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Daily Devotional • April 27

Sarah Puryear
Come Closer
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 5:1-11

1 Once while Jesus was standing beside the Lake of Gennesaret and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to burst. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’s knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all who were with him were astounded at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

Peter has a surprising reaction to Jesus’ miraculous provision of fish. We might expect him to be impressed or grateful, but instead he is conscious of his sin and ashamed: “Go away from me,” he tells Jesus, “For I am a sinful man.” In this unexpected response, we can hear echoes of so many other encounters with God where humans seek to put distance between God and themselves: Adam and Eve hiding in the garden, the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai, Isaiah in his vision of God in the Temple. In their fallen state, how can people coexist with God’s holiness without fear of death?

Peter senses this holiness in Jesus. In classic Peter style, he blurts out exactly what he is thinking — “I am a sinful man” — and like so many others before him, he thinks the solution is to put greater distance between himself and the divine: “Go away from me.” What Peter does not yet intuit is that in Christ, God is now on the scene in a new way. God has provided a remedy to this seeming incompatibility between the divine and human by himself becoming fully human. In Christ, our sin is no longer a barrier to proximity to God. In Christ, God will deal with our sin once and for all and make a path for us to be reconciled to him. To borrow from the writer of Hebrews, rather than hiding from God, in Christ the sinner can “draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings” (10:22).

Jesus does not tell Peter that his confession of sin is inaccurate; instead, he tells Peter that he does not need to be afraid in his presence. When we feel the temptation like Peter, to see our sin as reason to withdraw from God, may we turn to God in hope and expectation of his promise that if we draw near to God, he will draw near to us (James 4:8).

The Rev. Sarah Puryear lives in Nashville with her family and serves as priest associate at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Nashville.

Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

Church of St. Mark, Brooklyn, New York
The Diocese of Singapore – The Church of the Province of South East Asia
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