and not against Him.

“But Master, all night I’ve been fishing!” Then go fishing again, Peter. Because Jesus says so.

“All week I’ve been struggling.” Then go struggle again, Christian. Because Jesus, who rescued and loves you says it will be good. Despite your doubts, take him at His word.

You don’t just have doubt. You have been given faith. In faith, venture into the deep waters. If it ever seems pointless, when you tell of your Lord, when you love your neighbor, when you forsake something to follow the Lord, when you offer Him your sacrifices and prayers, it is not. It is good and pleasing to the One who loves you, who forsook all things to save you, who offered His own life to win you, who threw out His net to catch you.  I know that it is good because Jesus says so.  Amen.

Tyler Peil

For more content like this, check out the podcast, blog posts, and devotions at www.LetTheBirdFly.com.

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