Almost a year passed between the time Jesus met Simon Peter (Jn 1:42) and the time He called Peter to be His disciple (Lk 5:1-11). Jesus comes along the shore of Galilee teaching, followed by crowds of people. He asks to use Simon’s boat as a platform for His sermon, and they push out from the shore. While Jesus continues preaching, Simon leans back against the side of the ship, weary from the long night of fishing. Jesus finishes the sermon and turns to Simon: “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” You can hear the reluctance in Simon’s voice: “We toiled all night and caught nothing.” But he obeys anyway: “If you say so.” Suddenly the net heaves with fish, and Simon has to brace himself against the side of the boat. He calls over his partners; and even with their help, the boats almost sink with the weight of fish. It’s an incredible miracle, but apparently it makes Peter feel scared and ashamed. He falls on his knees and says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.”

Why would Peter be scared here? He’s seen lots of fish before. Even if we grant that it’s a miracle to pull two boatfuls of fish from the sea in one haul in broad daylight, that’s a reason for awe and wonderment, but why fear? Here’s why: Simon fears because he is so deeply aware of his sinfulness, but Jesus has treated him with such graciousness. Nothing in his experience could have prepared him for this kind of generosity. Simon knew that he deserved punishment and destruction from God, but instead he received lavish fountains of grace.

Friends, it’s impossible to feel the wonder of grace until you have felt the horror of sin. Until you recognize what you deserve, you will never be awed by what you actually receive. You and I are sinful, through and through. The gospel is not the good news that God accepts you just as you are. It’s the good news that He accepts you just as Jesus is. You deserve God’s curse, but Christ bore it. Christ is fully pleasing to the Father, and He imparts all of His goodness to you. That is grace, and when you see it clearly, it drives you to your knees.