“Go away from me for I am a sinner!”
Luke 5:8-11, Ezekiel 47:3-9
Today’s sermon is a continuation of last week’s sermon. We talked about last week that Jesus commanded Peter and his companions, James and John, to “put out into the deep water”. As we covered last week, fishermen of Galilee did not go fishing in the bright daylight nor in the deep water. That was against commonsensical fishermen’s knowledge at that time. On that morning when Jesus commanded them to go into the deep water and let down the net, they toiled all night long the night before but did not catch any fish. Yet, Peter and his companions obeyed Jesus’ command against their conventional knowledge. We covered last week that the shallow water represents the worldly human reality in which human skills, knowledge, and practices that are limited, lacking and imperfect are the norm, and the “deep water” represents God’s reality in which abundance, fullness, and perfection is the norm. In the shallow water, one finds emptiness in his net in the morning, but in deep water, one finds over-fullness to the point of the net breaking open at any time of the day, enough to fill other people’s empty nets. When Peter went to the deep water from the shallow water, he experienced fullness away from the emptiness in life. From shallow water to deep water is from emptiness to the fullness in life.
Today’s text which begins with verse 8, when Peter experienced this “deep water” experience, Peter fell at the feet of Jesus and said, “Lord, go away from me; I am a sinful man!”. He out-cried that he was a sinful man. Peter realized simultaneously who he was, –a sinner–, and who Jesus was, –God, and the fear of doom overwhelmed him as he realized how filthy and sinful he was in contrast to Jesus’ holiness. “Lord! Depart from me for I am a sinner!” It was the same outcry Isaiah uttered when he found himself in the presence of God in Isaiah 6, “Woe is me; I am doomed for I am a man of unclean lips!” At the moment he realized how sinful and uttered how helpless he was, he heard the Savior saying, “Fear not; from now on you will fish people!” ‘Fear not, I have healed you, fear not, your sins are forgiven, fear not, you will fish people.’ Do you see what is going on here? As soon as he confessed that he was sinful realizing his doom, two things instantly happened: healing/saving and calling. Peter was healed of his sin-sick soul; he was forgiven when he confessed his sin, and he was called to catch people for God’s kingdom.
Unless we go into the deep water, to God’s reality, we cannot realize our doomed state. We cannot know how sinful we are unless we experience God’s presence, his absolute holiness. Unless we realize how sinful we are, we cannot be forgiven. Unless we realize how utterly doomed we are, we cannot be saved. Unless we are forgiven, we cannot catch people for God.
I hope you know the difference between asking for forgiveness lightly for our daytime failures or mistakes at our bedtime and the realization of our utterly lost state in the encounter with the absolutely holy God. We can never know how utterly doomed we are unless we experience the overwhelming holy presence of God. Five years ago, when I came from the mission field I was serving, I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown; I was angry, disappointed and was wounded emotionally and spiritually, felt badly betrayed. I could not carry on a conversation with anyone without breaking down in tears. I had no idea what I will do with my life. I had no hope or prospect in life. People talk about hitting the rock bottom in life, but I was underneath the rock bottom, I felt. God led me to prayer and reading the scripture. Can you imagine praying for 00 to 00 hours a day and reading the whole scripture monthly? Prayer and reading the scripture were the only things allowed for me. During this period, I met Jesus I had never met in person before. I saw him in his overwhelming holiness. I saw my heart in contrast to his glowing, bright and lively pinkish ruby colored heart. My heart was dead, rotten in a putrid state. I also realized my life up to that moment had been the life of a murderer. I realized how I had been killing people with my words, criticizing and judging, and with my arrogant attitude. I had been full of myself, evil and wicked. As soon as I realized how filthy and sinful I was, I knew, then, I was doomed, utterly lost. I cried and cried. God healed me and saved me, and God called me into ministry serving you. We need to go to “deep water” by praying and meditation on the word of God. Then we can have a genuine encounter with God who saves and calls us to “catch people”.
The water in the lake of Galilee is fresh-water, signifying the “water of life”. In our Old Testament lesson, Ezekiel chapter 47 also talks about going into “deep water”. Verse 1, “…there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east…”. Verses 3 to 9, we see that there is an angelic figure who measures water and have Ezekiel go through the water. When he first measures a thousand cubits, it reaches the ankle of Ezekiel, another thousand cubits, it reaches his knee and another thousand cubits, it reaches his waist or loin, and another thousand cubits, it became a river that Ezekiel cannot cross because, verse 5, “the water was too deep, and one must swim in”. We know from verse 1, the water, “the water of life” was flowing from under the temple. The temple is Messiah from whose pierced side flows the living water was ever-increasing in one’s life. In our Christian life, the living water should increase from our ankles to the knee and then to the waist and until it becomes deep water in which one cannot walk on their own feet but swim in it. What does that mean?
When we first come to God, our faith in God reaches our ankle, as in us being in shallow water. We come to God being in contact with living water, yet “living water” does not control us. We still live in our own conventional world, using our own limited skills and knowledge experiencing “emptiness” in our nets, instead of God’s fullness. What is worse, when we are supposed to go deeper into the “living water, some of us stubbornly stay in shallow water. We call them, the ‘ankle believer’ or Sunday Christians who just come and go, attending church without experiencing God’s forgiving and healing grace.
As our faith deepens, we find ourselves in the living water that reaches our knee. Kneeling signifies prostrating before a superior. We worship God on our knee, we pray, recognizing that God is the sovereign Lord, experiencing God’s grace from time to time but ourselves are still the lord in our lives. Only when we pray, only when we kneel, we recognize God, but in our daily living, our conventional wisdom, knowledge and the skills are the major driving force in our lives, not God.
As we go deeper into God’s reality, we find ourselves in the water that reaches our waist or loin. Waist or loin signifies as the seat of strength and vigor (Job 40:16). In Hebrew, it means the center of procreative power. We sow, plant and harvest bearing fruits by the grace of God. We are half-way in the living water, however, the other half-way, still, is in the world. This is the most confusing state to be in, in our Christian journey, I think. These people are far advanced in terms of being deeper in the water than those people who are still in ankle-deep or knee-deep water. At least, these people bear fruits. That is why they feel that they are doing God’s work. When I was in the mission field, I sacrificially gave and invested my life, energy, and talents passionately in the missional causes. My work bore fruits for God. But I was full of myself still. I was doing supposedly God-given mission out of my own passion and devotion, not realizing that I was my own god, killing people judging and criticizing those people who do not meet my expectation, –halfway in the water and the other half was not yet buried in the water.
To these people who are in the ankle-deep, knee-deep and the waist-deep water, God commands them to go to the deep water in which they cannot cross the water on their own feet but found themselves under the water swimming in, being submerged completely at the utter mercy of God. Only then, when we are completely under the influence of God’s reality, we realize our helpless and doomed state and we are to be healed and to be saved. Verses 8 & 9, when the water became the river one cannot cross, in this water “every living thing that moves will live.”
Do you want to be healed spiritually, emotionally and even physically? Go to the deep water and be buried under the living water of God! Amen and amen!!!