The miraculous catch simultaneously thrills Simon and crushes his ego. Confronting the power that Jesus demonstrates brings Simon face to face with his inadequacy. “I am a sinner!” he admits (v. 8). He literally confesses, “I have fallen short!”
Jesus wants Simon to know that God will redeem his falling and failing. This is good and terrifying news to the fisherman, and to us. Good because we’re all prone to falling and failing, but terrifying because this news demands that we let go of our attempts to justify ourselves.
A few years ago, I preached what was perhaps the worst and most effective sermon of my career. Earlier that morning I closed my laptop and rushed to church without finishing it. For a manuscript preacher like myself, this experience was a nightmare come true. But I steeled myself to see it as an opportunity to trust the Holy Spirit and improvise the ending. Afterwards, I sulked in the Narthex, hoping to get through the handshaking line unscathed. A man came up to me and said, “Of all the sermons you have preached, that was the best one! It was exactly what I needed to hear.” Instead of being encouraged, I shouted at God with a force that surprised me, “I don’t care if you used it! I wanted it to be perfect!”
Every remembrance of that moment is a painful, healing invitation for me to surrender to the same truth Simon heard Jesus speaking on that sinking boat: “My grace is sufficient for you, for [my] power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).
I used to idolize Paul and his forceful, eloquent arguments, but these days I feel more kinship with stumbling, bumbling Simon Peter. I give thanks that it was upon imperfect Peter that Jesus built a church for sinners like me.
In what ways are you trying to justify yourself today? What do you need to confess to God?
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen.