(Taken from The Gospel of Luke by G. Campbell Morgan)
"Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
What did he (Simon Peter) mean? He meant, Oh, give me up; You called me some weeks ago to follow Thee, and I am back at this business of fishing; give me up, depart from me; I am a sinful man. That was his confession of wrong in going back to fishing. I am a sinful man, O Lord, depart, give me up. You saw me over a year ago, and looked into my eyes, and told me I should be Rock. I have been back home in between, and I have been going on with my fishing, because YOU did not ask me to give it up; but a few weeks ago, You asked me, and I did it; and here I am again, I am back; there is no Rock in me; give me up; I am a sinful man.
Now what did Jesus say? Oh, the infinite music of it. He first said, "Fear not." He said it to that man, that elemental man, great emotional soul; the man who did not seem to have strength to arrive anywhere; and He said it to him, conscious of his failure. When he said,
"Depart from me; for I am a sinful man,”
Jesus said, "Fear not."
"From henceforth thou shalt catch men alive.”
What is the Greek verb; it is peculiar. It only occurs in one other place in the New Testament. When Paul was writing his second letter to Timothy, in chapter two, he said,
"The Lord: servant must not strive, but be gentle,”
And so on, and so on; but he must correct
"them that oppose themselves; if peradventure God may give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth, that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him unto his wilt.''
It is at least suggestive that the only two places where the word is used are when the Lord said, "catch-men alive;" and where it speaks of the fact that the devil catches-men-alive.
"Fear not; from henceforth."
That is a great word, "henceforth." It breaks with the past; it changes everything. Simon said, I have played the fool again; I have gone back to fishing, after You called me to be with You;
"Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
Jesus said to him, Don't be afraid, fear not; that is all over. You will not do it again;
"From henceforth thou shalt catch men alive."
He revealed Himself to that little group of fishermen as Supreme in the realm with which they were familiar, fishing. By doing so, He revealed to them that He was Supreme in the unfamiliar realm to them, of the work He was in the world to do, and the work He wanted their help in doing: catching men alive. In all the toil of the coming years, when they were out upon the tumultuous and tempest-tossed seas of human life, catching men alive, they would never forget the hour when He came back to them, and went fishing with them, and showed them that He was Master there.
This story has abiding values. That draught of fishes was intended by Jesus to reveal to these men exactly what He wanted them to do, when He asked them to leave their fishing nets.
What does it teach us? First of all, that Christ calls men into His service, and asks them to consecrate to His service the gifts they have; and that He can take every capacity of life, the capacity of the fisherman, and turn it into the very capacity for doing His work. I never heard Christ say to me, Come ye after Me, and I will make you a fisher of men. Why not? Because I am not a fisherman. I never was a fisherman. I never earned my living fishing; and-some of you may pity me if you like 1 never got any fun out of fishing. I always agree with Charles Lamb, about a man and a line with a worm at one end; and I am not going to finish the quotation These men were fishermen. In the year 1886 I sat at my desk teaching, with boys around me, and I loved my work, and I would love it still. I was trained to teach. But there came the hour when my Master passed by, and He said, Follow Me, and I will make you a teacher of men. The capacity that one has is what He wants to use in His Kingdom. That is the philosophy of the story.
Now go back and take the fishing illustration. Here we learn that He appropriates our boats and our nets. It is our business to provide the boat, the bait, and the nets, as well as the fishers; the organizations as well as the men. Then all He asks is that we submit to His mastery, that we really and sincerely call Him in this regard, Epistates, Master. That means that we yield not the boat merely, but ourselves.
Then I look again, and learn that if He gets our boats and our nets, He will make our work so mighty that it will break our nets and swamp our boats. If we have got an organization in our church which never gives way, under the pressure of His power, we may know He is not on board. He will break our nets.
Again, it is when our nets are breaking, and our boat is swamped because of success, that we call to our partners in the other boats. That is the only basis of Church union that is worth anything.