When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
Everyone wanted to get closer to Jesus. Once, while Jesus was teaching by the Sea of Galilee, the crowds pressed in on Him. As the crowd inched forward I imagine Jesus' feet finally met the water. Seeing Peter's fishing boat nearby Jesus put it to good use. They put the boat out a little from the shore and Jesus sat down to teach.
When His sermon was over Jesus told Peter to go out into the deep water and let down his nets for a catch. Peter knows this breaks every rule of fishing. There is a zero percent chance this is going to work. Yet for whatever reason, Peter did it. The nets were so full of fish that Peter couldn't haul them in by himself. He called his partners over and they filled two boats so full of fish that they were both in danger of sinking.
That's when Peter looked over at Jesus. This miracle that was tailor made for a fisherman had given him a glimpse of who Jesus really was. So right there in the boat, knee deep in fish. Peter falls down before Jesus and asks Him to leave.
Peter's response seems odd at first. Everyone wants to get closer to Jesus. The crowds had been pressing in on Him. But here is Peter, enjoying next level intimacy with Jesus and wanting to get away. He's sharing a small boat with Jesus receiving personal miracles, and yet he's telling Jesus to get away from him.
But Peter's response isn't all that odd or unique really. Consider Isaiah's response when he entered God's presence in a vision. "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips..." (Isaiah 6:5). When God first spoke to Moses at the burning bush Moses hid his face in fear (Exodus 3:6). When the people of Israel heard God speak at Mt. Sinai from the midst of the cloud and the fire, they were so afraid that they told Moses not to let God speak to them anymore (Exodus 20:18-21).
The key to understanding Peter's response is in the second half of verse eight. Peter asks Jesus to leave him because he is a sinner. When Peter got a glimpse of who Jesus really was it made him more acutely aware of his own sinfulness. Far from a rejection of Jesus, Peter's statement is a form of worship. It's like he was saying, "I am unworthy to be in Your presence."
When was the last time you felt unworthy of God? How long has it been since you were so moved by a passage of Scripture or so overwhelmed by the power of His presence in some place that you said to God "I am unworthy of You. I don't deserve You." This is the appropriate human response to entering God's presence. If we don't occasionally respond to God in this way then we have a problem. Either we think too highly of ourselves, we think too little of God, or we simply aren't seeing how good God really is. Take some time today to fall down before the holy God and declare yourself unworthy.