An Irresistible Invitation
A few weeks back, I was struck by Luke’s fifth chapter. Simon was weary from a failed night’s work on his fishing boat. As Christ approached, I wondered what Simon thought of the strange man. Perhaps he took on the customary reverence, maybe he felt an ingrained obedience to the Rabbi; likely, he felt a simple curiosity. Whatever the case, Simon patiently took on the stranger and rowed out a short distance as the large crowd gathered along the shore. There, he heard Christ preach over the soft wave. These prophetic words must have enkindled a deep and hungry fire. At last Jesus spoke:
“Push out into the deep water. Let down your nets for some fish.” Simon said to Him, “Teacher, we have worked all night and we have caught nothing. But because You told me to, I will let the net down.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish, their net started to break… When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at the feet of Jesus. He said, “Go away from me, Lord, because I am a sinful man.” (Luke 5:4-8)
As I entered my first year of seminary, I felt that same creeping fear of my inadequacy that held me back. Drawing closer to the radiant face of God is a process that reveals with unmistakable clarity the wretched nothingness of our human condition. In this nakedness, I was tempted by false humility to shield myself from the voice of God. In many ways, His abundant love was unbearable and demanded that I tear my own heart from my chest. And my fears were amplified by the current allegations against the Church.
There is no avoiding the egregious sins that have been perpetrated against God’s people by the very ones entrusted to be our shepherds. While these actions must be condemned, we cannot allow their wretchedness to keep us from turning to Christ. Sin will not be restored by magnifying its voice. We cannot allow ourselves to be consumed by this evil. We can trust that justice against “Israel’s False Shepherds” will be rendered: “I will demand my sheep at their hand… I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, so that they may not be food for them” (Ezekiel 34:10). But ultimately, all of this serves as a reminder of the power of sin, and the need for my own repentance.
It is my own sin that tore the back of the Good Shepherd that carries me. It is the same sin that pierced the hand that embraces me so dearly. It was I that slashed a hole deep into His side. And as He drew His last breath, it was Him that by the softest whisper murmured forgiveness into my heart. Christ was Crucified for me, but also by me.
How can such love be repaid? It cannot. No measure of sorrow can remove even a splinter from His back and we would do well to sow weeping for this great crime. Since His goodness is inexhaustible and our inequities are innumerable, the process of purgation and perfection must be ongoing. After all, the only thing more gruesome and painful than our sinful reality is a life without His resplendent rays of love. We must also remain hopeful that Christ’s Cross has already sounded the final horn of victory. Nothing can choke the fountain of life pouring out from his side.
As I thought about Peter, I heard the soothing words of Christ: "'Do not be afraid. From now on you will fish for men.’ When they came to land with their boats, they left everything and followed Jesus” (Luke 5:10-11). In the end, Peter chose to follow Christ because he was called. We follow Christ not by our own merits, but because of his simple and irresistible invitation. A life with Christ will demand everything from us, but it also promises an eternal happiness. Having heard His call, I rest assured in His confidence. By His side, I have found strength despite my weakness, courage despite my fears, and boundless joy despite all the great pressures on my heart.