“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8)
Peter’s reaction to this miraculous catch of fish is very interesting. He was a businessman, an entrepreneur. He might have said: “Jesus, fifty percent of my business is Yours. You do not have to go out on the boat with us every night. You do not have to labor on the docks and repair the nets. All You need to do is to come down here once a month and do the trick You just did, filling my nets.” But that’s not what Peter did. When he saw the nets filled to overflowing, he turned to Jesus and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Essentially, he reacted in the same way as when he and the other disciples witnessed Jesus calming the sea–he became exceedingly afraid. He had seen something he could not explain in human terms. He knew he was in the presence of deity. He might very well have asked the same question the disciples asked: “Who can this be?”
We meet all kinds of people, and as we meet them, we unconsciously sort them. We do this every time we walk down a street, instantly pigeonholing every person we see. Is that person smiling? He seems safe. Is there a look of fury in that person’s eyes? We give him a little extra space because we know what unbridled anger can be like in human beings. We separate everyone into categories: safe, dangerous, nice, cantankerous, whatever. But we do not have a category for someone who can speak to the waves and cause them to obey Him. Such a One is in a class by Himself. This One is so alien, so other, that there is no compartment for Him.
In a word, what the disciples experienced on the Sea of Galilee that night was the holiness of Christ. They liked His power when they were in trouble, so they were quick to wake Him when the boat seemed endangered. But when He showed them His power, they said: “This is not common power. This is holy power. This man is different from every other person on the face of the earth.” And finding themselves in the presence of the Holy One of Israel, they were consumed by fear.
Freud never understood that the thing all people in the world fear most—the thing Freud himself feared most—is the holiness of God. That’s why people run from God and from Jesus Christ. As soon as God manifests His transcendent majesty, men are reduced to terror.
If Christ in His majesty were to knock on your door this morning, you would not say to Him, “Hi, buddy, come on in.” Rather, you would fall on your face. When the resurrected Christ in His glory and the manifestation of His holiness appears, all creatures will fall at His feet because He is other. He is holy. That means that not only do people tremble at His voice, but seas that have no ears listen to His command, and winds that have no knowledge know enough to stop blowing when He says, “Be still.” That is our Lord.
This excerpt is from R.C. Sproul’s commentary on the Gospel of Mark.