Friday, March 6, 2015

Go Away from Me, Lord, for I Am a Sinful Man



When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.  Luke 5:8

WHEN Peter witnessed the miracle we hear about in today’s gospel lesson, he had a double barrel reaction: first amazement, then fear. Both were the right reactions, but when he begged the Holy and Righteous One of God to get away from him, and to leave him in his sin, shame and darkness, there Peter had made a terrible mistake.

Like Manoah the father of Samson who had also seen God in person, Peter was afraid for his life, but he was badly mistaken in his estimation of the Lord because Jesus didn’t come to destroy sinners, or to abandon them, but to save them.

Peter qualified. He was a flesh and blood violator of all that is good, right and holy even as we are, but it wasn’t only the surface sins that made Peter feel so unworthy before God; it was also the pure midnight of his soul, now made evident against the back-drop of Jesus who is the Light of the world.  This is what brought the salty old sea-dog to his knees.  What he experienced that day was not only the power of God but also the person of God.

According to Luke, this wasn’t the first miracle Peter had witnessed.  Prior to this point he had seen Jesus heal countless diseases with a touch, and expel vicious demons, which held iron grips over people’s lives, with a word.  Peter had seen all this, but nowhere do we read that these wonders brought the stiff-necked, hard-headed Fisherman down to his knees in fear before Jesus. Up to this point, Peter didn’t get it!

Even in the presence of all this power he still thought that he was a good man!  He worked hard, played hard and did his part in the economy.  He was, no doubt, proud of his accomplishments and his rugged individualism.  Like all of us, Peter thought that he was a good person, but when he finally learned to know Jesus as Jesus wants to be known – as God-come-to-earth, then Peter realized that he was no longer such a big fish.  His whole house of cards suddenly and irreversibly collapsed.  He fell down on his knees and cried out in sheer terror “depart from me LORD, for I am a man who is filled with sin.”

With a simple command “let down your nets for a catch” the Lord of creation turned an otherwise bad fishing day into the greatest catch man had ever taken, so great that the nets began to tear and the boats began to sink with the weight!  Now the Fisherman understood! Before this miracle he called Jesus “teacher,” but now, as divine revelation flooded his senses, he woke up from his sleep, arose from spiritual death and addressed Jesus, not as Teacher, but as Lord, as God, as Maker and Monarch and Ruler of all! (TLH 128).

Suddenly, witnessing the raw power of God, Peter recognized a vast deficiency in himself.  It wasn’t a deficiency of money, wisdom or the ability to get the job done.  It was a moral deficiency.  A power shortage.  An insufficiency of what Peter was and what Peter was not,
namely, holy.

Jesus and Peter weren’t just two people with differing philosophies or opinions, they were people from two different realities!  Peter was a sin-filled slave of the devil, shot through with self-esteem, self-love, self-righteousness and the ever-consuming lusts of the flesh.  He was bursting with contempt for God, at war with his Creator, and we are no different.  We may not feel it.  We may not recognize it!  We may have embraced the philosophies of the surrounding culture, or been swept up in the prevailing winds of the LCMS, which were designed to keep our eye off the Ball of God’s Word.  We see the results of sin on the News and in the mirror, but we’re too blind to comprehend what the problem is.  It wasn’t just a matter of the things Peter did, it’s a matter of what he was, what he thought, what he loved and what he didn’t love.  Nothing good, divine, God-pleasing or worthy of blessing existed in Peter because Peter had heart trouble!  He was conceived and born in sin and apart from Christ could do nothing, and neither can we. (John 15:5)

In our Lutheran Confessions (
Augsburg Confession, Article II), the church’s Reformers wrote this: “It is also taught among us that since the fall of Adam all men who are born according to the course of nature are conceived and born in sin.  That is, all men are full of evil lust and inclinations from their mothers’ wombs and are unable by nature to have true fear of God and true faith in God.  Moreover, this inborn sickness and hereditary sin is truly sin and condemns to the eternal wrath of God all those who are not born again through Baptism and the Holy Spirit…”

Peter didn’t need to “get into a program.” He needed to fall on his knees before Jesus, acknowledge his sin, believe the Gospel, and live a New Life in Christ.  By God’s grace, and the working of the Holy Spirit, this is what he did.  It’s what we did too!  Or rather what was mercifully done to us, in us and for us when we were baptized into the name of the Triune God.  Our “lusts and evil inclinations” were forgiven.  Our “inborn sickness and hereditary sin,” which is “truly sin and condemns to eternal wrath of God” was cured.  Like Peter we are real sinners, but Jesus is a real Savior.

If there’s any problem in our thinking today, it’s that we don’t take our need for the Savior seriously like Peter did.  He recognized in this Son of God One who had power over nature, and over the ravages of humanity’s evil.  That day he learned that Jesus could catch men as easily as He could bring fish out of Lake Genessaret.  That day he left all he had ever known, and followed Jesus, and may we do the same.

The Good News for us this morning is found in two little words Jesus spoke to Peter. Fear not!  Wonderful words when spoken by God to sin-filled man, but words which brought enormous fear to the One who spoke them.  This benediction which our Lord so freely bestows upon us, caused the Son of God to sweat blood; to pray to His dear Heavenly Father who always heard Him, that if there were any other way…that this cup might pass from Him, but there was none.  Jesus drank it, died, and by His death, trampled death, but because He is holy, God raised Him from the dead, and now we drink of Him. We eat His flesh and drink His blood and have a share in the Life of Jesus which quells our every fear, and fills us with inexpressible joy.

Fear not! Those two words, spoken by Jesus remove our sins, and give us Life, Strength, Courage and Peace as we do battle with sin and death each day.

Don’t be afraid Dear Christians. Don’t be afraid of judgment, of the devil, of the world, or of the crosses we must bear today or tomorrow.  Jesus will never leave us.  We cannot drive Him away.  No sin will make him leave us.  No sadness will make Him abandon us.  No circumstance will make Him forsake us, and no sorrow will make Him depart from us.  He didn’t leave Peter and He won’t leave us.  We have been caught in the net of His love and gath
ered into the Nave of His church, which will bring us safely to Canaan’s Shores.  Amen.

Rev. Dean Kavouras

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