July 08, 2024

The Fearful Presence of the Holy One

R.C. Sproul
The Fearful Presence of the Holy One

Nothing incites greater fear in the mind of a sinful person than the presence of the One who is holy. Today, R.C. Sproul examines a surprising encounter between Peter and Jesus on the Sea of Galilee.


Jesus was standing by the lake when He was beginning to teach, and He saw that there were two boats there moored by the lake. And Jesus got into one of the boats, which happened to be Simon Peter’s. And He asked him to put out a little ways from the land so that He could get some space from this multitude that was pressing against Him. And when Peter cast off a few feet from the shore, out of the reach of the multitudes, Jesus sat down. And there from the boat, He began to teach the crowds that had gathered. And when He had stopped, listen to what happened. He said to Simon, “Launch out now into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

Now, you can sense the tension in Peter here, the frustration. Jesus tells him to push out into the deep. He’s been out there all night, fishing. Didn’t catch a thing. You know what he’s thinking? This is impetuous Peter. He’s thinking, “Jesus, You know all about theology. We love to hear You teach about the things of God and the kingdom of God. But give us some credit. We’re professional fishermen. We know about how to fish and how not to fish, where to fish and where not to fish. We’ve been out there all night, and our nets are empty.” But he’s relatively polite.

He said, “Master”—it’s a good way to start—“we’ve toiled all night and caught nothing. Nevertheless, if You say so, at your word, I’ll let down the net. I don’t want to do this, Master. But since You are the Master, and since as Master You’ve given me the command to do it, I’ll do it, albeit reluctantly.” And he says to the other guys, “Let’s humor Him. Throw down the nets.” And you know what happened. Every fish in the Sea of Galilee jumped in the net. Well, first of all, we have to understand how that happened. Who made those fish? Who was the Lord of those fish? Those were Jesus’ fish. Jesus made those fish. He made the lake. And when Jesus tells His men to put the net in the water, the fish come to do the bidding of the Master. There was hesitancy on the part of Peter, no hesitancy on the part of the fish.

The fish were jumping to their deaths at the bidding of their Master. When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish so that their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and now they filled both the boats so that they began to sink. This was the greatest catch of fish that these fishermen had ever experienced in all of their years of fishing in this lake. And when this happened, you would think that Peter, who had partners of James and John—we’re told here that they were in business with the sons of Zebedee—that Peter would’ve said to Jesus, “Look, Jesus. Fifty percent of the business is Yours. You just come down here once a week and do this and 50, no, 90 percent, we’ll pay You, if You’ll do this once a week.” That’s what you would expect Peter’s response to be.

That wasn’t what it was. Luke tells us he fell on his knees in front of Jesus, begging Him not to go in business, but begging Him on his knees to leave, to go away. “Lord,” he says, “depart from me. Please go.” And we don’t have to guess why he did that. He states his reason clearly. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.”

You want to know why this church isn’t filled right now? Because there are thousands, hundreds of thousands of people out there, who want to stay as far away from Jesus as they possibly can. And the reason they want to avoid the worship of Jesus and the presence of Jesus is the same reason Peter gave to Jesus. “Please leave. Get out of here. Depart from me because I am a sinful man.” And the reason why sinners don’t want to come to church is because they’re sinners. And nothing makes a sinner more uncomfortable than the presence of a holy God.