"Do not be afraid"
Peter is startled that Jesus would tell him to do this. You see, Jesus isn’t a fisherman. He is a teacher who grew up in a carpenter’s home. Peter is a small business owner, and his work is fishing. He has a business partnership with other guys named James and John. And Peter, James, and John have spent the whole night fishing, and they didn’t catch a thing. Also, Jesus’ command to Simon seems to reveal that Jesus doesn’t know much about fishing, because Jesus is recommending that he fish with nets during the day. All the fishermen knew that you don’t fish with nets during the day--the fish see the nets and swim around them.
And this is where things get interesting. Peter and his partners go from having a terrible day in business to the greatest day in business. They catch so many fish that their nets begin to break and all of their boats begin to sink under the weight of the catch. But Peter isn’t celebrating. He is terrified in Jesus’ presence.
Well, Peter is beginning to connect the dots about who Jesus is. Up to this point, Peter has seen Jesus heal his mother-in-law from illness, exercise authority over evil spirits, and heard Jesus teach with authority. Peter knows there is something unique about Jesus, but now in the boat Peter is learning more. Peter is realizing that Jesus is utterly unique in his possession of the power of God. Jesus is able to do things only God can do and Jesus is able to know things that only God can know, and thus, this Jesus is more than a miracle worker and teacher, he is God himself in Jesus. And God can’t sin, because God is holy, pure, and in him there is no darkness. Peter realizes that the holy, pure God is in his boat in the person of Jesus. Wow. No wonder Peter was terrified. Peter knows he is a sinful man, and Peter knows that God can’t stand sin.
Simon expects punishment, expects rejection—he's a sinful man. But Jesus tells Simon not to be afraid. With Jesus, sinful people can be in the presence of God’s holiness and not be afraid. See, it is true that Jesus can’t stand sin. But it is also true that Jesus is crazy about sinful people. Jesus has come, not to punish our sins, but to restore us into relationship with the God against whom we have sinned.
Roughly three years after Jesus told Simon not to be afraid, Jesus was condemned to die on a cross. He wasn’t condemned because of any wrong he did. He was condemned because of the wrong we did. He wasn’t punished on a cross because of his sin, he was punished on a cross for Simon’s sin, my sin, your sin. Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” You see, the reason we can be unafraid in the presence of holiness, though we have sinned, is because Jesus was rejected so we can be accepted.
Remember today, because of Jesus, you can be honest with yourself about yourself, and know that you, too, are a sinful person. But because of Jesus, you can also live without fear of punishment and condemnation or rejection by God. Jesus has taken the punishment and condemnation for you. Jesus has been rejected so you can be accepted.
Do not be afraid. God loves you, and Jesus proves it.
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