Peter was afraid. When he saw the catch of fish—how great it was, and how miraculous the miracle—then he was afraid because he knew he was in the presence of the Son of God. And so down on his knees he went. And up went his prayer, his cry for help. He was not sarcastic. He was not demanding. He did not try to spin things so that he was in control. He was not manipulative. He simply said, “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Peter confessed who he truly was—a sinner. He confessed that he was unworthy to stand in the Lord’s presence. And he confessed that his labors, his fishing skills, his wit, his wisdom—they all added up to nothing. This catch of fish was entirely the Lord’s doing, and it was marvelous in Peter’s eyes. And while it astonished him, it also scared him. He was afraid. Peter was afraid of standing before the living God. It’s not that Peter was afraid of what God might do to him. Peter was afraid because Peter knows himself. Peter knows that he doesn’t deserve to be in the Lord’s presence. He knows that God in the flesh is slumming, visiting the little people.
Some would say that Peter was suffering from low self-esteem. Others would say that Peter was emotionally distraught and not in his right mind. Still others would say that Peter was making a fool of himself. And some might say that Peter was overwhelmed by the power and majesty of God. But in truth, Peter says what Cain should have said; what Saul should have said; what Judas should have said. And Peter says what King David said, what the Apostle Paul said, and what all the saints and martyrs have said. Peter says what should be in our heart and mind when we cry out, “Lord, have mercy”; or when we pray, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof.” Peter’s prayer is not the whine of a whimpering coward; it is the truthful confession of a man who sees his Maker and, at the same time, sees himself.
Listen to what Peter says, because his confession belongs in your mouth. And it doesn’t take a miraculous catch of fish for you to realize it. As you examine your life according to the Ten Commandments, you recognize yourself for what you really are. You are a sinner. Like Peter, you know you don’t belong in the presence of the Lord. Like Adam and Eve, you hear the Lord, and you hide from Him because you know you are naked in your sinful nature; you know that you are no longer the “very good” creation He made you to be.
You’ve heard Peter’s confession of sin, and you recognize it as your confession, too. With that in mind, listen to what Jesus says to Peter and to you: “Do not be afraid.” Do not be afraid—not because there is nothing fearful in God; and not because your fears are misplaced. But do not be afraid, for He has taken into Himself your sin and your death. Do not be afraid, for He has restored the relationship between God and man by drawing you into Himself. Do not be afraid, for He is your Life—so much so that your sinful self has being drowned in His undying love and mercy in the waters of Holy Baptism. And do not be afraid, for He is your Strength, your steady Rock, your Salvation, your Hope, your Consolation, your Joy.
So what are you afraid of? Losing father or mother or children? Are you afraid of what life in the Church means, what sacrifices it requires? Are you afraid of the journey or that you will sin? Listen again to your Jesus: “Do not be afraid.” You have nothing to fear. He knows what you are. He knows you will sin. Our Lord forgives you. He washes you clean. He welcomes you into communion with His holy Church. So do not be afraid. He has come to be Immanuel—God with us—God with His people forever. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.