Peter’s Reaction

Studies in First Peter

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

Luke 5:1-11

Peter witnessed a miracle. Jesus told Peter to fish in a place and at a time Peter knew there would be no fish. Some have suggested Jesus saw a shoal of fish just out in deep water. He saw the fish but the trained eyes of the fishermen standing with Him could not see them because of their exhaustion. Yet, the phenomena of actually catching fish, so many their nets were breaking, suggests not quick observance but a control over nature. One of the characteristics of the image of God in man is dominion. God gave Adam, and Adam’s progeny, dominion over the earth. God’s image in the people He created is not degraded and perverted. The vessel which carries the image is corrupted. Jesus, fully Man and fully God, exercised His dominion over the earth and the animals of the earth and the fish of the sea.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28 ESV).

A miracle is an extraordinary action of God showing His control over the laws of nature. God developed and put the laws of nature in place. He suspends the laws of nature, for a moment, at His discretion, which to us is a miracle. It was not ordinary for the fish caught by Peter and his fellows to be where they were at that time in in that place. They were brought there by the will of God and His dominion over creation. Jesus, by exercising His control over nature for the benefit of those He wishes to bless, gives evidence that He is God in the flesh.

Peter did not know the depth or all of the implications of what occurred. He did know he was in the presence of a Man who just did something supernatural. Jesus was different. He was in the presence of holiness. His reaction was appropriate for the circumstance. Aware of his sinfulness, Peter wanted only for Jesus to go away. People, Peter included, are too comfortable with their sin. They want to sin and ignore the consequences. Jesus does not allow any to ignore sin. Having assuaged his guilt with ignorance, Peter is confronted with the living God and can no longer ignore either his sin or guilt.

But, Peter really didn’t want Jesus to leave. Every person, including Peter, faces a dichotomy when they suddenly realize they are in the presence of Christ. Peter fell before Jesus and declared his own sinfulness. “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’” (Luke 5:8 ESV). The visual implication of the passage is Peter is on his knees before Jesus, holding on to Him in worship, afraid for his life, asking Him to leave while giving himself to the Man.

In Scripture there are many examples of people who became fully aware of being in God’s presence. When Isaiah suddenly found himself in God’s presence his reaction, like Peter, was a declaration of his sinfulness. “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5 ESV). Ezekiel, when he realized he was in God presence, fell on his face so he would not have to look at God. “Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking” (Ezekiel 1:28 ESV). John, Peter’s fishing partner, at the end of his life, saw Jesus and fell at His feet as though dead. “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:17 ESV). Peter reacted to Jesus like He was God.

Before a person can repent they must acknowledge the truth of sin in themselves and in the world in which they live. Then they must accept their guilt before a righteous God. Peter declared himself sinful, which means wicked, stained with specific crimes and personal vices. Peter declared he was devoted to sin and not worthy to be in God’s presence. He knew he could not stand before God because of his rebellious nature. Like Job, who found himself speaking to God, he despised himself. “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6 ESV).

All in the group were astonished at what occurred. All heard Jesus’ words. All followed His command. “For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon” (Luke 5:9-10 ESV). Only Peter fell at Jesus’ knees, worshipping Him. Only Peter declared himself sinful and wanted Jesus to leave, afraid for his life. The others were astonished at their catch, but only Peter acted appropriately awestruck, like Isaiah and Ezekiel, and finally John toward the end of his life.

Peter’s individual reaction to Jesus’ dominion over nature is only the first of many. He becomes a leader of the disciples because of his actions and reaction toward Jesus.

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