Perhaps we cannot presently handle the way that our God intends to ultimately bless us. Perhaps also we cannot fathom the costs of the blessing, at least for the present.
Jesus had asked Peter to do what was not reasonable for a skilled fisherman to do:
- And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:4-5; ESV)
However, the bountiful catch surprised them:
- And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. Luke 5:6-7 (ESV)
They could not handle the bounty. “Their nets were breaking” and their boats “began to sink.” Perhaps this was Jesus’ way of teaching them that He was capable of blessing them in ways that they could not yet contain without great cost to themselves.
We have faulty knowledge of what is good for us. Fishermen probably dream of a hitting the lotto harvest of fish that will allow them to lay back for weeks. We too dream of hitting the Lotto, but such “bounty” has destroyed more lives than it has helped.
There are many things for which we ask but do not receive. This leaves us longing and often discouraged with our Savior for holding-back on us. However, Scripture warns us that God will “hold-back” on us for our own good, and instead, He will make us pass through the valley of the shadow-of-death:
- We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:8-11)
Even though we might know that trials are inevitable, we will be “perplexed” when they strike us and wonder if something is going wrong.
But the Apostles discovered that there was something greater here than the gift of fish. It was the gift-Giver. So they left their nets to follow Jesus (5:11). However, there was an obstacle that first had to be overcome. After the miracle of the fish, they sensed that they were in the presence of Deity, and this awareness terrified them as it did the Jews at Mt. Sinai:
- But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken. (Luke 5:8-9)
How strange! Why wouldn’t Peter and the others have instead insisted that Jesus stay with them to accompany them on all of their fishing expeditions? This would have made them rich in a very short time. However, it was apparent that Peter realized that there was something much greater at hand. Instead, he protested, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
Perhaps Peter didn’t understand why, but the presence of God made him feel unworthy and even threatened, as it should, by the nearness of holiness. However, Jesus enabled them to remain in His presence, assuring them:
- “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” (Luke 5:10)
God must bring us near to Him. We cannot come without His assistance, as the Psalmist wrote:
- When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions. Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple! (Psalm 65:3-4)
Somehow, our God had extended a foretaste of His atonement to His people during Old Testament times. It is only through this provision of grace could we come near to His Holy presence.
Isaiah was brought near after he cried, “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).
Even Moses had to be brought near. However, God had warned him that nearness with God had its limits:
- And he [God] said [to Moses], “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” (Exodus 33:19-20)
Well, how was Jesus able to bridge the chasm and to bring His disciples into His presence? Remember that He spoke the Word, and the seas were calmed, and people were healed and forgiven of their sins. He spoke the Word, “Do not be afraid,” and Simon Peter was no longer afraid.
In the future, He will again speak the Word, and the dead will rise:
- “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28-29)
We will be transformed into His very image, and we will see as we are seen (1 Cor. 13:12; 1 John 3:2). At this time, He will withhold no good thing from those who love Him (1 Cor. 3:21-23; Col: 2:8-10; Romans 8:17).