On Sunday morning we continued in our Winter Sermon Series entitled Encounter: Face-to-Face with Jesus. As we learned in the message, which you can listen to here if you missed worship this week, when Peter came close to Jesus Christ, he became much more aware of the sin in his own life.
This is not an uncommon phenomenon. On many occasions I have heard people lament the way that they had felt pretty good about themselves before getting serious about their faith in Jesus Christ, but now that they had drawn close to God, they had come to see just how flawed they truly are. When Peter was just hanging out with a bunch of fishermen, he saw himself as on par with his peers; maybe even a little superior to them. His language, conduct, generosity, and his capacity to love all looked reasonably commendable. But when confronted with presence of Jesus, it was more than he could bear and he cried out, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
Last summer during our staff retreat, we did a little team building event over at Bottle and Botega. If you’ve not been, it’s a great little art studio where the professional artists there teach you to paint. It’s fun, even if you are not any good at art, it’s still fun. On that day, all the staff created a painting of a sunset and a tree, with the pro coaching us through the process. When we all were finished with our paintings, mine was clearly the worst. It wasn’t a competition, it was a fun social event, but my painting was just so bad.
And as I looked at what the artist had done with his piece, I was both attracted to it and humbled by it. I saw both beauty in his piece and I saw that my tree looked more like a stick of broccoli than it did a palm tree. The difference between his painting’s goodness and my painting’s crumminess was so striking. When we took a group photo at the end of the event with our paintings, I stole the professional artist’s painting and held it up in place of my own effort. Sort of as a joke and also because I was embarrassed by just how bad my work was.
Peter is feeling much the same about his life. As he is seeing himself as he stands next to Jesus, Peter knows just how much is wrong with him. His flaws are exposed. It is the end of denial and he sees himself as he actually is.
But then, at the very moment when Peter says, “Jesus I am a sinner and you shouldn’t have anything to do with me,” at that very moment, the person whose presence is making him aware of his own sin, affirms him more deeply than he has ever been affirmed. Because Jesus says, “Peter I want you.” I want you to come with me. I want you to come and live your life with me. I want you, Peter, to be my disciple.
This is important. Jesus does not say, “Peter don’t worry about your sin, it’s not that big of a deal.” He doesn’t say, “Peter, we all make mistakes, don’t be so hard on yourself.” What Jesus says to Peter is “you are exactly who I am looking for. Do not fear. You see yourself rightly and ‘do not fear.’ You; with all of your sin and all of your baggage, you are exactly who I am looking for. Now follow me.”
Being a sinner does not disqualify you from being a follower of Jesus. It is a prerequisite. Peter was not an exception. Over and over again Jesus calls the sinner and the skeptics to come listen to him, and when they feel prompted by Jesus to do something, even something small like go fishing, to obey and see what happens. You, even you, are exactly who Jesus came to love and to save.
I have good news for you today, friends. You, with all of your sin and imperfection, you are exactly the one whom Jesus wants to come and follow him.
Grateful to be imperfectly following Jesus alongside you!