“From now on you are going to catch men.”   These are the words Jesus spoke to Peter, James and John, the first of the disciples.     Finally, they are words of forgiveness and comfort.    And they are the miracle that often goes unnoticed.   Let’s take a moment to find out why.
One day, early in His ministry, Jesus stood by the Sea of Galilee telling people about the Kingdom of God and the forgiveness God offered in Christ.   Our lesson notes that Jesus saw two boats on the shore of this lake and the fisherman with them.   These men had spent all night and caught absolutely nothing.    Yet, at the encouragement of Jesus, a rather dubious Peter did what Jesus asked.   “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”    Much to their surprise, as they let down their nets they caught so many fish that the nets began to tear and their boats began to sink.
This was nothing short of a miracle, but another miracle was happening that often goes unnoticed.    A miracle is defined as something that does not and cannot happen according to the laws of nature.   God intervenes and overrides the laws of nature as He did with the raising of Lazarus.      In this case, Jesus gathered the fish into the nets of the new disciples in a way they never thought possible, indeed, in light of an entire night of fruitless effort.
But, as I said, another miracle took place that morning that goes almost unnoticed.     In the context of this miracle, we hear the reaction and words of Peter, “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell down at Jesus’ knees.    ‘Leave me, Lord,’ he said.   ‘I am a sinful man’.”
When Peter witnessed the miracle, he also recognized that he was in the presence of the living God.    As the writer to the Hebrews says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”    Fear gripped his heart and the only thing Peter could say as he stood before the God of Creation and the God who knows the hearts and minds of all, “Leave me, Lord.   I am a sinful man.”    Peter made no excuses.    How could he?      With his sinful heart completely exposed to God, and standing before Him, Peter could only acknowledge the obvious.
As we stand before our Lord, sinful as we are, must we not make the same plea as Peter, “Leave me, Lord.    I am a sinful man?”    Our hearts, like that of Peter, are filled with lust and greed and covetousness.     Our lives are stained with bickering, complaining, discontent, jealousy, anger, selfishness, envy and even hatred.
We, too, must state the obvious.   Each of us must hang our heads and fall before the King and Master of Creation, “I am a sinful man.”
Yet, this is where the other miracle takes place, the one that is often unnoticed; the miracle that is greater than any of the other miracles Jesus did.   In the midst of Peter’s sin, indeed, in spite of the obvious, Jesus now says, “Stop being afraid.   From now on you are going to catch men.”
Remembering that a miracle is only something God can do, in the context of the miracle of the great catch of fish, we witness the eternally greater miracle of forgiveness.      By all right and fairness, Jesus should have said to Peter, “You are exactly right.   And for your sin, you shall see hell for eternity.”    Instead, Peter hears the words, “Stop being afraid.”   We also should hear that we will see an eternity in hell.
You see, no mere man can reverse the curse of sin spawned in the Garden of Eden.   We are all completely guilty and the Judge knows it.   We cannot hide our sin; Adam and Eve tried to do that.       It takes an act of God that intervenes into sin-filled nature to bring forgiveness to the human creation of God.
But God did intervene.    He determined that His only Son would come to keep the Law of God in your place.    That is the unnoticed miracle.    He determined that He would place His very own sinless Son on the cross and make Him suffer the agony of hell rather than sinful man.      There is the miracle!     And Jesus pointed Peter to that miracle on that day.    Instead of cursing Peter eternally, He speaks peace to his heart and then enlists him into the glorious work of telling others of this same forgiveness in Christ.
It is the same for us.   That miracle of forgiveness did not stop with Peter, but extends to every human.   Jesus died, not only for Peter, but for all.    Jesus took not only the sins of Peter to the cross, but your sins and my sins.
So if this day, your heart cries out as Peter, “Leave me, Lord.   I am a sinful man,” remember the other and greater miracle that took place on that day.   “Stop being afraid!   From now on you will catch man.”   Those words are meant for you, the sinner.
Go in peace.   Amen.