Once Peter witnessed the miraculous work of Jesus, he said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). Today, R.C. Sproul explains why Peter reacted this way to the presence of the Holy One.
The disciples had been out fishing all night—you remember the story—and they had not been successful. They come back, and their nets are empty. And Jesus says to Simon, “Why don’t you cast your net over on that side of the boat?” And you can sense Simon’s frustration and irritation, as if he would say to Jesus: “Look, you’re a great teacher, a great rabbi, a great theologian, and all of that, but we are experts at fishing. Why don’t you tend to your business. We’ll tend to ours. What do you think? We’ve had this net over this side of the boat all night, and nothing happens.” And Jesus says, “Put the net where I told you to put it,” and Simon says, “Okay.” I mean, I’m guessing here he says, “Humor him.” So, they throw the nets over the side where Jesus had indicated. And you know the story, every fish in the Sea of Galilee jumps in the net so that the nets are starting to burst and the boats are about to sink.
And what does Peter do? He pulls out a contract and says: “That’s fantastic, Jesus. Here’s the deal. You come down here one day a month—just do this once, just take five minutes of your time once a month—you get 50 percent of the prophets from our business.” That’s what I would’ve done, made Jesus a full partner for five minutes’ work a month. It’s not what he did.
What did he say? “Depart from me, for I’m a sinful man. Jesus, leave. I can’t handle this.” Why? All Jesus did was fill the nets with fish. But you see, in that moment, Peter again realizes he’s come close to the Holy One. And the closer you get to the holy, the more aware you become of your own sinfulness and the more frightened you become of divine judgment. And so, Simon says, “Please leave, depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” Jesus hadn’t said anything about sin. He hadn’t been preaching. But His presence and the power of His holiness made people want to flee and scatter from His presence.