Can Sinners Serve?

October 24, 2001
by Sylvia Alloway

Luke 5:4-6,8,10b – When [Jesus] had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch." Simon answered, "Master, we have worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets." When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that the nets began to break. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." (NIV)

I have always identified with Peter. I, too, tend to behave impulsively, depend too much on my own wisdom, and talk too much whether I know what I'm saying or not. And then, when given a chance to witness, I'm as likely as not to chicken out. So passages like these give me much encouragement.

The first thing Simon realizes when he witnesses the miraculous catch of fish is that this person, Jesus, has special powers from God. The second thing he realizes is that Simon himself is a sinner. (It is interesting how the presence of God always does that to people.)

So what does Jesus say? "You're right about that, boy. You are one big sinner. But maybe if you follow me for a few years we can iron out some of the kinks." No. He tells him not to be afraid that he is too sinful for God's use. He reassures him that God has a mission for him, starting right that minute. Simon will catch men for God — not if he behaves and shuts up and stops being so impulsive — but right now.

Matthew 28:19 – Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (NIV)

Notice that Jesus does not say, "You will find self-fulfilment," or "You will exist on a higher plane," or "You will establish social programmes," even though his followers both then and now do all those things. At both the beginning and the end (or the new beginning) of his earthly ministry, he makes the same point: fish for men, make disciples, win souls. All other efforts are a means to this end.

We know that Simon still had problems all the way through his time with the Lord. He misunderstood Christ's teaching; he talked when he should have been silent; he was silent when he should have spoken. He did not become perfect, but he did become Peter, the rock.

What a comfort for all of us who long to do God's will, but suspect that we are not able! We don't have to wait until we straighten out our lives completely in order to serve the Lord. (Let's face it, none of us would do anything for God if that were a prerequisite.) If we remember what's important and follow Jesus, we too can fish for souls. And who knows what we may become?

Prayer: Dear Lord, in your holy presence we are painfully aware of our own sins. We confess those sins now, confident in the knowledge that you use all believers, as you have saved all believers — through your overflowing, undeserved grace. Show each of us clearly our special mission and allow us to fulfill it with the greatest joy and enthusiasm, ever looking to you. In the name of our gracious Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

About the author:

Sylvia Alloway <snalloway@verizon.net>
Granada Hills, California, USA

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